Friday, October 31, 2008

Sharing the Wealth = Freedom from Want


President Franklin Roosevelt famously talked about four freedoms in his address to congress in January of 1941. Freedom of expression - Freedom of religion - Freedom from want - Freedom from fear. In Roosevelt's speech, he spoke of these freedoms as the central values for which we were fighting the second world war.

I heard these freedoms mentioned again on NPR this week, and I've been pondering over it since then. It was stated in the interview that you might not be overly concerned with the first two freedoms if the second two are being violated. In other words, when you are hungry, freedom of speech is not at the top of your priority list. When you are scared about losing your job, you don't really care as much about everyone's right to worship as they want.

I think that these four freedoms have to be in balance across a society in order for the society to flourish. When one of them is out of whack, the whole system is affected. And I see (granted, from my own personal perspective on things) that we are not a society that is free from want. Poverty is a global issue, and I think it is the priority of our time.

Secondarily, we are not a sociaty that is free from fear. But I think that our fearfulness is at least in part a result of our poverty. When resources are limited, people start to be afraid, and start to act out of that fear.

Look, I understand that each of us has a particular perspective, and that each of us views the world "through our own lens." I do it all the time, I know that. I am grateful for the many regular readers of Enter the Rainbow who respectfully share their own, contrasting perspectives, too. (Diana, Joseph, Larry B, John, Kansas Bob, I'm looking at you!)

With that said, my perspective includes a preference toward compassion for others, and a priority toward eliminating poverty. I did not pull that perspective out of mid-air, but lived into it - in prayer, through study of scripture, in my experience with the foster care system, working with the immigrant community in Kansas City, and growing up in a family that taught me to live a certain way.

Starting from this perspective, I nevertheless want to learn as much as I can about others'. Which prompted my question in my previous post. All of your answers were very helpful - thanks.

Here's my next observation/question, then:

I understand a perspective that says, "I want to share with others, but would rather do it on my own than entrust the government to do it for me." But is that really what the emotional reaction I witnessed at the Palin rally saying? I kind of think it was more like, "It's my money and I'm keeping it for myself." In short, I do not think the reaction was against the idea of the government spreading the wealth, but against the very idea of spreading the wealth at all. I don't know, maybe y'all can help me out with that one, too.

Ensuring our nation's freedom from want will inevitably make our nation stronger. That's my perspective as a citizen of the United States.

Ensuring our world's freedom from want will hopefully help God's creation to flourish. That's my perspective as a child of God.

29 comments:

Mr. Slate said...

I'm right there with you on ending poverty, especially right here in the richest country in the world. I think we, as a country, put way too much emphasis on "things". You know, what kind of car do you drive, how big is your house, do you have the latest HDTV or iPhone or designer clothes, etc, etc, etc. These "things" give us some sort of false sense of our worth in our own inner circles, including at church. And "keeping up with the Jones'" becomes our normal way of being.

So where does this lead us when we look at the government and taxation and spreading the wealth? Well, from your comments about the Palin rally, I tend to believe that you are correct. Mostly beacause that's what it was, a rally. A way to get people stirred up in opposition of a candidate who believes that the government deserves, and will have, a portion of your money to give to others that didn't have the same kinds of opportunities that those of us who have been educated and worked hard to earn what we have. Now if you could peel away small groups of people from the rally, aka mob mentality, I think you would find a large percentage who do have compassion for those who are less fortunate and do donate to charitable causes and do volunteer to help those in need.

At some point in our lives we all need to come to a realization that all of these "things" don't amount to much. Our focus should be on our impact on society. Did we make a difference? Did we leave a positive legacy for our children? Is a redistribution of wealth, directed by the government through tax increases, going to help put an end to poverty? My perspective is no. Is a reduced emphasis on "things" rather than people in our individual lives going to help put an end to poverty? With God's help we can work toward that goal.

I'll finish with a quote from an unknown author:

Love People and Use Things,
NOT Love Things and Use People

your padawan said...

I used to go to church. I would go every Sunday and because I don't carry money with me usually (so that I don't spend it), I never put anything in the offering plate. I always thought to myself, "One day I just need to write a big fat check and be done with it all." That day never came.

