Repossessing Virtue: Wise Voices from Religion, Science, Industry, and the Arts
July 30, 2009

As the global economic crisis began to unfold this past fall, we wanted to respond immediately, in our way. We began to conduct an online conversation parallel to but distinct from our culture's more sustained focus on economic scenarios. For in each of our lives, whoever we are, very personal scenarios are unfolding that confront us with core questions of what matters to us and what sustains us. We made a list of our guests across the years who we thought might speak to this in fresh and compelling ways.

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Selected Readings

Trusting our Deeper Knowing: On Cataclysms, Contemplation, and Circles of Trust

On October 10-12, 2008, Marcy Jackson and I (supported by our colleagues, Rick Jackson and Ann New), led a Circle of Trust retreat at the Fetzer Institute for fifteen people from the worlds of big business, financial services and philanthropy — many of them closely tied to Wall Street and all of them devoted to the common good. Our retreat began just one day after the Dow Jones had fallen nearly 40 percent below its record high, set only a year earlier.

Pertinent Posts from the On Being Blog

The former first lady talks about the responsibility of being raised in a privileged society.

An essay on frugality's new trendiness and old roots in Christian teaching.

James Wright's poem on the terror of hospital bills and refocusing on what we really value.

A search for stories about the relationship between children and grandparents revealed words of wisdom for current economic times.

Looking to a Jewish tradition found in Deuteronomy of absolving loans as a solution to current debts.

A panel discussion with three smart people exploring the moral and ethical aspects of the economic downturn.

Kate lends insight into the current economic crisis through her family history.

About the Image

"Walking to the Sky" — a 100-foot sculpture by Jonathan Borofsky that was originally installed at Rockefeller Center in 2004 before being moved to the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas a year later.

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The current economic disaster is a moral crisis in that people knew they were backing loans with nothing and selling loans that held a high probability of failure, but they failed to look outside their own current profit to see the harm hovering over the public sector. It's like selling a car to an individual and being so caught up in maximum profit that one hides the fact that the car has poor brakes. Eventually they fail and the new owner is seriously injured. The seller says, "Hey, I told him it was 'as is, let the buyer beware." The "sin of omission” is one people often overlook, but it is just as problematic as any other. Secondly, it is a moral crisis because those who engaged in such risky practices looked to law as a moral compass. They weren't doing anything illegal, so it wasn't wrong. That is a dangerous maxim to adhere to. Legality and illegality are set to run a country smoothly with a relatively accurate eye on justice and morality, but it is imperfect and cannot be expected to cover every possibility of right and wrong. Individuals cannot replace their moral compass with an article in a legal document. This country's "rule of law" works well overall, but it does have the potential for immorality, i.e. the tyranny of law.

I feel the crisis is a spiritual failure in that people are too focused on tangibles: money, consumer goods, physical comforts, etc. America's "crisis" will not be on a scale of say, a crisis in Ethiopia or Pakistan, but we're acting like it will. America needs to shape a new dream, one not based on financial status. The American dream needs a spiritual basis; one where what people seek out is kindness, freedom from prejudice, unity and community, and happiness for all. We should abandon those American dreams centered on ownership of things.

My wife and I have been talking about this bursting of the economic bubble for five or six years. Anyone with a modicum of education and common sense could see that it was going to break sometime. The newspapers we read regularly had articles that mentioned the dangers of loans backed with credit, in turn backed with bad loans. I don't think anyone in the financial industry can honestly claim ignorance of the risk.
So, to answer your question, “what moral and spiritual resources and virtues do you bring to approaching it — in your own life, with colleagues at work, in your family, in your religious or other community settings?”
Well, we mostly depend on the virtue of frugality and the importance of other aspects of life outside of belongings and services. As young people, long before we met or married, we invested in the stock market, saved the money, and were able to pay off our home once we did marry. When we moved to a rural home with an acreage that cost more, we were able to pay off well over half of the principle, so our mortgage is very low, under five hundred dollars. We do not eat out regularly, saving that for special occasions. We do not succumb to the gee-whiz factor and spend money on cell phones or other technology we do not need in the name of current trends or fashion. We do not buy clothes based on the fashion whims of anyone claiming to be “cool.” We have no credit card debt since we pay it off every month. By doing this, we actually make money using our credit card since it pays one percent. We have only owned one new car, and we always save the money to buy our used ones instead of going into debt and paying twice what the car is worth in interest. When purchasing a car, economy, maintainability, and insurance costs have always out weighed looks, speed, or style. We do not have cable because the vast majority of the programming is mind-numbing and crass, and anyway we’re unhappy with the inability to purchase only the programming we want. We also do not crave regular entertainment or altered mental states and so save money by not pursuing those. We play games as a family, Mom and Dad enjoy the occasional glass of wine and we leave it at that. We also do not snack much and so do not buy sodas or junk food. I do buy the occasional fountain drink and we do have crackers, but no chips, candy, large amounts of soda, etc.
Spiritually, we rely on the teachings of the Christian Bible about how to view money, how to use and enjoy it. There’s not much to it beyond that. We pray about things we may want for ourselves and our children, going through a process of discernment in order to make choices that are within our means and what we believe God wants for us. Our immediate circle of family and friends consists of people who are similar to us and attend the Catholic Church, so we can support one another. We have had to purchase very few clothes for our children because others have donated used items to us as needed and we reciprocated back to them. We don’t preach frugality actively, instead relying on example. If the issue arises in conversation we will certainly mention what we do and don’t do, but we find preaching to be counter-productive no matter how warranted or necessary it may be. Unfortunately, our culture doesn’t know how to listen to others very well when it comes to such matters. We absolutely teach our children the pitfalls associated with materialism, wanting too much, and living beyond one’s means. We provide them with a modest allowance, of which ten percent is automatically allocated to tithing. The rest is for them to spend as they wish, but after it’s gone, we do not supplement their income. So, they learn the uncomfortable consequences of spending without forethought.

As far as what we are doing now that is different, there isn’t much. What we now do will get us through this. We had to cut back on what few luxuries we enjoy even before the financial crisis because fuel went so high. So, we take fewer trips and buy fewer luxury foods.

In terms of leadership we are looking for someone who understands that being in debt is always a liability. We’re looking for someone who understands that programs need money to run and he or she should make absolutely certain that funding will be there when needed and not trust to chance. We’re looking for someone who is non-partisan because the current party system has fulfilled George Washington’s worst fears of party politics. We’re looking for someone who, when faced with a critical decision, asks, “Is this good for the country, not how will this affect my re-election chances,” which is something I heard often on the news lately, politicians worried more about their jobs than this nation. We’re looking for someone who realizes that if one solves every social ill in the world, it is for nothing if the Earth is depleted and made unlivable. This country cannot have a perpetual growth economy because resources are finite. Anyone who has gone through elementary math should understand this. We want leadership that has in mind a priority system that places the environment first and thinks in the long term, not election cycles. We are looking for leadership that understands the “Teach a man to fish” principle, and helps people help themselves without doing all the work for them. We're looking for a leader who in the face of reasonable doubt about life's beginnings, errs on the side of life. We expect no less in our courts; we should expect no less in our government. We're looking for leadership that values the breach between religion and state, especially for religion's sake. We're looking for leadership that values every person equally, untarnished by pride of origin, voting, etc. There’s much more, but this is getting long. I hope this gives you one family’s insight and the guidance it relies on. Take care and God Bless.

'You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view - until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.'
Atticus Finch

Perhaps I should have chosen Jesus or Buddha or a Sufi poet or Dante or Shakespeare or Cervantes or Milton, the story is ubiquitous. I chose Harper Lee because her arrow pierced my heart as no other. Such an archetypal truth doesn’t require authority to validate its message. It has been validated by experience.

What does this most complex and simple message have to do with our present economic paradox – everything! If you grew up and live in America or anywhere else in Western Civilization you are a dualist whether you like it or not. We think of a grey world as black or white. Blame is such a sweet way to defer responsibility. And so we paint Wall Street black and everyone else white and absolve ourselves of any responsibility as we continue our journey along the boulevard of life awaiting the next crisis and the encore.

Atticus, in my interpretation, was symbolic of a bodhisattva or a Jesus who fully understood that he was both black and white and it was this awareness that allowed him to suffer with his adversaries. He understood that he was that bigoted and crazed individual who so needed to expiate his own guilt by destroying another. So tell me, had you been on Wall Street and making millions selling credit derivatives, how closely would the fidelity of those instruments been investigated.

Compassion, in my opinion, is a trite word until one understands fully that he is everything he deems the other to be. Only then can we “suffer with” or have true compassion. And without true compassion we only set ourselves up for another encore, another trip around the cycle yielding the same results as the last.

The Moral and Spiritual Aspects of an Economic Downturn is a broad net to cast.
I hope the above qualifies.

David Richardson

I am so glad that you are asking this question, because I have come to believe that this problem, and many other problems we face today, could benefit from viewing scientific (and economic) matters as not being separate from ethical and spiritual matters, but as being naturally related. As one who was raised in Western society and trained as a chemical engineer, it has taken me many years to articulate this belief, although I do think it seemed obvious to me from an early age. Alas, cultural pressures can sometimes suppress our common sense.

In this time of crisis, I have turned to the writings of Benjamin Hoff, author of "The Tao of Pooh" and "The Te of Piglet," and I hope you won't think I am saying this in jest. Hoff talks about the importance of Seeing Things As They Are (he devotes an entire chapter to this in Piglet), and I think this philosophical approach applies to the current economic crisis in two ways.

First, I view what Hoff calls "Reality Appreciation" as a central principle that should guide scientific, ethical, and spiritual thinking. Hoff credits the Taoists as some of the earliest proponents of this approach. Any six year old knows you shouldn't lend your money to people who can't pay you back. Apparently we let economic theories, trickle-down morality theories, and illusions of prosperity get in the way of appreciating this rather obvious reality. Perhaps it is simple-minded of me, but I view this economic situation to have resulted from a cultural failure to See Things As They Are.

Second, I find my personal approach to the present circumstances to be grounded in similar Taoist thinking. Hoff describes the Taoist approach to reality appreciation as being not to characterize things as "good" or "bad", as we Westerners tend to do. A drop in housing prices is not good or bad, it just is. While it is hurting me personally (I bought my home in 2006 and need to sell it due to relocation), I think it is good that more people will be able to afford homes. A rise in gasoline prices is also personally painful, but I am very glad to see people driving less and carpooling more and generating fewer global warming gases. I also see the situation as bringing about political awareness and change that I view as positive.

Again, I thank you for raising these questions, and for offering your listeners the opportunity to respond.

in compassion and fellowship,
Debbie Goodman

Our government and our financial system are extricably linked instead of one providing "governance" over the other to protect the citizen. Those that exploit our financial system or fail to regulate it act as if they do not care whether or not we go hungry or thirsty, are marginalized or economically left behind, have medical care or are wrongly imprisoned. If our government does not care, then who will? If our government will not care, can it at least do no harm?

The Judgement of Nations - 'for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.'
Matt 25:35-37 (NRSV)

I am recently retired - just in time to watch my retirement funds shrink by 25%. My wife and I are lucky ones as we are basically debt free. My wife and I work with our church's "backpack buddy" program that provides some local elementary school children that qualify for fully or partially funded meals with food for the weekends.

The current crises in the financial markets have underscored for me the wisdom of C.S. Lewis' comments in "Mere Christianity" [essay #3, "Social Morality"] relating to the dependence of modern society in the U.S. and most countries upon investment as a basis for having more than a hand-to-mouth existence. Lewis asserts "...the ancient heathen Greeks, and by the Jews in the Old Testament, and by the great Christian teachers of the Middle Ages..." the practice of lending money at interest is forbidden. I don't know what references Lewis was using; but I trust him to be accurate in citing these sources.

On the other hand, I want to provide for my family and do what I can to ensure that I'm not a burden to either my fellow-citizens or my children. Simply putting money in a box to be used later is almost sure to be a bad strategy; inflation is a fact of life since the industrial age started. There is really no option (or at least, I tell myself there is no option) but to put money in a savings account (at least), and this makes me a party to the process of lending money at interest.

I could give away my belongings and become a religious. I don't have the courage to do that. I don't really trust God, although I claim that I do.

So I go along with the system. I take the advice of my investment manager. I have profited by selling a house in a greatly inflated market, and I profit by taking a salary from my employer that seems to me to be far greater than the value of the work I provide.

Am I guilty? I certainly feel guilty. I know I am complicit in the exploitation of poor people for the benefit of us few who can take advantage of the system.

I have been thinking about these issues. We live in an age of spiritual barrenness. Of hucksters and con men. Of the fast buck and the one minute quick profit, and forget about the consequences. Of a complete lack of concern for the well being of others. This applies to our mindless disregard for the rights of sovereign nations and to the callous disregard of our neighbors at home. How do we just go into a country and take its oil, and not expect people to be mad at us? We need a spiritual awakening in order to survive.

I have begun a spiritual journey primarily because of the worries that have overwhelmed my mind with an uncertainty of what tomorrow will bring with regard to my job, my government, my world, and my life.

The worries became so overwhelming to me that my mind was constantly searching for solutions to problems that don't yet exist. "What if" questions loomed ominously and cluttered my mind to the point that there were so many voices clamoring for attention that I could hardly focus on one thing at a time.

This caused a spiritual crisis for me because my inner voice vanished.

This inner voice is the real me in contact with the universe, but it just took a back seat to worries and fears that the popular media was making a fortune on, the president was feeding Americans to make us fear terrorists looming right around the corner, and the political debate leading up to the election bashed into our collective psyche all the problems of the world that need solving.

As a result, I contacted my minister (the church I belong to but go to only on holidays) and asked him to take me off their mailing lists and understand I needed to take a quest to find meaning in my life beyond what the church had to offer.

The wisdom I turned to came in the form of podcasts I listened to on my 30 minute drive to work every day. This became my church, my time for meditation, my time for reflection and connection with something greater than myself which could silent the many voices and allow me to focus on the one voice I believed to be my true spirit.

I thank SOF because you were the first step in my journey as I downloaded and listened to almost your entire archive. At some point, I came across an interview with Thich Nhat Han which rang true with my soul. That led to readings, but also checking out CD's from my local library by Han and Eckhart Tolle, downloading any interviews I could off the web to help me quiet the worry for worry was solving nothing and fear was looking to the future which didn't yet exist.

My wife knows I'm going down this path though she has no interest to follow at this time. My children, ages 12 and 16, realize I'm becoming a calmer person rather than one who talked of crisis around the dinner table.

What I am doing different now is breathing instead of holding my breath and getting stressed out. I'm not watching TV because it really doesn't support my journey (haven't found the Good News channel and Christian Broadcasting seems to be fear based as well). I'm starting to journal to get my thoughts out on blogs. I'm trying to catch the voice of fear when it pops up, acknowledge it and in doing so silent it.

The end result, I hope, is not me running away from the world, but realizing that no matter how much fear or worry I pour into myself, no matter how much stress I put in my mind and body, I gain nothing.

Inner Peace is my quest and if I find it, when I find it, I hope to share it with others just by my presence. Perhaps I can affect those around me in a positive way by not being stressed out. Perhaps by my spiritual journey I will move away from numbing the pain of fear with drugs and alcohol. Perhaps through daily Yoga practice, I will emerge a healthier person. Perhaps through conscious eating, I will make the world a better place.

Who knows where this will lead me. I don't search for perfection, but do strive to make myself a little better every day and in doing so may impact the universe in ways I haven't even considered.

All I know is living with the fear and worry about uncertain times needs to be let go and accepted for what it is and learn to live life knowing it really isn't as bad as I can create it to be.

perhaps we're healing. perhaps the moral/spiritual crisis isn't the economic downturn but the years of mindless spending--consuming. a nation of the consumed. be patriotic and go out and spend is what we were told after 9-11. maybe this year, as we approach xmas, predicated to be the worst for retailers in decades, we will be able to pause and breath and discover what it means to celebrate without being consumers.

and how i've changed? now that our budget is tight, it forces me to buy food intelligently. to learn to cook with want's on hand. make more things from scratch. this can only be healthier. and to learn to be grateful for the food on our table. to understand the ridiculous amount of waste i'm willing to tolerate.

as for our leaders, i'm looking for our leaders to ask me to do more. i truly was moved by our president-to-be asking for more community service. asking us to do more! i cried. all my cynicism melted away. so, perhaps this collapse is not a crisis but an awakening... can it be?

I consider the financial crash to be a moral and spiritual crisis of our culture, which has for decades gone far overboard in the direction of Hofstede's individualism dimension. How could anyone consider it morally right to sell a $650,000 house with a zero-down-payment ARM to a family earning, say, $50,000 a year? The only way someone could justify this to him/herself would be by saying, "Hey, I have to make a living and this is how I get my commissions." Individualism gone wild. The same selfish logic applies to the executives in the financial industry who got involved in trading credit default swaps, the legislators who refused to regulate the mortgage and investment industries, and so on. That's the moral side. The spiritual side? I think these individuals are just totally tuned out to spirituality altogether, unless it is a brand of spirituality that completely ignores "love your neighbor as yourself."

This week's show is about revenge and forgiveness. I'll confess I want revenge. I want the government to force the people responsible for the decisions that have destroyed my retirement savings to make restitution -- as NY State Atty. Gen. Andrew Cuomo is doing. As for forgiveness, when I see these folks getting together and using their millions to fund homeless shelters, jobs programs, and green energy initiatives, I'll think about forgiving them for their greed and poor judgment.

I don't agree with the rabbi that "all are responsible" -- how could that be true? The financial industry is not a democracy. We don't get a vote. Even the Secretary of the Treasury, supposedly representing the interests of all U.S. citizens, is appointed, not elected. We who are not executives or board members are powerless, and it was the powerful who made these disastrous decisions.

great story

The economic crisis is completely circled around morality, not spirituality. The morals behind business practices and responsibilities of consumers has led to this crisis. The unfortunate side affect is that communities, such as churches or non-profit organizations, do not have the continued support that they once had. As we spend what we have, spend what is loaned to us under false premises... we are brought to our knees to find... spirituality.

There lies the beauty of a crisis: when we have no where else to turn, we look up above and pray.

What we should hope for is to correct our own follies from the government down to the spender so that our children and their children do not pay for our mistakes: in fact, let them learn about this and make appropriate measures to prevent this from happening for, hopefully, all of their time.

It has been an interesting, if not challenging view of the turndown, as I began my retirement on September 30, 2007. Already signs were appearing and as I listened to the older members of my congregation talk of their observations, I decided to protect my investments where I could.
Is it a moral or spiritual reckoning - this economic downturn?
It is a crisis, I believe, of our inability to be a community. What do I mean? Human beings come together in community to create and to build towards the future. Human beings see the value of being with and working with other human beings. Human beings know that they have stake in their neighbor.
Clearly, I think, this nation has moved from being a community to a collection of individuals whose drive is only to gather in as much as they can to protect themselves and secure their personal futures. What is of value is that which is of value only to me. It matters not what other voices might be saying.
The clear dividing of this country into red and blue, and, a clear division between believer and non-believer (Christianity and Islamic fundamentalism)has blinded us to the necessity of rebuilding this national community. It takes cooperation, respect and appreciation for the diversity of this nation. Something we have been losing for 30 years and longer.
The turning inward for some spiritual question has been matched with equal vigor towards this downward turn. The spiritual economy has its outward ramifications.
We fail to realize always and everywhere that only a turning out of oneself leads to a upward turning. To turn out and up means less accumulation of stuff and more investment in people.
Right wingers get it wrong because they trust the machinations of the economic theory of free enterprise but fail to take into account the brokenness of humankind - that is the propensity to turn in ourselves. The left wingers fail because they trust in the governmental structures which are manned by human beings who are broken, and thereby turn in on themselves.
For the last 13 years I have thrown myself into two arenas: 1.Jewish-Christian Dialogue - it has helped me to refocus on my own faith and tradition, to think in new ways, discover old ways of thinking that have been buried over the centuries. It has helped me not to get pulled to either pole: of exclusivism on the one hand, and, the 'nothing really matters' pole on the other hand.
2. Holocaust Studies - to remember that bitter period of time, the role which my faith community played in it through the long centuries, to address bigotry in all its forms today, to employ what we learn from the Holocaust and survivors to help young people in the future.

I am looking for a non-anxious presence, one that is not afraid of going where we have not been before - to employ an old Star Trek line.
I am looking for a leadership that works on behalf of the betterment of peoples mind, body and spirit and not filling them with illusions.
I am looking for a leadership which employs restraint militarily, respects the international community, but holds those people accountable who would rule by fear and intimidation through terror.

I am working with an interfaith group to build a program in Holocaust studies for all ages to learn about racism and bigotry and the power of hate, and to direct people to building the future.

Dag Hammarsjkold has been an inspiration. he said:
God does not die on the day when we cease to believe in a personal deity, but we die on the day when our lives cease to be illumined by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason.
That's where I find "it".

Name: Sergio Palacio
Country of Origin: Colombia, South America
Age: 51 years old

My personal objective as the president of One global Ethics, Ogethics is transferring a decade training of a cross-culture exchange in America to individuals, organizations, and communities. Since the beginning learning the English language, through different kinds of jobs in different industries with different groups of people, I have received a comprehensive self-training in ethics as an employee. The achievement of a Master of Arts in Human Resources Management and Development, with emphasis in ethics, inspired me to continue an ongoing self-study research in ethical issues around the world.

I hold a bachelor’s degree in BA from Eafit University, Medellin, Colombia, and a Master of Arts in Human Resources Management and Development from Webster University, St. Louis, MI.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Human resource is much more than an organizational term to define employees’ development and activities. It is the core value of society, of mankind, of the human race having or showing qualities, as rationality or fallibility, viewed as distinctive of people - a human act, a human failing - unique source to breathe ethics into the human being.
A. Services
1. Elaboration of Ethical Codes of Conduct
2. Ethical Training Programs
3. One Global Ethics, Ogethics-Etcetera Online Discussion
4. Confidential Ogethics Help-Line to Report Ethical Concerns
B. Customers
1. Individuals
2. Organizations
3. Communities
C. Future of Ethics
The ethical industry is the future of an ethically complex world. Those who want to discover what is and how to do the right thing in an ethically complex world will be the realistic leaders of this visionary utopia of building a better world in the middle of a chaotic, misunderstood, and grim panorama.

One Global Ethics, Ogethics knows that money is not the final solution for the problems and crisis of the world. The contemporary reality of living and working to the border of calamity has made Ogethics thinks about what works in terms of ethics. Thus, it has undertaken the ethical journey or mission of instilling in individuals, organizations, and communities the value of ethical human resources to create a new global economic order.

ETHICAL CRISIS IN THE 2008 FINANCIAL COLLAPSE

Actually, the 2008 financial market catastrophe has created a major uncertainty in my purpose to do ethical business as a small philanthropic entrepreneur; or perhaps, it should be assimilated as the opposite: What an opportunity! How ethical is the executive compensation, bonuses, and perquisites? Are their decisions in the economic best interest of the firm and its stakeholders? Or, do they have real political motivations that are an inevitable part of the corporate world? The world of compensation is very different in not-for-profit-organizations. How can anyone be worth tens of millions of dollars, they demand in the corporate world? (Milkovich & Newman, 2006). What is the real value we are giving to money in our businesses built on human relationships? Legal or ethical? Because it can be legal according to the raises congress did to the executive minimum wage before the 2008 financial meltdown to $565.15/hr (The Onion, November 12, 2003. Issue 39.44); but, it can be unethical too in accordance with the comparison we make with the compensation of the rest of the special groups who also have an important impact on corporate success. Thus, delegating the decision-making process in just one person is a glaring mistake, expensive, need regulation, and has showed an evident unethical example in the 2008 financial collapse. The Today’s debate (09/25/2008) in the congress is to make a fundamental agreement about the 700 billions-dollars’ fund the government - through tax-payers - is able to invest to recover the country from the financial crisis of major corporations, and avoid a future global economic depression around the planet.

There is not enough money to avoid the consequences of a continuum exploitation of our human condition in favor of a materialistic comfort that destroyed our free-will in honor of a false freedom that denies the existence of a higher power named ethics. Without that spirit we are helpless and empty bodies of dust and destined to slavery. It is a suicidal end…which can be valid for many. What it is not okay is that if some people have the ethical connection already, and they do not use it to transcend this realistic/materialistic plane, and create a post-material/ethical circumstance, a real-future-world, the opportunity to see our greatness as species is missed.

We are supposed to continue the human dialogue to advance to unimaginable levels where ethics dwells without condemning others who do not think, believe, and behave as we do. This is my utopia. This is Ogethics’ competitive advantage or disadvantage. Advantage, because we know we need to make a realistic change that evolves our human limitations to a better situation and advances ethics to a new plateau; disadvantage, because we also know our human nature does not believe in perfection. Even though we are facing a cognitive dissonance or unethical dilemma, thinking about ethics is a good omen for the future. Why do not we try and make in our intentions a virtue? Is there some reason to elevate the matter of ethics? Can business effectively regulate employee conduct? People - no regulation - run companies.

The main competitive factor of Ogethics in the ethics industry is the belief that despite the new government regulation, morality cannot be regulated. Ethics lives in a compliance world; traditionally, compliance has meant: “what you cannot do,” while ethics has been defined as “what you should do.”

“Imagination is more important than knowledge; knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world” (Albert Einstein).

Summarizing, Ogethics is ready to go into the world and have a niche for individuals, organizations, and communities who really want to take the next level of civilization as an age of ethical living and working conditions: The Ethical Age.

Ogethics wants to project a human dynamics image that is not complicated with religion, philosophy, or any judgment at all. It is reflecting a different caliber of ethical training programs and of inspiration in every kind of people into ethics. Customers should see Ogethics as trustworthy, professional, knowledgeable, caring, ethical, and friendly.

Ogethics focus is on the inner most of each person without touching judgment about psychological things or religious beliefs or moral philosophy or any other judgment that may alter the connection between freedom of speech and a different point of view. There is no ex cathedra about ethics in Ogethics, or authority to say one thing is right or wrong without the consensus and authenticity of the parts involved in the discussion. It is not always clear what the proper thing to do is; it requires a great deal of fortitude to actually do the right thing.

STRATEGY

Once identified the low-cost method to start my ethical business, going around family members, and a couple of friends and acquaintances, I realized the importance of building ethical connections with these group of people. Every one liked the idea and participated in a way we could talk about typical problems and difficulties we find everyday in life related to making money, how to treat others and ourselves, beliefs, attitudes, responsibilities, enjoyment, and change. However, there was a great deal of disbelief according to the charitable status of my business: “How are you going to live? Who is going to pay the bills? What are you going to eat? Yes! Your goal is stoical but unrealistic. It is utopia! We will never get that point; we are humans. Come on Sergio; come down to earth and find a real job. Money is the most important thing in life; that is reality for sure. I pay my drugs for my health problems, because I have the money to pay the health insurance; what could I do if I do not have that money? Prayers will not pay my bills. That is nothing to be with faith. Unfortunately, money is what moves the world and our lives.”

A few people encouraged me with the idea of One Global Ethics, Ogethics in other sense that the first family group. They said it is what we need in the world; people motivationally challenged who really take care of themselves. They did not go to the money issue; I guess they know the necessity of money to live is a reality, but it is not their priority in life. They can survive with less money and belongings; are intrinsically motivated to be healthy, exercise; and, enjoy life as it is in spite of problems and difficulties, because they see those troubles as opportunities to learn and grow.

After the familiar kick off of Ogethics, I decided to find a job in another organization to continue with my own ethical business as an employee, and see what kind of reaction and learning I may find in the corporate world about someone from the bottom line suggesting business ethics. The ceiling barrier - I spoke before in this ethical business plan - was so evident. The hierarchical structure in all the companies I worked with was so strong that any of them was able to debate issues of unfair employment practices, discrimination, lack of support, abusive treatment, negligence, jealousy, lack of professionalism, and a real fear of losing their positions of authority in managers or a real fear to lose their jobs in employees showed up. Thus, they saw me and awarded me - at first - like the best employee to work with due to I showed them how to work ethically, following instructions, working hard, making sound relationships, being honest and sincere, taking care of others, going the extra mile, connecting with the company’s mission and objectives, and showing a genuine interest to help customers, vendors, and peers.

After they realized what kind of work pace I was running in their businesses, and when I started making points about ethical issues in the organizational culture of each company, peers and management started ignoring my comments and tried to isolate me from the socialization process. Thus, I started sending letters to document my concerns and communicate better about those ethical issues. They did not respond the letters. I insisted again and again to hit myself against the ceiling barrier most organizations in the corporate world have to control someone who discusses their policies and procedures. The open door policy in most of today’s organizations is a ceiling barrier. Then, I was terminated in some organizations for: (a) insubordination (I refused to train the manager’s son without a job description); (b) disrespect (I had the courage to tell the management team there were several company’s policies and procedures they were not following); (c) not following the chain of command (they never responded to my letters or ignored my verbal comment; then I was escalating my concerns until reach the CEO); or (d) because I was in 90 days probation and they were under the “at-will” employment law. In other scenarios, I had to resign and leave the company because they started abusing of my good disposition to work giving me more duties to do, and telling me they were not interested in my white papers suggesting changes. “This is the way we do things for years in this company; welcome to America” she, the manager, said; “if you do not like the rules here, you may leave” said another leader then he through my paper proposal away to the garbage can.

Under those circumstances, I continued following up family reactions about the terminations and my insistence to talk in workplaces about ethical issues. At that point, I understood they made a point about my business: Ethics is my utopia! How can then I talk about that without creating destructive reactions, misinterpretations, and ostracism for me and others? My family said: “That is crazy. Yes, you were trying to help them, but cannot you hold your tongue?” The difficulty my friends, is not in avoiding being fired, but in avoiding unethical concerns or dilemmas. I have a passion for thinking ethically.