Sometimes we need that middle man to get us to do what is right. Be it a friend, be it a stranger, or even be it a government, we need someone to hold us accountable to help each other out.

Fear: I think our fears are played on everywhere anymore. After 9/11, some of our government officials used fear to promote war, to promote the lose of freedoms, and to even promote themselves ("vote for me and I'll do..."). Our churches use fear; fear of hell, fear of a dying church, a denomonation, fear of abuse. Yoda spoke of fear - that it leads to the dark side. A good amount of fear of God is supposedly a good thing (I am still out on that one...), but we aren't talking about fearing God. And that...that is what fears me the most.

Kelly said...

I'm certainly not going to attempt to look up scriptures for you, Andy, since they roll easily off your tongue, but it does seem to me that Jesus was quite a big fan of sharing the wealth, loaves, fishes, etc.

Anonymous said...

I read you blog and wonder if you think this country would be better off as a welfare country.. I will give you this example and maybe we can go from there. I love to garden! I plant a garden every year and wait for the fruits and veggies of my labor so I can enjoy them. There are a few of my neighbors that garden also and we share our garden with each other. One year I might grown more green beans and someone else might grow more peppers, I think you get the idea. As I said we share within our "garden club", but there are times I take extra and give to others around me to be a good neighbor. Now if my homeowners association came up to me and said we need you to take what you have and share it with everyone around you then I would have a problem with that. Not that I don't want to share, but I know there are those who could get out and do a little more to help provide for what they need. I think that is what you were hearing at the rally. I am totaly for helping those who are physically unable to do so, but the fact is that I can not trust our Gov to do what they have not been able to do to this point. I think the worst thing this country could do is go back to welfare. Instead of handing out money we need to provide work for those who don't have it. I have read Mr. Obama's tax plan and for the life of I can't figure it out. He has promised a tax cut to 95% of the Nation yet only 40% of us pay fed tax at the end of the year. That would mean that 55% will recieve money back for taxs they did not pay. I know there are those that will argue this with me but it is very true. so to give more we will have to pay more. Plus did you know that in 2010 the Bush tax cuts will expire and that will mean another tax increase on top of the one that is already planned if Obama is elected. I really just wished more people would read the detailed plans of these men and then vote. I'm not against giving, just against someone telling me how much to give. when it gets to that point, we are no longer a free land. That's just the fact. one more example why I'm against our welfare system or any welfare system. About three months ago I was at Wal-Mart and while in line a lady in front of me was buying a Mickey Mouse gum ball machine. I about fell over when she pulled out her food stamps to pay for it! the cashier called for a manager to authorize the purchase while the customer was throwing a complete fit explaining she could buy it and use her stamps because it is a food item since gum balls were included. Guess what it was approved. I watched as it totaled just over $75. I said loud enough for her to hear me "nice to see my taxs money put to good use" She turned and said "F" OFF!! This is one reason why I want to decide who and how much to give to..

Adam Caldwell said...

Perhaps purchasing a Mickey Mouse gumball machine wasn't the most prudent action to take with food stamps..however...neither was your snide and very unchristian reaction (presuming you are a christian)...maybe this persons son or daughter only wished for one thing on their birthday...perhaps you could instead have reached out and asked why they thought it necessary to make that purchase...do you know their whole story?

Your last anecdote doesn't hold much water considering your own admitted reaction...honestly, I probably would have told you to F*** Off too.

John Schmalzbauer said...

I believe that scripture places a huge emphasis on God's identification with the poor (and strongly tells us to do the same). Thus, I tend to agree with almost everything Andy just wrote.

Many folks have said they think that the private sector should handle this through charity. In theory this might work, but I'm not sure that churches and other non-profits devote enough resources to this task.

The best national study of congregations suggests that we have a long way to go. According to Mark Chaves' National Congregations Study:

-Only 57% of congregations support a social service project of some kind
-11% provide clothing
-18% have housing programs
-33% engage in food related projects
-8% provide services to the homeless
-Only half of congregations furnish volunteers for social service programs
-Only 3% support tutoring programs
-2% provide substance abuse programs

As you can see, it is doubtful whether churches are doing enough. Were government to withdraw the social safety net, the churches would probably not be able to pick up the slack.