Currently, I am working part time in the Hunan Imperial, a Chinese Cuisine as a driver/dishwasher/utility man. We have a diverse group of people in the restaurant: Chinese, Americans, and Hispanics or Latinos. The diffusion of ethical practices has been smoothly. The Chinese management is open to listening to some advices and talk about ethical issues due to they are at the same time washing dishes, sweeping, doing delivery, and everything. It is an equalitarian culture; a flatter, more team-oriented structure with free food for their employees three times of the day. Hence, I have food, I can pay the rent, and help customers and peers about ethical concerns when the situation requires it. Nevertheless, the financial crisis in the country has reached an unemployment rate of more than 6% in October 2008. The restaurant is facing a lost of customers and shrinking the working schedule for the employees. I am working only 2 ½ hours per day. Looking for another part time job is a priority now. At least I have free food with the Chinese people while the restaurant is open.

Reading and listening to the news about the 2008 financial debacle in USA economy, I certainly know there is a niche for my ethical business. “The world is not ending. Not until people quit believing in themselves, not until people quit believing in a better future” said Jury Shelton in the Wall Street Journal about the economic crisis.

Ogethics is a leading organization in the ethics industry. My educational service is a need in individuals, organizations, and communities to create a new global economic order where the sole responsibility is the human being. The next strategy is to present Ogethics services to the churches in different denominations and communities. Public worships are a main place of people gathering together to listen a message. Under their approval and confidence I pretend to breathe ethics into their communities; thus they will spread the workings of Ogethics’ Internalized Advisory Approach (IAA) and a Non Judgmental Ethical Integrity Lesson (NJEIL) to their homes and their workplaces. The word of mouth will be stimulated in the churches services on Sundays, Bible studies and spiritual messages during some days of the week, and conversations with pastors and spiritual leaders.

Why churches if Ogethics is a non religious organization? As a matter of fact, religion itself does not make ethical people. However as Tenzin Gyatso, the Buddhist monk, the Dalai Lama (1999) said: “Religion has enormous potential to benefit humanity; properly employed, it can play a leading role in encouraging people to develop a sense of responsibility toward others and of the need to be ethically disciplined”.

It is due to the human dynamics in churches are highly related with people’s beliefs that Ogethics’ next strategy focuses on them. Understanding different beliefs and religious’ practices as a humane process of doing the right thing, without obligating others to change their behaviors because we think we have the truth, or they are wrong in the appreciation and manifestation of their faith or spirituality, is the ethical point to make in the arena of churches.

Legally by Title VII, employers cannot discriminate employees based on religion. They are supposed to accommodate the religious practice in the workplace unless it is onerously an undue hardship. Nevertheless, the ethical implications of religious discrimination in organizations and human relationships are oppressive to the mind or spirit as well as to the body in a higher level than the law. I know they are burdensome responsibilities to overcome the oppressive cruelty of the law that inflicts hardship, or emphasizes the severity of the undue hardship itself in benefit of the economic character of the business, which refuses the tedious character of dealing with people, ignoring the human character we are all supposed to give prior attention.

Legally by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), churches are charitable non profit organizations with the mission of helping people to find peace, be good among them, and worship God. However, by Title VII, they can discriminate employment against other people who does not profess its beliefs as a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ). Ethically, we should give others the freedom to make their decisions in their own, welcome and support them even though we have a different particular faith and worship in ways that are appropriate in our beliefs. Hence, Ogethics’ mission is to instill in them the value of ethical human resources and talents all the congregations of people have in spite of differences of credo, cults, prayer or denomination. Integrated as charitable non profit organizations, churches and Ogethics will work together to the benefit of individuals, organizations, and communities.

Introducing Ogethics to the Churches:

Open Your Heart to the World under the Grace of Your Faith and Love

Position, authority, and money are not important in an ethical world -what matters is faithful obedience from the heart. Heartfelt obedience is more important than legalistic observance and profit motivation.

Actually, this ethical position usually contradicts the world’s focus. Be prepared: “People will always try to stop you from doing the right thing if it is unconventional” (Warren Buffet).

The butterfly’s effect (Edward Lorenz) - small effects lead to big changes - seems strange to the world when you decide to live ethically in everything you say and do. “We must be willing to give when others take, to love when others hate, to help when others abuse” (Life Application Study Bible, NIV). By giving up our own rights in order to serve others, we keep our dignity as a main human resource.

One Global Ethics, Ogethics is a non profit organization under the IRS prospective 501 (C) (3) status with the mission of inspiring the value of ethical human resources and talents in individuals, organizations, and communities. We have found a niche in the arena of public worships. Ogethics will never say you are wrong or right, will never interfere with your belief or declare it has the truth.

Give us an opportunity to help your people to discover the value of their human resources and talents in an ethically complex world inside the faith, grace, and love that your community professes.

OGETHICS DISCUSSION TO CHURCHES - ETHICS LEADS TO GOD

DISCUSSION
Everyone has already made a faith commitment to believe what he thinks is the spiritual life or the thought that she is supposed to direct her destiny.

CHURCHES TEACH RELIGIOUS ETHICS
Public worships instruct their members in faithfulness, morality, honesty, and integrity. Ethical instruction is not a new law but a way of life according to the most of spiritual leaders’ new commandment to love one another or treat others as you want to be treated. Love is a strong motivator; however, love does not take the place of ethics nor law. Love is not itself ethics or the law. It is a “how” word, but it will never tell us “what” we are to do. It gives willing and cheerful obedience rather than coerced and forced compliance, and that is the best start to act so as to do what is good and right without being obligated.

REFLECTION - UNETHICAL DILEMMA
Thus we cannot obligate people to love each other, nor can we obligate others to follow one or another religious faith. We are supposed to be ethical with our beliefs, but we will find ourselves between equally unfavorable or disagreeable alternatives:
a) To pretend to convert others to our religion
b) To feel our faith is in jeopardy

What ought I to do? How should I act so as to do what is good and right? What is meant by good? Who is the ethical person?

Looking for a comprehensive word to define the modern/abstract term “ethics,” we learn it is doing the right thing, virtue, ideals. Also we can call it the manner of life, discipline, teaching, way or path of the good and the right. The closest parallel Greek term in the New Testament is “anastrophe,” “way of life or lifestyle.”

What makes the influence in molding ethics in our human resources is the character revealed in all teachings about religion; this includes the free-will expressed in all kind of faith throughout the world. All of them are making a definition of what is right, good, and ethical. “God causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Mathew 5:45).

In this sense, the Bible makes a decisive point in breathing ethics into the minds of Christian believers, and on those who may see this educational force as something that instills freedom of speech, conduct and custom, manner of life or practice. As a matter of fact, the Bible is an ongoing and continuous story about the character and will of God. It requires a permanent updating in our lives and practices to the limit of knowing whether or not we are following the proper basis to live so as to do what is right, just , and good. There is too much diversity in its content to decide that there is harmony and a basic ethical standard and norm against which all ethical and moral decisions ought to be made.

What defines the character of something we believe is more powerful than our own way is found in an internal examination or introspection. This process will unveil the human resources and talents everyone has to the level of discovering what always has been there within us without changing. In this sense, the biblical materials are unique to inspire people to find God through themselves. That is why free-will is so important in this search; it has to be voluntary. You have to make a choice. There is no power in the whole universe, except you yourself, that can prevent God from taking you to that goal of finding it.

Contemporary ethicists or moral-living individuals may be able to rest their decision on the ethical content of the biblical text from a past age. In short the Bible can be applied to all people, times, and conditions due to its consistency of the scripture’s teaching that presents a common front to the same questions in all its parts and to all cultures past and present. It seeks to command a certain moral behavior in a universal human way: We should love each other as the way to find what God represents in feelings like peace, freedom, and happiness. The characterization in the biblical book is created by humans who addressed their time and culture in a particular situation. This disposition has made a distinctive mark in individuals who read the biblical text and find a pattern of behavior to do the same in their lives. It is moral strength, self-discipline, fortitude, all in one. At least, the biblical reading directs the question: What kind of person ought I to be?

The answer is always a universal principle: An ethical person. Whatever the situation, place, age or belief we humans mean to be good and do well for our own sake and the sake of humanity. From that general principle, a person in a different setting can use the Bible to gain direction in a specific decision.

An ethical person is someone who knows how to behave in every circumstance even though there are blind moments and uncertainty. That person is not afraid to go beyond the duties and rules and make a positive difference in our human condition. In spite of the difficulties and knowing every act has consequences for the future, an ethical person has a vision of a beautiful and expanding future for all. And, she never hesitates to amend human errors, own one’s or somebody else’s, because that person knows what forgive means.

An ethical person sees others as equals no matter what the differences can be. That person is not only full of love for life and everything that is alive, but also understands death with serenity. There is no a word of judgment in the vocabulary of a good person; just understanding of the human limitation as a condition to improve every day in the human plane.

An ethical person does not know he is a good person. That is irrelevant. What the question of what kind of person I ought to be? makes them think about is the motives and intentions of their heart.

Thus, the internal response to morality rather than mere outward acts is what biblical ethics deeply concern. Every act has consequences to the future; but a moral act is not merely omitting or refraining from doing a forbidden thing - it can be more devastating than doing it when we recognize that even when we were believing we were doing good we were not. A moral act in the ethical realm is a positive participation in life. We must not just refuse to murder, but we must do all in our power to aid the life of our neighbor. Aiding the life of our neighbor as sound relationships, adapting with our circumstances in life, and understanding societal patterns is what make our human resources and talents ethical. “Seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand” (St. Augustine).

All lawmakers must keep pure the spirit of the law and their intentions. No matter how many new issues are faced in ethical discussion, the bottom line remains on the motives and intentions of the heart. Therefore, ethics is above the law.

Reference: Adapted from Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. Ethics. Holman Illustrated Bible
Dictionary, 2003

Please be advised on the current information presented to the Speaking of Faith Program is in the process of proofreading and analysis for people from different backgrounds like writers, religious leaders, professors of ethics, moral philosophy, literature, and business, as some ordinary people named friends. Hence, whether you think this project has relevant significance in the subject of The Moral and Spiritual Aspects of an Economic Downturn, I will appreciate a last chance for corrections before any publication of it as a final document (Sergio Palacio, 2008).

I think this is a moral and spiritual crisis because it is bringing people forward who clash with one another. Class differences already existed, and the economic problems are causing classes to turn against each other even more. Living near elderly people, I hear a lot about how they do not want to be taxed, to help the poor. The older people I know feel that they earned their retirement (those that have one left), and that Democrats have no right or business taking from them. These people voted for John McCain. They fear an Obama presidency that would tax them. They scoffed at Obama's speech about "fairness" and "equality." They are already resentful of the Bush Administration's taxing Social Security - one woman loses at least $80-120 a month from her check - and don't want it to continue.

In addition, I think that the economy has turned the lower classes even more against the upper ones. "Rich bitch" and other comments are made, with working class and poor people thinking that wealthier people do not suffer. Living in a senior citizen community, I can tell you that they do. But who wants to hear it? I may not agree with these older Americans, but I certainly empathize with their viewpoint. Many go to Canada for their prescriptions. Others have lost a good chunk of their hard-earned retirement dollars in the stock market. And now, they even more have to put up with invectives, resentment, and anger. People make comments about those who live in gated communities, not realizing the fear that many now have of the lower classes. Recently, a high school student in my area was gunned down in a gang conflict. His parents had no clue that he knew the people who killed him. Gangs have infiltrated even the "best" neighborhoods. People's natural response is to move to a gated community, to feel safe. Yet they find themselves being attacked for living there. As though nothing bad can happen to you, because you live behind a gate.

In this vein, I will describe several situations that I am aware of. I know some poor people, who have a hard time making their bills each month. Even before the economic crisis, they were having trouble. Anyways, they are of the belief that "no one suffers like the poor." Well, I am aware of two different women who in the past few years, for different reasons, had most of their intestinal tracts removed. Both barely survived, and are horrifically uncomfortable (having always to stay near a bathroom) now that they have lived through what happened to them. Both are elderly. Yet the poor people I know consider that these women have not suffered nearly as much as they have, themselves. I also know of several families who lost children to cancer. In at least two of these cases, the parents' marriage was directly affected by the death of the child. The poor people who I know have excellent health. They have never had to go to a hospital, needed an operation, etc. When I tried telling them that they were fortunate to have such good health, I was told that they suffer more than these parents whose children have died. That the poor suffer more than anyone else. The woman, the wife, in the family, has determined that she has suffered more than anyone in her family. Never mind that her cousin recently lost her husband to Hepatitis C. That another cousin recently died in his 50s. She has suffered the most.

I feel that our consumerist culture is at least partly to blame for this terrible division between the classes. People no longer can make do without. Now they have to have tv sets, video games, computers, gameboys, cell phones, ipods, and laptops. My sister, who has three children, has complained that all the gadgets she has had to buy for them cost over $1,000 per child. How are the poor supposed to move upward when faced with financial demands like this? We are all, myself included, addicted to a pattern of spending that is unlike what has ever been seen in the world. And now that the economy no longer permits it, we are crashing down and learning what it feels like to not be able to buy what we want. For a lot of people, it is more than uncomfortable. It is a disaster.

So, that is why I think we are having a spiritual and moral crisis. Believe it or not, I believe there is a moral aspect to spending money. You don't just earn and spend. You have to put your mind to what you are buying. Whether you really need it. Whether the price is fair. I believe in buying things on sale, particularly clothing and shoes. I have had friends who worked in retail, and they have told me what the markup is in all the stores. It is appalling, the amount of money that we Americans spend, without thinking. We are apparently of the belief that "anything goes," if you have the bucks. We admire people who have huge fortunes, and often do not care how they made them. We are resented worldwide, for using most of the world's resources. Only recently have we started thinking, as a nation, of the world's poor. Of people in other countries. A lot of us are of the mindset that "everything's great" when you have the almighty dollar at your disposal.

I am part of this equation, and have been part of it for several years. People like to see each other spend money (I still haven't figured out why), and I have changed my own spending pattern due to pressure from wealthier friends. I never used to spend more on my charge cards, than I could pay each month. Now I carry debt, and my discomfort at doing so has been laughed at by certain people. I used to be quite frugal - my parents are New Englanders, and I was raised to avoid conspicuous consumption - and even though it is nice in some ways to have the extra stuff, I can say that there is a certain satisfaction that comes from not owing any money. I used to take the bus, rather than drive a car - I did not have a car when I lived in Boston in the 1980s - and never felt that I was lacking. Only as I have gotten older, have I spent more. And sometimes, I wish that I did not. So yes, I am part of the moral/spiritual crisis of which we speak.

Anyways, I do think there is a moral/spiritual crisis in this country. I know that many think that the government should not bail out the corporations that are having problems. I think the government will have to, because of the jobs that would be lost, if they did not. And I think this will lead to some sort of assistance for the average person. Yes, we are becoming socialistic in this country. There is already tremendous resentment among the American people of the bailout plans, and considering how many are losing their homes, their jobs . . .I cannot blame them. I hope that President-elect Obama will be able to bring relief to the average person, as well as to the companies that are in trouble. Realistically, I don't know if the resentment between the classes will ever cease. I just hope that the new administration is able to make people's lives easier than they are right now. That people are able to accept a Black man as leader of this country, and that they respect his efforts to straighten our economic problems out. I also hope that frugality will not be laughed at, as it has been so recently. And that more than a few of us realize that money is only one aspect of a person, and that you cannot make a blanket judgment of a person, or group of people, by their economic class.

Following is a short essay that I hope will provide hope and encouragement to your listeners.

What if…?
By Michael Dant

As financial institutions around the world scramble to perform their “What if” calculations in this time of economic recession, I would like to propose a few spiritual “What if” calculations for God’s people to ponder in times of financial crisis.

What if financial news meant less to us than the weather report?

What if the cost of gas forced us to carpool, ride our bike, or walk to work?

What if exorbitant heating bills meant more time snuggled up together as a family by the fireside?

What if the high cost of electricity necessitated spending less time in front TVs, computers and X-Boxes?

What if we considered the loss of a job to be a gift from God?

What if losing our job turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to us?

What if no income meant trusting in God for all our needs?

What if having less money to spend on clothes meant thinking less about our outward appearance?

What if the high cost of food encouraged us to eat less and more simply?

What if we were truly destitute and had to be fed by ravens like Elijah?

What if losing our house meant strengthening our home?

What if we were forced to live in a small apartment but learned to live life large?

What if we lost our retirement savings but became adept at enjoying our “Golden Years” today?

What if we did not “store up wealth on earth where moth and rust” and recession destroy?

What if our money and all our possessions truly belonged to God?

What if financial crisis were a great adventure that resulted in a downpour of spiritual blessings?

What if…?

So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:31-33 NIV)

it seems the harder one works and strives for independence the more society/government beleauger, stomp and kick one. Born in a Catholic, irish midwest farm environment ..felt the patriotic urge to leave and serve in the miliatary where I saw the heartbreack of the soldier under a democratically lead US of A and became a republican(not staunch) just practical..tried to teach hard work, help those less fortunate and independence to 3 daughters...now , middle age feel defeated..our country is over taken by hollywood valuesa and BIG government..saddens me..feel helpless and kicked.

We welcome this turn of events, because we were running headlong into both financial and moral bankruptcy. Now we have an opportunity to reconsider our values, both financial and spiritual. One lesson is clear, even to he most materialistic: whatever we do will have global consequences. This is both heartening and sobering.

There is no doubt in my mind that this economic crisis is also a moral crisis. It may, in fact, be more accurate to say that a moral crisis spawned the economic crisis.
I have learned quite a lot about the economic crisis from another podcast, This American Life, from Chicago Public Radio. Their two episodes, "The Giant Pool of Money" and "Another Frightening Show about the Economy" explained the inner workings of the crisis in remarkable clarity. As I listened to these shows, one thought repeatedly came to my mind as each new detail was revealed: How could we be so greedy?
Mortgage-backed securities were dangerous in their own right. How much sense does it make to invest in securities based on mortgages offered without any income or asset investigation? None at all—unless you're desperate to make more money on a high interest rate. As if that weren't enough, mortgage-backed securities were further packaged into collateralized debt obligations (CDO's), which were in turn sold as securities. Some of the mortgages in these CDO's were rated so low that they were considered "toxic waste." Why invest in toxic waste? The desperate desire for more and more money.
I'm all for investment. It's necessary for our economy. When no one is investing (or lending), like now, we are in trouble. But we got here by making very unwise investments, by making greedy investments in toxic waste. It's fine to try to earn some extra interest. But there have to be limits, and our ignorance of any limitation—our greed—has brought us where we are today.

Between 2003 and 2007, my marriage of 20 years with five children ended, I lost my job teaching of 12 years and finally, I lost my home to bankruptcy. My heart was shattered by fear and rejection from different corners of my life. I had to turn to public assistance to put food on the table and depend on the generosity of family to help me creep through those days with some sense of dignity.

As a cradle Catholic I assumed that the church would be my solace...but I was wrong. There was no life-line literal or spiritual given. I found no comfort in the thought that God has given me what I could endure ....that I would be made stronger....and the best one, that there is a reason for it all even if I never know it.

Somehow I discovered the dharma and Buddhism. It wasn't a mysterious somehow at all. One particularly miserable week, I remembered hearing about a Buddhist monestry in nearby Massachusetts. I needed a place of escape; a place of refuge is more accurate. So off I went to Barre and there I was "thrown a life line with a knot at the end." I discovered the dharma and the beginning of a new way of seeing the reality of my life.

Since that time, I have found a teacher, attended workshops, listened to tapes, etc., because Buddhism is like chocolate - you just cannot get enough or break the habit. I am only still a beginner but what I have learned through my experience has changed my point of view, given me a deepening sense of peace and the courage to keep trying.

I remain without a full time job, just dollars in the bank and am actually living with one of my kids because I cannot afford my own place. Having said that as an anti-depressant free person, I wake up grateful for the moment of waking, the smell of coffee brewing, and soothing experience of just following my breath.

What the future will bring me and to all of us could be a source of great fear - and I have been there before. I like it better where I live now, trying to live in the present. I don't have this down yet. I have the sense of being on an exciting journey (at almost 60). My greatest wish is that each of my children have been witness to the fact that tragedy can be survived and at best redefined to bring a sense of hope and wonder.

Since I was very young, like just about everyone I know, I had a strong mechanism deep within that could smell injustice, layer upon layer of it. I knew at age three that going to daycare sucked, and I knew that my peers were favored because we were cared for by their mother. However, the complexity of greater social injustices didn't really begin to sink in until I turned twenty-five. Before age twenty-five I think of myself as a protestor/whiner. I saw the injustice at face value and whined about it. Growing up on poverty and years of watching PBS documentaries of war demonstrations, the liberation of concentration camps, civil rights marches, The Wonder Years, and listening to my parents old LP's of The Beatles and Janice Joplin had left their mark.

The tragedy of 9/11 took place just weeks after my twenty-third birthday. It was shaking; like someone had struck a chord that had resonated for years, and then on 9/11 someone struck a new chord, a chord no one knew. I quit my job to stay home with my kids. I flew home to Tennessee with my toddler and eight month old baby to visit family. We bought a new car. We waited. I was ready to act, but no direction came. I also began to seek out spiritual renewal, and joined a very fundamentalist Bible Study. Soon, my car was tuned to a different station, one that focused on my family and my role in it instead of news and the world. My head was filled with directives to isolate, seclude my young, and become as perfect as possible. My goal was to be Jesus Christ and to get everyone else to be just like me. The mechanism that smelled injustice began to be tweaked. "Could it really be injustice if the person isn't a Christian? God works for the good of those who believe in him." Personal behavior and faith status became the stick with which I measeured out those who suffered for no cause of their own and those who deserved it. No longer a sheep in the flock, I wasn't even the shepherd, I was the butcher, me and about 5 million others. So when the war that I had been fated to protest for years came, I was blinded by a belief system that mandated an eye for an eye.

My belief system had little sympathy or compassion for people who could not control their sinful nature. I didn't even believe in funding public schools, or that women should work outside the home. Our society was falling apart because of working women, sex, Godless public education, taxes and fast food. I really really believed in this.

Shortly after 9/11 my husband became the director of an enviornmental learning center. Two years later, when the funding was cut and the center folded my life changed. I started a cleaning business at seven months pregnant because no business would hire me, and I got a job as a coordinator for an after school program (in a public school). I also became vehemently opposed to any business that would have the audacity to discriminate against a pregnant woman.

My husband worked endlessly. He had three jobs. He went to tutor at the school at 3:00pm, from there he went to his overnight factory job at 6pm. He got home after working an eleven hour shift at 5am. At 9am, after four hours of sleep he went on call as an EMT with the local ambulance service. He could still catch some sleep if he didn't get a call. Without the paycheck that we had become accustomed too, public school began to look like a good deal, my dream of homeschooling was fading. Something I had railed against for years (welfare) began to look like a social safety net. I'll never forget the time I was at a Christian Women's meeting and the director of the food shelf leaned over and said, "You can go to the food shelf so many times per year. You should go." She squeezed the life out of my hand, as if to say if you don't go I'll hurt you. I went.

I'll never forget that experience. I, a hard working, educated, sober, business woman was going to a food shelf! The people were so nice. The form was one page, about five questions. I thought we'd get enough food for one meal, but I had to pull my car around so that I could unload box after box into my car. We were given so much, I couldn't fit it all in my cupboards. We ate every last can of tuna, box of instant potatoes, and even SPAM with relish.

Humility is the basis of my new faith.

I do not look at the state of our country's economy as a crisis in the same way as most. The state of affairs is an opportunity, in many ways. I still have a sense of justice, and so I think that someone should pay for the frivalous, machismo, arrogant politics and policies of the last fifteen years, but I know that for the most part the powerless, not the propogator, will suffer most in this mess. However, poverty for me is no longer a judgement handed down to the lazy, uneducated, drunken, ego-centric, sloth. I no longer define poverty by neighborhood, class, education, or even bank account. Poverty is to lack the ability to help others as one would want to help oneself. Poverty is the inability to forgive; the blind, misinformed faith that isolates and secludes a person from joy, self forgiveness, compassion, and love for one's neighbor.

Our family has gone through a financial crisis much like what the country is facing now. We have learned a lot and I feel that we are better off. The leadership I am looking for at this time, is a leadership that believes in everyday people. Leadership that doesn't look at the person's bank account or position of status to find value, but instead a leadership that understands the inherent value of every citizen of this country. A leadership that doesn't seclude or isolate, but reaches out to all of us and in turn gives some useful direction, a map.

What am I doing differently? I am no longer a secluded housewife. My kids go to school. We moved to a new community. I am grateful for welfare, food stamps, and medicare even though we no longer use them. The food shelf still rocks. Involved in my local political party, I fought hard for a candidate with real vision as a delegate to the DFL state convention. (I am the former chairperson for the Big Stone County Republican party). For the last year I worked two jobs, helped plan a fundraiser, door knocked for Barack, had a house party, marched in a lawn chair brigade in many parades for my local candidate for Minnesota House Seat 10A. As the volunteer coordinator for A Center for the Arts, I naturally voted "yes" on the constitutional ammendment. I find wisdom at a unique church. The church is actually two churches, United Church of Christ and a Presbyterian church, which came together to worship in the same house when a tornado blew through town almost a hundred years ago. The six of us live in a two bedroom house on the tracks in the "ghetto" of Fergus Falls, and I let the kids play with the neighbors. I could not be more different, or any further from my old idea of "perfection".

I find leadership in my elders, veterans, the people who grew up during the Great Depression, and my grandmother. I also look for ways to be of use. I find spiritual renewal in many forms of art, but my favorite is dance. I enjoy other's points of view and I don't always know mine. I like collaborating.

I once called into an MPR pledge drive during SOF to protest the show and withdraw my membership. I am sorry. Now, I want to tell you thank you. This is a humungous e-mail, but it's been a journey and I wouldn't be the person I am now without having listened to the different ideas and perspectives (especially an interview with an evangelical fundamentalist a few years back). Your show makes a difference, so I look forward to tuning in.

Gratefully,
Jessica Sundheim

Dear Krista,

You asked about our thoughts of the spiritual nature of what’s being called the financial crisis. I realized I could probably write a book about my sense of it all, so it’s almost painful to be concise, but here goes…

At the heart of every outer crisis, both personal and collective, is a deep spiritual movement, a shifting of the relationship with that which is larger than our selves. The shift is evolutionary, a sort of divine imperative, destined as an unfolding of what it means to be human. Coming into a new way of being requires old patterns to fall away. There are times when no crisis is needed to facilitate this development. This isn’t one of them.

Our relationships with money, survival, trust, blame, responsibility, generosity…with what it means to have “enough” are all up for review. More importantly, that ever so fragile sense of self and how we’ve identified that concept is deeply affected whenever money issues are triggered.

As always, we have some choices on how to work with deep change. We can lose ourselves once again in blame and fear. We can choose to see this as something happening "to" us. Or we can listen to the soft breeze of a greater freedom wafting through the midst of the turmoil -- a freedom which paradoxically brings us closer and encourages partnership, sharing and compassion and the possibility of something greater coming to fruition "through" us. Many things that are happening in our world today are imbued with this possibility. None seem to hold the promise of a deep transformation for so many as this particular development.

Lynne Twist would be a wonderful person to chat with about this crisis and its implications. Also, a Jungian scholar who can speak about Jung’s concept of the transcendent function might provide a lovely context within which to see a larger view of current developments.

With deep gratitude for all you do,
Erin Palmer

I am concerned that in these challenging economic times, some people of faith are acting irresponsibly. There are poeple who speak that the "End Times are near" and that soon, the "Rapture" will be upon us, so "why worry anout anything? Wht take care of the earth? Why save or invest? Why worry at all?" I think such attitudes are reckless and dangerous, and yet there are people who based their faith on prophacy and not reality. This is immoral. This is not spiritual wisdom and is based on total supernatural beliefs. I am looking for pragmatic leadership, not mysticism in these hard times.

I feel the current financial upheaval is possibly the best opportunity we as a country could have. It is forcing us to consider what it is we truely value, to step back from the consumerism we have been absorbed with for the last 50 years.

I have tried to live frugally since having my own income. Growing up, my family learned that everything is temporary - particularly finances and work. For this reason I try to plan for the chance that something could happen that would change my financial landscape.

I am seeing the people around me starting to search for the bargins I have been shopping. I am more than happy to help, and hope this is a long term life change for them. I hope that when the economy does turn upwards again Americans will begin to save more, and begin to give some of their extra to people in need.

For me, the biggest part of the story is the rampant obliteration of values of connection, community, and individual humanity systematically over at least 30 yrs since the power went to individuals inspired by Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman. Also, the notion that the 'market made me do it' absolves the most endowed and privileged people from what were once called moral obligations or any responsibility for widespread and long-lasting effects of their choices on those less fortunate or able. Indeed, even the fortunate and able are getting whacked by these choices! Now, even people with great established businesses can't keep working capital credit lines, and customers everywhere are all stopping spending any money because of a loss of confidence and trust. The effect could decimate otherwise healthy and viable sectors all over the economy that had nothing to do with banks, hedge funds, or mortgages. Of course, the poorest amongst us always get hit ever since Jesus was observing things, but this is pretty new considering all these reforms were supposed to be 'pro-business'.

Values of community or interconnectedness are slurred today as 'socialist' (they are not), and human beings are objectified as mere consumers or disposable units of labor. Self-interest is heralded as the greatest motivation an individual can follow, and individuals who achieve high economic value are viewed as worth more than individuals who do not. This is all Ayn Rand, of whom Greenspan said was his greatest inspiration! HOORAY! And, of which the Chairman of BB&T bank plans to keep funding the indoctrination on campuses all over the US so he can avert a 'socialist' backlash from all of this market failure affecting young people and families now (should an IRS tax exempt Foundation be allowed to do something so covertly political?). No wonder we have so many young people who are nihilists and giving up on everything from education to eating healthy food and cultivating healthy relationships.