One look at the budget of even a generous hearted church like Campbell, shows that a very small % goes to programs outside the membership (apportionments being the biggest chunk).

kris said...

Leave it to a sociologist...

Those numbers are scary. I'll go with Mr. Slate here and agree that what is needed more than anything else is a shift in priorities; but like I think Dr. Schmalzbauer is saying, something's going to have to fill in the gap until those priorities get shifted. Until then, who is supposed to pick up the tab?

Anonymous said...

"Perhaps purchasing a Mickey Mouse gumball machine wasn't the most prudent action to take with food stamps..however...neither was your snide and very unchristian reaction (presuming you are a christian)...maybe this persons son or daughter only wished for one thing on their birthday...perhaps you could instead have reached out and asked why they thought it necessary to make that purchase...do you know their whole story?

Your last anecdote doesn't hold much water considering your own admitted reaction...honestly, I probably would have told you to F*** Off too."

I fully expected this kind of response. I agree that my comment to her might not have been the best thing at the time, but there is a difference between needs and wants. God provides our needs not our wants. If it was for her kid, she could have put back the 2 cartons of ciggs and case of beer that she had bought with her cash. I paid very close attention to what she was buying after I saw what she was getting ready to do. Maybe my actions were not christ like, but I seem to remember reading about actions Christ took when He saw the corruption in the temples. I don't think many saw that as christ like actions either. You see this is how corruption and abuse of the system is stopped. We must put it on a stage for all to see and then maybe it will stop! What we in this country consider poor is sooooo far from the poverty of the rest of this world. I recall when I was last on vacation in Mexico, OH does that make me bad, at the end of our trip I tipped each server that had been helping us $100. A young man who's age was 14, and yes he was more of a man than many men in our country twice his age, was in shock when I gave him his tip and when I asked why he explined that this was 11/2 times his monthly wage. Now that is poor. but you know what? He went to work everyday, He and the rest of his family all worked doing all they could to help provide for each other and they did not wait or depend on others to help them. Our country is full of LAZY people who are praying that this might be their big payday! Go ahead and fire away at me, I'm expecting it.

Larry B said...

I wouldn't deny that there were probably people at the rally that really don't want to share period. Of course they applaud the rhetoric against sharing.

As I've said before though, I think the government is a horrible choice for that function. The income tax rate on the top bracket is something like 35%. If someone makes 500,000 a year, that is 175,000 that get's shipped off to the government. That 175,000 could do a whole lot of good in a local community. It does very little good in the hands of the government as evidenced by our existing condition.

I think we have to have the courage to look at the governments record and call it a failure and quit asking it to try again. We also have to look at our own churches records and realize they too are a failure. But where can we really have the most direct impact on needy people - through our own private life and through the the church - not through the government. Let's work on what we can control and make incremental progress.

Adam Caldwell said...

"Go ahead and fire away at me, I'm expecting it."

It's hard to take shots at those who hide behind anonymity but I will certainly do my best...

I'm all about gettin' in peoples grill to change the better good for all, hence the previous comment...I'm curious as to your particular background...you can see mine plainly from my blog...I'm privileged, have been my entire life, in fact most everything has been handed to me save paying for half of my undergrad education (thanks mom and dad) and two classes thus far for grad school (thanks mom and dad and others)...good, great, grand, now what am I gonna do...complain about those other "lazy" people who continue to take advantage of the system or engage them...help them to better organize their lives to the service of God and neighbor instead of taking advantage of a broken system...Christ got nasty in the temple (as he should have) but where did that take place again IN THE TEMPLE...with those who should have known better, with those who should have acted better, with those who should have not been taking advantage of the institutions of God...it would be a different story if he had acted in the same manner towards the prostitute, but I recall a "you who have not sinned cast the first stone" demeanor rather than a whipping one...do I think this should fall upon the gov't? Absolutely not, unfortunately the above statistics have shown us otherwise...the church has stopped being the church and until we wake up the gap must be filled...Honestly I would like to know your story...your background...whether you are male or female...anything to help me get a better grasp on your position...

Anonymous said...