I believe there is a big difference between the current ideologues' 'self-interest' versus 'self-determination'. Self-determination ennobles and empowers individuals, families and communities. It would be a wonderful thing for all of us to achieve that now with this break-down of antiquated systems that we've become dependent on, but who owe us nothing and may not even be around to help us pick up the pieces. Too many influential, powerful and ordinary people living purely by 'self-interest', and thinking it is just fine to do so without any compunction, is what got us into the mess we are in now.

The Libertarians may think we should all live alone on our little plot of land, but I love to note that that was tried in New England too a few hundred years ago. All we have left are the rows and rows of stone walls now running through woods which overgrew the little farm plots these people intended to live their lives on for generations. It doesn't work, the Human Being is a social one, and depends on others for survival and success, and when collaborating can achieve great things.

I love to note that while Texas and Western Frontier Libertarian ideal got us Big Oil, Big Military, and Fast Food Nation, the mess we're in on many fronts, it was the collaborative work of individuals in community that got us Edison and all the amazing technological innovations that still power our way of life today all over the world. It also got us Silicon Valley and RT 128, the output of collaboration of many individuals bringing multiple educations and talents to bear to create wealth and livelihood for many communities.

In a sense, the 'dependency' culture that Reagan and all those others derided, is now the case for 100s millions of Americans. This time the highly educated ones are dependent on distant, poorly governed, and now misguided corporations for their livelihoods. Of course, the poor have always been dependent on others for their livelihoods, but what has changed is that so few of the most capable actually feel themselves empowered to be entrepreneurs and challengers.

I believe this happened through systematic indoctrination of neo-liberal ideology (theology!) into universities all over the country, the rampant spread of MBA degrees from these 'academies' which eliminated alternative viewpoints and methods everywhere in business, as well as proliferation of media sources that openly denigrate values of community and human rights. All of this accelerated the neo-liberal system and breakdown of our former small town, community, and family based business world into what we have today centered on Wall Street.

I am grateful that in my own life I have greater self-determination and practice of interconnectedness now. I am finding through laws of attraction amazing people with whom I can collaborate and work as things repair. I have no intention of ever working for another corporation again, except insofar as I have something to teach them to change themselves and become more productive, more innovative and more in tune with a Zeitgeist that is making itself known to many many more of us each day, and as more mighty oak trees (Goliaths) tumble! PRAISE GOD!

"God or the Dow?" (a blog post on dealing spiritually with the econmic crisis) (originally dated 11-13-2008)

Another month passed already, and the economic crisis shows no signs of abating yet. I don't know about you, but I'm starting to get used to feeling this low-level anxiety as a sort of backdrop to whatever else it is that I'm dealing with that day, which is, of course, always something, since life is a series of problems.

This crisis seems to be, for all of us, a unique type of constant spiritual challenge to "let go and let God." The economic problems we're currently experiencing are more serious and widespread than anything most of us have ever seen before, which gives rise to a totally unfamiliar psychic situation. The best way I can think of to describe it is to say that the fundamental economic security that we’ve always taken for granted is ours no longer. Our investment and retirement accounts seem to vanish before our very eyes, or at least to be mere houses of cards that topple at the drop of a pin, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

This helplessness, not only of ourselves individually but also of all of us collectively, including the experts, and the billionaires, and the leaders, and even all those cutting-edge business people in Japan and elsewhere, societies that are probably not past their economic peak the way America may be past its economic peak—anyway, the fact that none of these folks have a clue what to do either is what makes this particular crisis seem so utterly out of the reach of human control. Most other crises in the past have appeared to have some limitation to them, but not this one. It seems as omnipresent and as uncontrollable as the Flood.

Ah, the illusion of being in control! I’ve written elsewhere, in my book and probably in this blog as well, that the best thing that can happen to any of us is for us to realize that we’re not in control, that when we've thought we were in the past, it was an illusion. But now I see that although I was acting in accordance with this insight in most areas of my life—i.e., turning it all over to God and letting him help me with all of it—I was still, unconsciously, grounded in this fundamental economic security that we Americans have enjoyed pretty steadily since before I was born in 1956. Even though I had realized I wasn’t in control of most of the variables of my life, I nonetheless operated on the unconscious but huge assumption that the basics of the money system would stay the same. Of course, I occasionally had money problems and worries, but there was always that basic system to fall back on, where if you worked and did what you were supposed to do, you had both current money and retirement funds for more or less as long as you needed them. Now, however, we've lost that certainty. We don't know if our investments and 401K’s are going to hold out or not, because we know for a fact that they can shrink dramatically even as we speak, and that no one knows how to stop the shrinkage. We can no longer take for granted that basic system, or our own earning power, or job security, or even our very employability, if we were to have to look for new work. We are definitely not in control.

In my book, I write about how I wanted things and asked God for them, and in a later spiritual stage I found myself wanting things for others, so then I would ask God for those as well, but now, I find myself wanting—in the sense, that is, of feeling almost physically hollowed out by the absence of that basic security. I'm constantly grasping for it, only to feel it slip through my fingers with every new drop of the Dow. First I wanted, then I wanted for others, now I am wanting, I am lacking. It doesn’t feel good.

Another thing I find myself falling prey to is being teased by the market whenever it comes back one day and not only gets into positive territory but actually makes big gains, only to lose it all the next hour or the next session or the next week.

But, thank the Lord, the solution to all of this vacillation and all of this worry is the same as for all other kinds of worry:

BE STILL, AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD.

For sure, it's hard to do in this climate of near-panic, but we can do it now if we've done it before, and if we've never done it, we can learn to do it. The only difference is that now, more of us see more clearly than ever how utterly dependent on God we are, since we can’t even rely on that old familiar system of money and work and basic economic well-being. If only, instead of despairing, we will truly turn to God through meditation, prayer, deep relaxation of both body and mind, or even the "groanings too deep for words" of the Holy Spirit, and ask God to help us and show us what to do and guide us and keep us and continue to love us, which we know he will do because that’s what Jesus said, then we can find peace of mind and, eventually, the complete joy of God’s abundance and bounty, where no one has to concern themselves with money ever again!

In short, where most of us, myself included, used to depend on that fundamental economic security, now that that's been pulled out from under us, so that we know our dependence on it was a mistake, maybe we’ll finally come to realize, more deeply than ever before, that God is the only sure foundation for us to build on or lean on!

I confess, though, that even when I've made up my mind to adhere to the discipline of choosing this foundation over and over, during the workday I often find myself peeking at the market readings that are so neatly tucked into the corner of my internet homepage--hey, I didn't put them there, they did! Anyway, I find myself peeking, & if the market happens to be up at that moment, I breathe a sigh of relief, and if it happens to be down, I say to myself, "Of course it's still down, the bailout & other measures haven't had time to work yet; things will be better, but not yet." But the point is that WHATEVER is happening with the market, now or at any other time (and indeed, whatever is happening with the world, period!), if we want to be truly grounded and positioned to receive real joy, we've got to be resting in God instead of in the worldly things. In God's love & reassurance & promise & hope. And it's always up to US, every minute of every day, to put ourselves there. It's that simple: God or the Dow?

"God or the Dow, part 2" (originally dated 11-18-2008)

One more thing that can help us deal with the uncertainty is simply to get out there and do the best we can to help others, including those less fortunate than we are, instead of feeling that the crisis gives us an excuse not to concern ourselves with them. No matter what our personal situation may be, there are millions worse off than we are, including those who've lost their jobs or their homes, or both. There may also be many who are not worse off financially than we are, but who may be having an extra hard time dealing with things, and may need us for that reason.

That old secret of God's still works: we will feel better if we do things for others rather than sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves or worrying about the future. Healing (salvation, if you will, as explained in the post "Salvation as salve instead of forgiveness," April 2008 archive)--healing comes not from seeking our own healing but from being an agent of healing for others.

Also, I hope none of us decide not to donate as much as we normally would during this holiday season. Believe me, I understand the impulse to tighten our belts, but if we can just keep up our giving this year, the hurting world surely will be the better off for it, and, who knows, maybe by the following Christmas, this nightmare will be nothing but a distant memory.

God bless all who read this!
Sara

I work as a legal services lawyer in Indiana, trying to defend foreclosures in an escalating crisis atmosphere. Today's meltdown has been so predictable, given the level of predatory lending and unwillingness to restrain or check behaviors that appear to me to come straight from unfettered greed.

I'm also a Quaker. In 2003, I attended a gathering of Friends for discernment on economics and ecology at Pendle Hill, a Quaker retreat center. I was a representative of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). Out of that gathering came an epistle to Friends (Quakers); actually a series of queries (consistent with Quaker practice), as follows:

"In light of Friends Testimonies, what is God calling us to do about the continuing and increasing marginalization of so much of the world's population, the extinction of species and other environmental degradation? How do we integrate our human communities within the natural world so as to provide for the physical and spiritual needs of future generations? What changes in the institutions of economy and governance are needed to promote effective stewardship of the natural environment and caring for people and communities? What is it in nature and human knowledge that we have the right to own? How best can we promote the values expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Earth Charter? How can we promote understanding and awareness of the consequences of increasing global interconnectedness and the urgency of addressing the dangers and opportunities that these present?

As we earn, spend and invest money, as individuals and as meeting communities, how can we live in the "virtue of that life and power" that leads us to treat all humans and the Earth as manifestation of the Divine? Are we aware of the true cost of our consumption? Do we take into account our concerns for social justice as we earn, spend and invest money? What information, tools, and skills do we need to equip ourselves to work effectively for public policies that restore Earth's resilience, increase social equity, and strengthen community? How, as we labor with these concerns, can we engage with others in ways that help us discern God's will for us at this critical stage of Earth's history?"

It seemed to me that the only way out where we were headed was to have a global consciousness-raising about the intersection between economics and ecology.

Out of the Pendle Hill meeting, the Quaker Institute for the Future was launched, including the Moral Economy Project. www.quakerinstitute.org

At my own Friends Meeting in Bloomington, we started an Earthcare Witness committee, as have many meetings. The idea is to consciously examine our faith and testimonies (simplicity, peace, equality, integrity, community) as it relates to the environment.

I believe Lester Brown best articulates where we stand and what we need to do.
http://www.earthpolicy.org/Books/PB3/Contents.htm

In the search for where we can have an impact, addressing poverty is an imperative as well. The Circles Initiative began in Bloomington in recent months and strikes me as a wonderful correlative and hands-on means of addressing poverty (however, environmental concerns are not fundamental to it). Information about the Circles Initiative is at www.movethemountain.org

It's very hard to know where to put our energy and efforts, to direct our faith work. I find SOF an ongoing means of stimulating my thinking that's very valuable in this effort.

Thank you for your work.

There is much finger pointing going on about the financial collapse but we must all consider what beliefs and assumptions we have made about who we are and how we are related that has led us to our current condition. Morally we must ask how we have corporately created a lie that gives us value and worth based on how much money we make and how many toys we have. Spiritually we are empty and vacant because we have all believed the lie and spent most of our time and energy trying to live out the lie by working longer and longer hours, taking extra jobs and loosing connection with our own soul and with the heart of those we once loved but end up feeling burdened by.
The wisdom we need is through intellegent and thoughtful conversations that ask new questions and brings people together to see the possibilities that are present in the very crisis we have created. We do not just need smart leaders we need people to see that we are all leaders and it is time for us to step up and lead with the heart and wisdom that is available when we work together with the good of everyone in mind.
I believe that the problems are incredibly complex and they will take a collective view point to bring us into a new reality. We need each other in a way we have not for many years. Our survival depends on our nation and our world creating a new story not only about how we live together economically, but how we live together in every way. Because this current crisis is global in nature, we are being given an opportunity to do just that.
As a country we have talked about the American Dream which is a house, a family, a picket fence, and a dog. We have not included in that dream how we are with each other in that house and in the neighborhood in which the house is built. We have focused on things to the point that we are in increased isolation. When we are not related to others and we can't see the impact our choices have on them, it is easy to make choices that objectify anyone out there. We don't even know we are doing it because we have such a strong belief that we should be able to do what we want if it doesn't hurt anyone else. We don't consider that all our thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and assumptions have a profound effect on the world as we have brought it into being. I believe this crisis is a profound and important opportunity for the American people to come together in ways that they have forgotten or not yet imagined. I believe that what we can create from this will strengthen us morally and generate the possibility for a new and deeper connection to our spirit. When what is outside fails us, we finally turn inward and if we wait and listen, we are usually surprised by the gift that shows up to help lead us into something new.

Initiative for the Redemption of Economic Life (IREL)

In the primordial Garden Man was charged with the responsibility to “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it”. The state of Man was destined to unfold from a purity of innocence, into a full consciousness of knowledge of the dark and the light, under the harmonious guidance of an all–wise, all–knowing spirit. His purity, however, was fatally sullied as he failed to wait upon God, but willfully reached for powers he was not yet fit to receive. As the wages of this rebellion, he was ejected from the Garden, and henceforth obliged to labor by the sweat of his brow to earn his comfort and keep.
The travail of subsequent effort took on a coordinated form which replicated roughly the divinely symbiotic material and energy flows of the Garden. The evolving matrix of relationships thereby established became an aspect of the social body known as the “Economic Life”, while the vitalizing spirit of that body took on the guise of “Money”. Money, then, is a proxy for the spirit that imparted a burgeoning harmonic order to the Garden, while the Economic Life became the vehicle in the material world by which Man would seek, upon requisite redemption of personal goodness and threefold completion of social evolution, to return home to the unspoiled state of the Garden; this time in the full consciousness of the dark and the light, but also with a purity of spirit that partakes of the innocence of Man‘s original state.
In the interim, though, the spirit of Money, and in turn the Economic Life, has been hijacked by forces that would seek to derail human evolution. Humankind has descended into abject materiality; estranged from one another and seduced by the shadow forces of false dominion; all orchestrated by the spirit of opposition that has co–opted Money. The woes thereby unleashed are legion. Brother has been pitted against brother in a false competition for livelihood. Mankind‘s Mother, the earth, is counted as a body to be ravaged and consumed. Tyrannies of number haunt Man‘s sleep. Clearly an “Initiative for the Redemption of Economic Life” in the material world is called for.
The purpose of this initiative is threefold:
(1) – To strive for redemption in oneself and others from the spiritual dissonance that was the cause of Man’s alienation from a harmonious relationship with God in the earth,
(2) – From which it becomes possible to transform Money and rectify the Economic Order to a condition which reflects truly the state of providence in human evolution at present,
(3) – Which would, finally, redeem the Economic Life as a fit vehicle for the reassertion of Man‘s fruitful, replenishing and faithful dominion over the creation.

Thus would the Kingdom of God materially in the earth be at last established.

I'm in the process of finishing my bachelor's degree, and I wonder if this downturn will mean I won't be able to find full-time job as planned, now that the children are about to start college. I wonder how we'll pay for their education, and our eventual retirement. My husband is a federal employee, so he's not in danger of losing his job, so we're certainly not in dire straits, but I would like to see some reward for earning a BA.

What I hope this downturn teaches us is that there are more important things in life than a big house, a luxury car and all the latest gadgets. Maybe it will do us good to realize we can't keep on spending as if there is no tomorrow.

Maybe something good can come out of this crisis by propelling us to invest in health care, infrastructure and education, rather than further increasing our debt by stimulating consumer spending. It's our spending that got us into trouble in the first place. Maybe president Obama can get us to invest in America in tiny increments, just as we invested in his campaign in $25 increments. I for one would be willing to do that, if it means the government's debt doesn't need to be held by countries like China anymore. The 44th president comes into office with an enormous mandate for change, and I hope he uses his bully pulpit for the good of nation.

At a time when a very few earthlings are consuming nearly all of the earth's resources morality has to factor in. In addition those few who have privilege, comfort, relative safety and gourmandous calorie intake have seemingly lost any sense of membership as earthlings! We have seemingly lost any sense of empathy or compassion for those who barely subsist day by day!

In the scriptural book of Genesis the human is fashioned from the humous, earthling from the earth! Some sense of interdependence on the humous, and on one another seems to call out from every corner of spiritual practice and tradition. We are called to be in relationship with the Divine and with the Earthly. When we open our hearts with grateful abandon – then we are able to be generous with our resources and in our actions. We are nothing if we miss the importance of this spiritual truth.

Largely, as Americans and I'm sure there are members of the upper classes in many other countries to whom this also applies, we are loathe to think of ourselves as "upper". We forget that access to indoor toilets, hot running water and more food than we need to function places us in the upper-class in terms of international economics. We are out of touch with the idea that our lifestyles resemble royalty in the perception of many cultures; that a majority of the world's children go to bed hungry. .

Even so, most Americans will spend SOME of every day whining about how unfortunate, troubled and/or needy we are in some way or the other. We have completely lost site of the splendor of our blessings.

I’m sure you know about the notion put forward by Jeffrey Sachs, [UN Millennium Project director & Director, Professor at the Columbia University Earth Institute] which frames world poverty inside of the vast resources in the developed world. For the first time in the history of the human race we actually have the resources to end world poverty: economically, technically, transportation wise, distribution wise!!!

What we lack are the moral and the spiritual sense of responsibility.
We have forgotten that “commerce” was invented so that people who had plenty of cheese, but no grain, could trade their cheese for grain to feed their goats!!! Folks without access to seafood could trade with folks on the rocky shores for fruits and vegetables they grew in their inland meadows.

This didn’t start out as a game of king-on-the-mountain-of-money but rather as an effective way of distributing resources and “tending” the whole of humanity.

The idea that we can actually feed all humanity, eliminate fatalities from simple cold and flu viruses, educate the children invigorates and excites me. And without fail I can find no other person who will so much as entertain a conversation about where to start.
I know that some are somewhere. That in itself sustains my sense of hope.

Still, as a culture, we seek affluence as a cure for our emptiness without grasping the truth of our folly. We forget that a crisis can be an adventure, a dangerous-opportunity (one Chinese definition). We forget that the way to feel full and fulfilled is to be generous so that our hearts can be grateful so that we can be generous so that our hearts remain grateful . . . etc. etc. etc.
This is a spiritual truth . . . this is what God [whatever the name] requires from the earthling. We suffer from the loss of this simple truth as the basis for our every decision.

I know – AMEN Sista’
What can I say? I’m an Episcopal Priest!

I gave myself this year to study the scholars, to converse with friends, and to participate in solitary contemplation about the meaning of trust, and its importance in life.

The Oxford dictionary defines trust as a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something. How do I know whom I can trust? How do I decide, not only to what extent I can trust someone, but what this person can be entrusted with?

The easiest answer to the question, “How do I know whom I can trust?” is to ask, “Who do I trust at this moment?” and “Who have I trusted in the past?” If the list of people you trust presently contains the same names as the people you have always been able to trust, you’re probably one happy trooper.

In my case, I tend to trust people near-and-dear to me with information or in situations where I need a shoulder to cry on, or their truthful opinion, or their knowledgeable judgment. Sometimes I have trusted wisely, at other times very unwisely. What I have learnt is that even though it would be wonderful if we could trust our loved ones with everything, it is not always prudent to do so.

This is because trust has many dimensions. First, we must find someone who is equally committed to the outcome of the situation we are entrusting them with, as we are. I trust my husband with my worries about my impending unemployment (my work contract is coming to an end in a months’ time), not only because he loves me and cares about my concerns, but because our financial livelihood is dependent on my contribution.

Secondly, the person we trust has to have the required skill or ability to carry through that which we are entrusting them with. It is not prudent to trust someone with my life-savings, if they’re always living on the brink of financial disaster. Lastly, there is always an element of unpredictability, or risk, when we trust someone to do something. If there weren’t risk involved, then we wouldn’t be entrusting them, but just instructing or informing them.

When I reflect back over the last ten years on situations or persons who have failed to live up to my expectations, I asked myself why did they fail: lack of commitment or lack of skill? And, as it turns out, it is nearly always the lack of skill that is the central cause for the failure. Not only their skill is lacking, but also my sense of judgement. Why would I trust someone with something they have no ability to succeed in?

Going back to the Oxford dictionary definition of trust (a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something), the question is where does that firm belief come from? I can only conclude through experience. Since childhood, I’ve trusted those near to me: my parents, my siblings, and my friends, with aspects precious to my wellbeing. And, the outcome of those experiences becomes memory.

No matter how distorted these memories are, they are all I have to navigate by. Thus, it is important to consider what I remember about these people, particularly their abilities, when I decide to ask them for constructive help and quiet solace. It is as simple as that.

I am attaching a document that provides a fresh and surprisingly powerful overview of the greater crisis that is manifested in part as a financial crisis. The first 10 pages of the document describe how our world view has increasingly been driven into a corner we can call dogmatic materialism which for most of the world's peoples only causes an agonizing separation between their heart, which is still controlled by faith, and their cultural heritage which is increasingly engulfed in this materialism. The rest of the document provides a broad a powerful explanation of how to move beyond this crisis.

I would love for you to do a show on this perspective. If I may be of any assistance with this, please let me know.

Thank you.

ps. If you cannot open the attachment, then the document is available here:

http://bahai-library.com/pdf/2005_11/one_common_faith.pdf

TO me, everything has a moral and spiritual dimension because all that we do relates to how we treat and connect with other people, either those with us, those affected by us today or tomorrow,and even those future generations unborn.

Economic downturns can remind us of what's important in life (my favorite saying is "the best things in life are not things"), but they also hurt those without the least, the hardest, so even those of us with more means who are affected negatively in our finances, still have a responsibility to think in terms of helping others when we can.

Doing with less means for many people, not being able to spend as much money on things, on activities, on luxuries or even on some things felt to be "necessities" which paradoxically can be better for the ecology of our world. This is moral and spiritual because we are called as humans to live interdependentally with with others, including animals, and all aspects of the natural world.

The bad economic times can help us refocus on important values, such as community, love, compassion, and more, as we remember that objects and selfish pursuits are not what life is about; those things are not why we're here.

I try to live consistently with the points I make here all the time, but when I feel the pinch it reminds me more of the importance that we all live that way.

I'm a financial services veteran of every downturn since 1987. While external things are different this time, I am too. I've been studying meditation and yoga for more than 10 years...these practices have helped me to see the part that fear is playing in this whole situation.

My newly minted consulting practice is intertwined with the NYC area financial services community. Things are a bit frozen in this arena, and one of the catalysts to this chill is fear.

To respond, I'm actually shifting my business focus a bit, to something that I think can directly help, based on my own experience. I've been a practitioner of meditation (with varying levels of dedication) for about the past 10 years. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction practices are based on ancient meditation techniques -- but in a secular form. I'm talking with a friend who runs a major Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program about offering this program to corporate clients. In October and early November, I had a great experience with students when we offered an introductory program to members of my business school's NYC alumni club. I hope it will help.

Instead of looking for leadership, I'm naively hoping to follow the advice of one of the greats, and be the change I wish to see in the world.

(And another observation: the press, and language used in the press -- including some responsible outlets like NPR -- is inflaming the situation. We've been living in this environment of "be afraid, be very afraid" since September, 2001. Hopefully a new day is dawning where we will see that leadership doesn't come from fear, and doesn't use fear to motivate.

One thing that could help is for editors and producers to take another look at everything you put out in the world. How often are you using the word "fear", "afraid", "scared", "scary"...or talking about breadlines, the Depression, or other catastrophic possibilities? Are you part of the problem, or part of the solution? I wouldn't ask for happy talk, there are reasons to be concerned. But some journalistic neutrality might help, and it surely won't hurt. There is only one reason to shout "fire" in a crowded theatre.)

The economic downturn of this country is perhaps the pinnacle of moral, spiritual, and volitional deficiency. I am say this from the perspective of a 21 year-old American male of African descent. Many citizens of the United States have fallen prey to advertisers; consequently, they are unable to make healthy decisions about daily life—simply a lack of knowledge due to lack of will. The majority of the citizens, not only of the United States, of the world have since forfeited the reigns of control for which their life is bound to the leaders of government, religion, and entertainment. Better said by their submission of self control—control of their thoughts and ideas—we as a global nation have progressed little in the sense of moral and truly intellectual maturity in the past 40 years. I come from a generation so affectionately called the "Hip-hop" generation and witness said submission--not only within the "Black" youth but in our predecessors as well. Example, through this form of music, Hip-hop which was originally meant for upliftment and giving voice to an underclass, we currently are subliminally taught to value much which has no moral, spiritual, or intellectual value. Our current economic crisis has been perpetuated by corporations and the media as well. Citizens of the United States are no longer producers but the main consumers of the world in this global economy. Our lust for the latest technology has silently placed us last in the heat. We have become slaves to technology with which we literally struggle to keep pace.
Each man and woman must look within his or her own being to find the answer to dealing with our economic problem. As many are looking for government to solve the problem, we shall keep in mind that we are the government and by electing those men and women we want in office we assert our control of our state. But on the most basic level, we, the citizens of this great nation must turn off our favorite TV show, pay more attention to our leaders—political leaders, advertisers, and religious figures—and deny them the power to make decisions for us. Government and religion are two of the oldest institutions of the world and under their watch we have seen atrocities that by no way exemplify nothing that either institution is or should be based upon. Another tool to fixing our problem is the abandonment of the endless race for technology and convenience. We should only advance technology in every sense that it would do us a social good and reject that which would spread destructive and distractive forces. Nearly 85 percent of the "American" household is composed of luxury and creature comforts. I am also in favor of taking a critical look at religion and its tendency limit access to that which may help us and its tendency to divide otherwise complementary people. We should relearn how to make informed decisions about the world in which we live and to do this full exposure is required. That means that we will be forced to learn and confront that which our religions would have initially commanded that we avoid. Self discipline, initiative, and taking responsibility are the keys to growth. Once the "American" people accept the fact that we are the product of choices that "we" have made in the past, our economic problem will soon be a fond memory; therefore, knowledge of global history is essential. Religion cannot solve all of our problems, do there never would have been any problems—remember that religion is one of the oldest institutions in the world, alongside government.
There is nothing different about my approach to rectification but rather its popularity. Simplicity is what I am speaking of. Gandhi is an example of simplicity; albeit, an extremist but he is still an example. I am examining my position: economic situation, educational level, spiritual level, self discipline. All of these are at risk in today's "American" society. I am no longer aware of the latest pair of sneakers, or the newest Hip-hop sensation's latest-hit single, video game, TV drama, sit com, or reality show, etc. This is a small list of that which countless quantities of "American" dollars go to every day. Keeping up with the "Joneses" has led us into financial turmoil. Today I live below my means. I have clean clothes that are of timeless style, the latest computer only because it is necessary for study—as I am a university student—and a modest apartment with a super-modest vehicle that I rarely drive despite the cold months of the year. I am making whatever sacrifices I can to spend less and conserve more.
I am following courageous leaders despite race or religion who preach the above philosophy. I need someone who is going to tell me that the answer lies within me and that is my decision whether or not I will perpetuate the problem or be responsible for its solution. So far that leader has been me and those which are closest—my family.

My daughter is a high school senior applying to college. She is understandably anxious about her future and how we will pay for her education, even more so now that the economy is in crisis.

We had an opportunity to have a heart-to-heart conversation about this at lunch after visiting a college. I did not plan my comments, just spoke from my heart.

I said, "All around you people are going to panic. Things will probably get worse before they get better. During the crash of '29, some people committed suicide when they lost all their money. You know your great-grandfather was one of them. But the longer story is that your great-grandmother got a job and put her daughters through college. It's too bad he never gave life a chance to work out.'

"The most important thing now is to not be afraid. Fear is like a strong drug. You will see people around you go crazy on fear. We have to stay very sober. In our family, we will all work together to make your education happen somehow."

What I am experiencing more often everyday through my conversations with many people in my life, is the worry and anxiety of economic hardship more than the hardship itself. When we hear the doom of our culture without the automakers; the freefall of the value of our retirement investment, and the collapse of our financial system, we become strapped by the meaning's potential rather than the any actual experience.
Yesterday, while waiting for a haircut, I glanced at a "money" magazine and briefly read an article's advice. When we look at the economic situation historically, we see that a downturn such as this is common and predictable, and that the markets will recovery with time. The article recommended that most of us essentially "close our eyes" and wait.

I am the Executive Director/Superintendent of a private special needs school in southern New Jersey. My students exhibit autism and aspergers, along with communication, behavioral, MR/MH, and medical disabilities.

Since we are considered an "out-of-district placement," our funding comes from public school budgets, and is quite expensive considering the individual educational plans (IEPs) we are legally required to implement.

With the current economic crisis just beginning to impact us, I am seeing fewer children referred to my three schools. The districts are choosing to "include" them with their general education students.

I often tell my staff that we are "the least restrictive environment" for these students; not necessarily their home school with thousands of students and activities they will never be capable of enjoying.

I fear for the jobs of my very talented staff: special education teachers, teacher assistants, one-to-one aides, social workers, occupational, physical and music therapists, nurses and specialists in art, computers and family living.

My administrators and I have "hit the road" to tell our stories directly to sending school districts, reminding them of their "lost children" placed with us. We are asking them to allow these students to remain in their safe place, where they can not only see the possibilities of future success, but also receive all the supports to attain it.

I have made a conscious effort to visit classrooms with messages of hope and understanding. I am presenting a series of lessons dealing with writing about feelings (I am a former English teacher), so that my students know that I care about not only about the future of our schools, but more importantly them...the least of our brothers.

Doug Otto
The Archway Schools
Atco, New Jersey

How do I place this economic catastrophe in perspective? I can point a finger at Wall Street or Washington – who have contributed mightily to this mess – and scream “Greed”, “Incompetence” or “Neglect” – all which are true. But this is not just about others, this is also about me. Every time I overspent or feed this consumer society by spending I contributed to this catastrophe. When do we move beyond being a mere consumer to becoming a human being? Only a new economic order – based on a real value for life – is required to bring us back from the brink of a real disaster. In the words of the Theologian Bernard Lonergan what is needed is religious conversation.

Religious conversion is being grasped by ultimate concern. It is other-worldly falling in love. It is total and permanent self-surrender without conditions, qualifications, reservations. But it is such a surrender, not as an act, but as a dynamic state that is prior to and principle of subsequent acts….For Christians it is God’s love flooding our hearts through the Holy Spirit given to us. It is the gift of grace….the replacement of the heart of stone by a heart of flesh. Religious conversion is a total being-in-love as the efficacious ground of all self-transcendence, whether in the pursuit of truth, or in the realization of human values, or in the orientation man adopts to the universe, its ground and its goal. (Method in Theology, Bernard Lonergan, pp. 241)

This transformation, conversation, change in horizon leads inexorably to a moral transformation – when one’s decisions and choices are not based on satisfaction, but value so that our freedom may exercise its ever advancing thrust toward authenticity. Authenticity that sings in the words of the band Swithfoot, that we are tried of a culture that “equates success with excess”. This moment in time cries out for a genuine human spiritual transformation – a being-in-love with God – that we have perhaps never known. Taking shape in an economic and environmental change of heart that puts the human race on a path to reconciliation with the created order.

This will not be easy given human nature. Some 76 years after they were written the words of Reinhold Niebuhr ring like a clarion call to our age:

The justifications are usually dictated by the desire of the men of power to hide the nakedness of their greed, and by the inclination of society itself to veil the brutal facts of human life from itself. (Moral Man and Immoral Society, Reinhold Niebuhr, p. 8)

And again:

The limitations of the human mind and imagination, the inability of human beings to transcend their own interests sufficiently to envisage the interests of their fellow-men as clearly as they do their own makes force an inevitable part of the process of social cohesion. But the same force which guarantees peace also makes for injustice. “Power,” said Henry Adams, “is poison”; and it is a poison which blinds the eyes of moral insight and lames the will of moral purpose. (Moral Man and Immoral Society, Reinhold Niebuhr, p. 6)

My prayer is that we seize this moment – regardless of religious belief or non-belief – and wake from our sleep and begin building a kingdom were “…the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.” (Isaiah 11: 6)

Regarding this economic crisis, I speak and think of it largely as a American phenomenon but I am aware of the global aspect of it as well. This crisis was caused by the USA but is dragging down the entire world. IOW, the Republicans have learned another lesson of how to weild their dangerpous mindset of 'me first and me only, screw everybody else'. Also know as 'I am not my brothers keeper'.

I am also clearly aware that this entire mess has been perpetrated by the Republicans, BUT with the support of their associated fundie relgions, including my own religion. Also, I am aware that what is being and has been perpetrated into the USA by fundie religion has not been perpetrated in Europe and I am wondering why is this so. I have some ideas about that question, as well.

This economic mess is due to what I choose to call Theo-Fascism. It has been perpetrated under the guise of religion but it has largely been done for economic reasons. It seems safe to say that when Fascism comes in the rooom theism is akin to a mote of dust in the Wind Tunnel of life. Whooosh!

This economic crisis has been totally the cause of Reaganism/ Reaganomics , it's 'no-regulation and de-regulation mentality. It has taken place with the help and complicity of organized religion, in America. Some religions have erred by ommission, by not speaking out against Theo-Fascism. But most religions have sinned by comission, by endorsing this Theo-Fascism.

The economic crisis has had little effect on my life, so far. I am, however, waiting for the other shoe to drop. I am sure there is more to come. I also fully believe that those who perpetrated it are NOT done sowing their disastrous economic strategies. I fully ewxpect that unless the Republicans 'get true religion' they will put forth for the 2012 general election two more Theo-Fascists. They are likely to be Sarah Palin (Pentecostal) and Jeb Bush (Catholic). These two people have the religious power to force the USA and very likely the entire world into a continuation or enhancement of this current economic disaster.

The above sets the stage for my comments about this economic mess because it speaks to the fact that they, the perpetrators, and we the victims, may not have learned our lessons, yet. The Bushie Republican voters will never learn anything from this, save for the idea that they did NOT try hard enough, were it so they would have succeeded in turing the world into their economic 'oyster' to be plucked for further pearls of wealth. We, the victims may not have learned our lessons because, a) it was not sever enough and , b) we are still grredy, just as greedy as the perpaterators. It seems to be an awful part of human nature to serve only onself via either religious greed(monetary or theological) or personal greed (monetary or theological, as in Calvinism where religiosity is measured by wealth).

Though people have died and others are starving, this crisis was not bad enough for us to swear off of the depravit of greed. The Republicans pander to the lizard brain passionms of their base, but in a sense we are all part of that frothing-at-mouth base. Some leess than others. We all want more than we casn pay for or really need. The latter, being the most important part of that equation, the equation of greed. The later speaking to the question: how much do we realy need.

Were I a good writer, I could wirte books on this subject.

To me the problem is both moral and spiritual, and many different levels. One level is that the supposedly amoral people among us, the Atheists and the Agnostics seem to have a very clear understanding of it, yet they endorse no religion., While the religious people that have caused and are a partof this economic mess are not yet clearly understanding of what they have done or been a oart of. Does any one actiaully think that the Bsuhie Republicans could have gotten away with what they have done over the least two decades, since St. Reagan, the patron saint of the Republicsan party, and of their assocaited religious right wingers have gotten away with what they have done were it not for the endless support of their religious right, the so called Values Voters? NO, they could not have gotten away with their perfidy and iniquity, were it not for the unending support of the religious right and their congregants.

It is safe to say that every religion was a part of this mess. Some for reaosns of ommission, in that they failed to speak out loudly against it. Othes are guilty of sinning by direct commission, theyare the very reason why the Republicans have been able to get away with their sins of greed and their wars for profit. The Republican party is truly the party of the "Culture of Death for Profits".

Those religious leaders of the Jewish, Methodist, Quaker, Unitarain and other the anabaptists like the Amish and Mennonites were either never a part of or are no longher a part of the support system for these economic criminals, the republicans.

If, in the long run, we get so badly burned by this economic mess that we never allow it again than we will have leraned something from it. If we reform our consumerist ways then too, we will have learned something from this economic mess.

My great fear is that we may not have been burned badly enough, we may go back to oiur evil ways. We will continue to let the Republican party, the oil industry and egregious consumerism rule our lives. And a lot of organized religion will continue to tell us everything is okay,

We must keep on attacking everyone in America who supports the Republican party, the party of god (their god is money), the party of the Moral Majority, the party of the religious right, the party which claims to be of the truly and only religious people in America and the entire world. And their reasons for continuing to call for further endless support of the Republican party is that they are the party which will stop all homosexuals and abortionists and women needing, abortions from getting abortions. And we/they will do so unto the destruction of our nation,even unto the destruction of our world. Either NWO ( New World Order) or the End Times cum Rapture cum Armageddon is no small price to pay to stop ALL abortions. BUT, this has very little to do with abortions and everything to do with economics, the economics of wealth and power.

So it seems safe to say that Nazi-Fascism is once again rearing it's ugly head, even unto the destruction of our nation, even unto the destruction of our world. IOW, they, the religious right,will kill us all, in order to save us from ourselves.

But of course who will save us from them, is the real question. Again, this economic mess is really all about the politics of greed, and has little to do with religion. The Republican party (Rove) has spun it as a religius issue to enrage their Values Voters, their base, and done so to keep them sufficiently inflamed in order to stay in office and to gain further time to hone their machine. The machine of their specific kind of economic Capitalism to gain the most political and economic power for them and they do it becaue all wealth/profits come from God and thus is a measure of their religiosity. IOW, profits=wealth=godliness. It's a simple and yet morally corrupt equation.

The Republican Party is totally besotted with the "it's us against everyone else" nmentality which is a religious idea, the idea of us against the evil world. This binary mindset is that everyone is evil and only we are Christian. Southerners also are rampant thinkers that everyone is attacking them since they lost the Civil War, but in reality they did not suffer as much as the blacks they were hell bent on enslaving and which they think is supported by their biblical interpetration.

I guess, to them, the Bushies and their associated religions, including my own, they are all about stamping out or killing off the enemy, and everyone else other than them is the enemy. So war is a just and righteous undertaking and is sanctioned by God himself and told to them.

Wow, wow and wow. What a convoluted and involutional theology.

First, I'd like to say that I believe this crisis has brought about the possibility of viewing life, our resources of all kinds, differently. Perhaps we can use this crisis to -reassess or re-value what we have that has been neglectfully underappreciated - especially the non-tangibles. My Thanksgiving blog underscores this point well I think.
Dishing it out - scoops of steamy, hot melty goodness = brocolli & cauliflower into a small section of an alluminum tray; then a gentle push to the left; scoopful of savory, fragrant cornbread stuffing; slush - a slab of turkey meat swimming in gravy; push; a lid goes on and is crimped securely into place. Multiply that times 1100 - several hours worth!

Stack - into coolers they go - a dozen or so; accompanied in another cooler by crisp white paper bags containing fruit, dessert, a roll & a small carton of milk.

There were strong armed men who stacked the trays on gigantic cookie sheets and shoved them into 1000* ovens- and then hauled them out when they reached the appropriate temps.

There was a palpable energy - a spirit truly - of joy and gratitude for being able to participate in providing this tasty meal to homebound seniors hungry for food and human contact.

It made me think long about the sadness I see and feel with our clients - the dozen or so I see every week and the many many more I speak with daily on the phone. The sadness, the depression, the anger, the despair, the anxiety, the fears - all weighty and dark. Bleak in outlook - not much cheerfulness. But then this Holiday comes along and I encounter this vibrant, loving, giving spirit and realize that is the essence of our volunteers gift to our clients. Yes - people love to be fed - pretty basic stuff there but what they are often deprived of is the intangible food of the spirit - food for the soul - that joyous, loving reaching out of one human heart to another. It happens via our Meals on Wheels volunteers - daily but is especially poignant on Holidays - those universal occasions of celebration in life - of the bonds of family and friends.

Next to me for a while was a young teenage girl whose Mom and Dad have brought her along with them to help every Thanksgiving for years -'ever since she could remember.' Then later it was a young Mom with MS who brought her charming 7 year old along. There was a Dad - newly divorced with his teen and young adult son and daughter - needing to be busy and to contribute what they had an abundance of: time and energy! There was a regular MOW volunteer and a friend of his, there were others too, including a couple of staffers. We all felt good and it was no mystery why.

Sheila Cody
MOW Program Coordinator
Volunteers of America
303-294-0111, ext. 13124
scody@voacolorado.org

Gratitude is the memory of the heart. ~Jean Baptiste Massieu, translated from French

I'm a Religious Scientist and I believe this is happening exactly as it's supposed to be happening. I feel it's as if God/Universe is sending us a huge wake-up call in that we're being hit hard in our pocket book.

For so long we've seemed to believe that God and money are two separate things. This is simply not so. I feel that what we must wake up and stay awake to is the fact that money and Spirit are the same because, indeed, if God is everything then God is money as well.

For me - having a financial relapse right now - it's about knowing I'm enough, and worthy and deserving of having and enjoying money. That there is no separation and I must accept my good right here and right now.

As the verse says, It is Gods good pleasure to give us the Kingdom - it must be my privilege to accept it.

It is absolutely OK to have and enjoy having money. My not having money doesn't help anyone to have more. My not paying my rent doesn't put someone on the street in a home.

I am looking for the type of leadership that comes from knowing there's enough and being willing to not live in the fear.

I'm paying way more attention now than every before and I'm coming from gratitude for what I do have in this moment.

Is anybody really surprised that a system which aligns itself around the short-term and impulsive, fueled by greed and fear, doesn't work out very well in the long run? This could be an enormous opportunity to realign our activities on the planet to reflect global priorities like climate change and social justice. For example, the auto industry should not be allowed to continue in the same way. The country must begin to produce carbon-neutral transportation and energy.

When The Wall fell, along with soviet communism, the western Capitalists, and most of the world were amazed and rejoiced. Now, capitalism is beginning to collapse and it is being felt around the world - shaking almost every country - just as the the Lord God promised to do in Haggai 2:6,7 - "For thus says the Lord of Hosts; "Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory." , says the Lord of Hosts. Those who have been set free from the tyranny of things/possessions, hording and making money at others expense will pass through this judgment - the blessing of the poor in spirit.
Other judgments are to come. All things will be shaken to reveal what cannot be shaken - His
Kingdom of Justice and Righteousness in which things are set right, people are aligned with God's heart and do and say as they hear the Father direct. This all flows from these people
coming into union with our triune God, who resides now in our hearts through centering prayer.
I continuously choose to live in His Kingdom, where the "increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the Throne of David and over His Kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever." (Isa9:7)
Graham Kendrick's song "Restore Oh Lord the honor of Your Name" went up as prayer and it is happening....

This economic crisis is to me not an economic crisis, it is both a moral and spiritual crisis. The economic crisis is merely the physical symptom of that moral and spiritual crisis. This is the case as this current financial crisis would not exist if both moral and spiritual laws were being followed. I will give you a brief summary of what I have had to deal with over the past four years that has brought me to this conclusion.

My economic crisis started in April of 2004 when I was terminated for exercising my legal right to a fifteen minute break. I won't go into the exact details and circumstances at this time.

Due to not being able to find work I was given an eviction notice to move out of my (paid off) Mobile home on February 26, 2005. At the time I went to the various non-profit and government agencies which refused me assistance because I did not have a job.

I then called my church which I had attended for the previous twelve years and was told by them that "there is no free money". This is despite the fact that over the previous four or five years I had put over eight thousand dollars in the offering plate.

Six months into my extended unemployment, I decided that I should begin to follow the life long calling, vision and dream of going into full time ministry Preaching God's word. Since I was not able to find work, it seemed, and still seems reasonable to view this crisis as the hand of providence directing me toward that end. When I approached one of the associate Pastors at the afore mentioned church, his response was: "If God be for it He will provide." (Read on, it gets better).

At the age of sixteen, I had an experience through which the Lord called me to preach, that has been my life long goal ever since. I am not forty-seven, and throughout these thirty-one years, I have yet to meat a Pastor that responds to that knowledge in a proper Biblical way. This is a tale tale sign of a moral and spiritual bankrupt society.

After being refused assistance from the afore mentioned church, I decided that they would not give me any assistance to do what 1. Not help me with my financial needs. 2. what the pastor preached every week I should do: That being God's will.

I then attended a much smaller church and was given some opportunity to preach. During that time I continued to seek work and also came up with two different plans that would enable me to begin my ministry while at the same time take care of financial situation enabling me to eventually resolve my problems of not having enough food and being homeless. In every case, the plan was met with opposition and failed. The whole mentality of these "Christians" was that I did not have a job because I did not want a job, and if I simply wanted a job, God would give me a job.

In March of 2006, I obtained what became my last job. I was hired as a Garden Associate for home depot. While working there I soon discovered that the lengthly period of homelessness, and insufficient supply of food had drastically reduced the strength of my body. After lifting 20 to 25, forty pound bags of dirt which was necessary quite often, I would become completely exhausted, my heart would begin racing beyond what could be considered safe, and I would have to take a thirty minute break and eat something to restore my energy and strength. In June of 2006, I was terminated for, quoting assistant manager "You can't do all the work."

At that time I had only twenty dollars left and was denied food stamps. This made it impossible to eat and one Saturday evening at church, after expressing the fact that I had not had much to eat, I was engaged in a debate that "God helps those who help themselves" and then the associate Pastor said to me, "if a man does not work, then neither shall he eat."

On April 28 2006 I was taken by ambulance to Saint Joseph Mercy Oakland hospital due to sever illness. I suffered a myocardial infarction that was the result of pericarditis. Surgery was performed to remove the build up of excess fluid around my heart. I was in the hospital for twelve days.

Currently, I receive State disability assistance that includes $264.00 dollars in cash assistance and $135.00 in food assistance which totals $399.00 per month. This enables me to pay rent in a HUD subsidized apartment complex and have a phone so I am able to connect to the internet through a free dial up service.

The doctors now tell me that I am able to go back to work. That's nice, but somebody has neglected to inform my body of this assumption as I do not at this time have the strength and resiliency that I had when I was terminated from home depot.

I have just received a letter from my Michigan Rehabilitation Services Counselor that I need to call her tomorrow or my account will be closed. Hmmmph, I tried contacting her in November and she did not respond to my calls. Many State employees in Michigan are not very diligent and choose to blame the client when anything doesn't work. It is quite discouraging.

I have had a lot of anger to deal with over the past year. The unwillingness of "Christians" and especially Pastors to assist me so that I can do God's will, while at the same time condemning me for having financial difficulties has been extremely discouraging.

If the state assistance holds out, I am hoping that I will be able to set up a business model that will build a revenue stream which will enable me to focus on the very thing that does the most good for me emotionally, psychologically as well as work within my current physical limitation. Begin Preaching God's word.

I had emailed a Pastor that was on a Michigan radio program. I really did not expect anything other than the same response that I had already received from Pastors. He chose to have one of his associates respond to me. That response in a nut shell was: "you need to get right with God", "you need biblical counseling". Both of these statements are completely inappropriate when we consider how Jesus expects the church to respond to "the least of these my brethren".

I am currently having a very difficult time functioning in this current crisis.

The Pastor tells me to do God's will and I will prosper, then in essence makes God a liar by deserting me while I am actually walking in the direction of doing God's will.

Many in our society tell me that if I work hard, I will get ahead. Then when I work hard and other's who do not work hard look bad, I get fired.

While other's in society tell me that if get an education I can get a good paying job. Yet, I see daily jobs being lost by those who are more experienced and better educated than I am today. I hear how they cannot find work because of this financial crisis, all the while I am being told to go to college and build up $40,000.00 dollars of debt for a job that I may or may not be able to get once I graduate. That doesn't sound lie a logical direction to go.

It is not likely I will have the time to do that as the state disability assistance will perhaps not last much longer. The only thing that makes sense to me is to follow the path to full time ministry. However the moral and spiritual crisis in the church is at such an extreme crisis, that I have better odds of winning the Michigan Mega Millions jack-pot while not playing.

I have done the math and it shows a major crisis.

Rounding up the $399.00 dollars a month in state aid I receive to $400 gives us the following numbers.

The numbers break down as follows:

134 people donating $3.00 per month.
200 people donating $2.00 per month.
400 people donating $1.00 per month.
400 churches donating $1.00 per month.

There are not 134 Christians that love Jesus enough to sacrifice $3.00 a month for His cause.
There are not 200 Christians that love Jesus enough to sacrifice $2.00 a month for His cause.
There are not 400 Christians that love Jesus enough to sacrifice $1.00 a month for His cause.
There are not 400 Churches that love Jesus enough to sacrifice $1.00 a month for His cause.

four hundred dollars a month will allow me to maintain my housing, food and heat. It will not allow me to pay th over $10,000.00 in unpaid medical expenses I have. It will not allow me to purchase new pants to replace the ones that are currently wearing out. It will not allow me to make the over $2000.00 of mechanical repairs needed on my Aerostar Van which has over 203000 miles. It will only maintain my current living conditions and allow me to begin focusing on the work that God has commanded me to do. There however, is not enough Christians that love Jesus enough, to let this poor man do as God has asked.

Bishop Scott A Tovey

PS.
What is your intent on the following question? Faith if it is true, will always be a daily walk. Even when you stumble.

"How regularly do you observe or practice your faith?"

This is so painful to watch 40-50%+ of our savings vanish. We felt we were savers not consumers but I'm sure we still partook in much of the growth on the last decade.

Is it possible that out of this painful crisis we experience a "reset" in expectations and priorities. I am trying to look for a light at the end of a tunnel but I think it is a different, warmer light than we might expect (or be wishing for!). I don't think that it the light we recently lost but maybe one a generation or two ago.

If it is the easy credit that allowed us to acquire so many goods and services, and it now goes away, what will be important to us? Will we spend more time with each other, family time, experiencing the core of life not shopping, trying to get somewhere, be something? Maybe more time in the kitchen and less at a restaurant, rediscovering family recipes and passing down culture. More time with our faith.

How might a reduction in jobs work through society? Will 2-income families become 1-income so that the recently unemployed have a "chance" at employment?

Does the gap between the haves and have nots close? How will those who still "have" step up to help and share those who do not? Will we pass the test?

Might we actually be less stressed and more content with a simpler life?

Might this be a painful blessing in disguise?

Hamid and his wife, Suhayla began feeding 220 plus homeless at the
Armoury in Santa Anna, California in 2007. It was this spring, 2008, a couple of
weeks before the Armoury closed its doors to the Homeless for the summer
hiatus, that I heard about the work they were doing and was
moved to go out and help serve dinner. When I arrived at the Armoury that
first night something changed forever inside me. I was drawn to a
young woman who was sitting on her mat eating dinner. I asked her name,
and how long she had been in her situation. Her name was Raquel, and there
was just some quality about her that drew me towards her, a goodness and
sense of gratitude that made her stand out from all the others. Once we
met, I heard a voice from within tell me clear as a bell, “you can’t leave her.”
Responding to the calling, I reached out to Raquel offering to give her
shelter in my home, and help her find a job and a place to live. I did set some
ground rules: Raquel had to bathe daily, keep her room clean, not smoke in the
house, and call in daily so that I wouldn’t worry. I never felt more sure of what I was doing my life, feeling incredibly compassionate, feeling a warm and glowing inside.

Raquel was involved in an abusive marriage with an alcoholic. They had a child
together, Celeste. When the baby was nine months, she says that her husband,
“beat her senseless”. Social Services took her child away when she told them
she heard voices and the baby’s father was abusive. Her child was put up for
adoption. She never saw her again. They arrested her husband and put Raquel
in an institution for mental health for 2 years. Since her release 3 years ago she
has lived on the streets. She is 31 years old. She takes her medication regularly
and all her symptoms have disappeared.

Here is an excerpt from my journal of the time I spent with Raquel

April 18, 2008
Raquel called me this morning to apologize for not coming home last night and
not calling me as our agreement stated. I was fully prepared to tell her that she
had broken our agreement and that she could pick up her things and go live
wherever she wanted. But I stopped short of saying anything so cruel. Instead, I
chose to give Raquel the opportunity to realize that I cared about her well being
and safety. She felt terrible that I was so concerned about her safety. She told
me she was so use to having no one care about her that she just didn't realize
what she had done. She was very sorry and asked for my forgiveness.
Then we had a wonderful evening. Raquel opened up to me and I asked lots of
questions. We spent some quality time together, about 3 hours and she shared
the most amazing stories with me.
1) She only wears white blouses, sweaters or shirts because it’s easy for the
police and others to see if she has been hurt or stabbed! How incredible. She
said that if you wear a dark color it's easy for people to not see you or visibly
have a sign that you've been hurt.
2) She has survived on the street by going to the 99 cent store and purchasing
$3 worth of candy which she then sells on the streets (usually takes her about 2-
3 hours) and on a good day will resell the candy for $30-$35. I asked her how
she approaches people to buy her candy, she says that the money is for the
church and people donate $1 or $2 and she thanks them with a piece of candy.
She always goes back to the church in the evening and gives money to the
church. She says God always provides for her, so she always makes sure to give
back to God to help others.
3) I asked her how she slept on the street for 3 years. She told me she slept
behind the Kmart behind the bushes and in a flower bed. She would unroll a
couple of blankets and slide behind the bushes. She said no one ever bothered
her there.
4) For her clothing she went to the Thrift store and negotiated sweaters for 25
cents! She told me that Goodwill was too expensive at $4 - $10 for a shirt or
pants.
Raquel is a wonderful person who needed to have a break. She is so happy and
grateful to be with me. She thanks me and her laughter is a breath of fresh air!
The metamorphosis of Raquel has been amazing. Within a few weeks of living
with me, Raquel secured a job at a flower shop which also provided her with
a room. She left a “tremendously beautiful” bouquet in her room for me
when she left. The story although still happy, did not have a fairy tale ending.
Within two weeks it turns out that the flower shop owner wanted more than flower
arranging in exchange for her room, and Raquel left, returning to live with
me.

We have learned much from each other. I had been
experiencing a very difficult time in my life, feeling financially stretched with the
market conditions and emotionally drained as well. Since Raquel has come into
my life, business has been coming my way. I have no doubt that God is rewarding me for my kindness, although I didn’t do it for any reward. When I saw what life was like at the Armoury I was, “filled with gratitude and felt privileged that I could help feed the homeless.” And as for Raquel, she prayed that someone would come and help her. I have encouraged Raquel to keep her daughter in her heart, write her letters, and birthday cards and keep them all. “Life” I told Raquel, “Has a funny way of bring back to us what is really ours.”
My story is a lesson to us all. When we reach out to others, we get so
much in return.

I feel when something goes wrong, people are quick to try to point the finger to someone to take the blame. I think we are all in this together, as individuals and as a whole. I take responsibility for my financial choices putting myself in my own predicament as well as our country or even the world.I do feel morals are not what they used to be. It seems more things are now acceptable that once were not. As far as the economy, bad choices by depending on foreign oil, or the environment healing itself, to something about depending on China to need our dollar? I work w/children and families and everday try to give back to that community, the school I'm in, families, and the children. I try to get my families sponsors from the channel 4 Neighbors for Neighbors every Christmas to help w/food, clothes, and toys. I attend Hollywood Faith Christian Church that also gives to the less fortunate by giving out food, clothes, counseling, and once a month goes into the community delivering food. I feel things I do now is not buy things that I can really do without. I drive less, stay home more to watch television or read and eat more at home. My family gets together and we take turns eating together at each others homes making dishes and sharing meals. As leadership, I want to keep my family close and set a good example to my family, colleagues, and families I work with. I find personal support from my faith in God, a great mentor in my pastor, and relationships with the congregation. It appears more and more that God is being taken out of the schools, court houses, no prayer allowed, cannot bring Bibles to school, but certainly can, in vain, say "Jesus Christ" in many movies. Other wise dont bring up that name. I feel our nation needs morals, values, and a good God fearing leader. Wisdom? I hope I get it from learning from my mistakes, moving on from them, then trying not to repeat them.

My grandparents fared better than most during the great depression.

My grandfather had transferred the skills he'd honed growing up on a farm in Western Tennessee to his peach, plum, and apple orchards in Santa Rosa California. My grandmother Winifred Rose who had always taken personal stands against unjust laws ran a "speak-easy" out of their Daly City house. She served home-made apple and plum brandy out of fine porcelain tea cups. Needless to say where most of their cash came from.

When Winifred was not serving her special "tea" she volunteered at one of the many soup kitchens in the San Francisco bay area dishing up simple meals for the many who lined up each day. It was there that she met Joe and Mary Morabito.

Day after day she would see this same couple in the line. Mary was quite visibly pregnant and near term. Winifred's Italian wasn't great but was better than their English. One day when they came through the line, she told them to wait by the wall. That was the day Joe and Mary became part of our family.

Thirty four years later Mary told me that story with tears streaming down her face. She told me how my grandmother had welcomed them into her home and helped her weeks later was she gave birth to her first son. She talked about how my grandfather had taken Joe to Santa Rosa and taught him about growing fruit trees and given him a job. And she cried because even though my grandmother Winifred who she called "Freddi" had died years before I was born, she could look into my eyes and still see her soul.

Now as I see what is happening not just here but throughout the world, I draw on the stories I grew up hearing about my grandparents and their tenacity through the greatest adversities, not just the depression, but my grandmother's fight for suffrage, losses of friends and family to both world wars, the influenza epidemic of 1918, the polio epidemic that followed. If they were here today, they would say as I do that this is a crisis of morality grown out of the complacency that comes from our sense of entitlement. My other grandmother Edna would say we were all "just spoiled", but if Winifred were here I'm sure she would say "Don't just stand there waiting for someone else to fix your problems - Do something!!"

One of the many things I am doing right now is gardening, actually I've been growing food on a small scale for years, but now I'm doing it organically and I'm composting so that I don't have to use chemical fertilizers. During the year I share my bounty with others, but now I'm doing all I can to teach others to grow food themselves because you can give someone a tomato and they'll eat for an hour or you can teach them to grow tomatoes and they'll eat for a lifetime (to paraphrase). So I guess I can say I am trying to lead, it's not easy to find people to follow, but they're coming around, slowly.

My sister lost her job in Aug '08. My husband and I have been paying her bills for the last 2 months, until she finds employment. My spiritual crisis revolves around the fact that her daughter and husband refuse to help her because they think we will become enablers, that she is not living her life the way she should, etc. (and they don't like her current boyfriend.) My sister has always worked and been generous to others. I was raised as was my niece, to help, forgive and love those in need. I am so blown away by my nieces smugness, lack of forgiveness and callousness that it's making me critical of her and I find I don't want to have anything to do wi her. I realize one has to be careful of how much to help but what is our moral responsibility to a family member who lives alone and would lose her house wi/out our support, which we can afford to give at this point. Her daughter is in a financial situation to help but refuses...my sister has a broken washer and cranky heater...keeps her house at 62 degrees to save money.
I'm struggling to love my niece and her husband. They strike me as morally bankrupt because money is central to their values.
I seek wisdom from talking wi friends, my husband, prayer, worship at church (which hasn't been very helpful), and listening to your show.
Helping the less fortunate is not different for me or my husband. The struggle is always "how much is enough".
So here I am castigating my niece for her lack of compassion and I am having a hard time being compassionate toward her.

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