Male 40yrs old married with three boys 17, 14 and 12. Own my own company and I work over in Iraq every other year. i believe I am a Christian. I do not come from a home of privileg but a home where you were expected to work for what you got. It might be hard to believe but I am a person that many around our city know me as a giver. I will never hand out money for free but will let someone work for me to earn what they need. I also believe in voting by morals and faith not by the wallet. I do not believe this Gov works for us anymore, but that we aork for it, and that was not the way our founders intended it to be. I believe the church has lost it's way for the most part and that it has stood by as our religous freedoms has been taken away. I think that if our Gov will not step up and point out wrong doings and corruption of the system and programs (welfare) then we must do it. If it had taken place in a church I would have voiced my opinion there. Also remember that the Prostitute sought forgivness. The woman I spoke of did not and when questioned about what she was wanting to do was right or wrong she through a fit till getting her way. Only then did I say something. I wonder how long it will be before we are expected to just sit and keep our mouths shut and let the corruption continue. I will have a login here soon but my kids have to help me first. LOL!

Patrick Moore said...

If you want to see fraud, waste, and abuse with tax dollars, come over here to Iraq where I am currently and see it first hand with do nothing contractors. Just because you have a job, doesn't mean you are not getting welfare from the government. And yes, I am a wee bit bitter! Peace, Chaplain (CPT) Patrick Moore

bob said...

The biggest problem with government charity (welfare) is the lack of incentive to work. If welfare type programs allow people to become to comfortable in the way they live they will always need welfare. This is human nature we tend to follow the easiest paths.

The politicians that promise give aways to the poor aren't looking out for their welfare but their own. We need politicians who will be brutally honest about it.Noone in the U.S.A. is going to starve but in some cases coming a little closer to hunger might help more than hurt. I might sound harsh but there must be a better way to help there are obviously many people who are still poor even though the government throws billions of dollars at the problem. I think a better approach might be to give so little that people don't want what the government gives. Coupled with programs and mentors to teach people how to step away from poverty.

Anonymous said...

Love your thought Bob. God made man equal and our country gives us all equal opportunities. I know there are those who will disagree with that but for most part that is very true. I have been to Iraq and I am getting ready to go back this month. I have seen the wasted money over there and as much wasted here. Obama has just raised more money than anyone else in the history of our elections and is still bringing more in everyday. I ask any of you to tell me why he would not abide by the rules he first agreed to with McCain and even Clinton. Over $600 million who and how many could have been helped with some of that money? These problem they say they can fixed have not been fixed since the birth of our country. Republicans have power when the rich stay rich and Dems have power when the poor stay poor. The only reason there was growth during Clintons terms was because he was still riding Regans policies. We are now feeling the effects of Clintons terms and a Dem majority. regan did away with welfare and we don't need to go back to it. The end result will still be the same, in four years someone new will be saying the same thing Obama & McCain are saying now. Has anyone had any real new Ideas?? This is a clear sign we need to take our Gov back. I recently read an article regarding the farm bill that was passed last year for $350 Billion. In this article they asked 50 of those who voted for it what it was for and none could answer the question!! Thats is who will distribute our money if we let them. As I have said before they are all addicted to "OPM" Other Peoples Money. It's time we send them to REHAB!! BTW That farm bill was passed by a Dem majority vote. You can find it on the web.

Adam Caldwell said...

Anonymous...Again, I have no problem with the fact that you voiced your opinion...I have a problem with the manner that you voiced your opinion...ultimately what good did it accomplish? She went away pissed at you and you went away pissed at her...neither one of you was reconciled to any point of clarity...all I am asking for is a little creativity...something out of the norm of typical derision...Here is the passage from John which speaks about the stoning of the woman...

John 8

1But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" 6They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." 8Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

9At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"

11"No one, sir," she said.
"Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."

We don't know if the women was actively seeking forgiveness from her sins or even if she was remorseful. Shoot, we don't even know if she stopped committing adultery in the long run. It could be argued that it wasn't until Christ's act of mercy that she herself confronted or even recognized her own sin! Does Christ's action prove a valid example for us? I think so.

People are driven by loves or desires...Wrongly ordered, these desires can corrupt us, rightly ordered we truly can become beautiful creatures...Our task, if you want to put it that way, is to help people rightly order their life...some might even call this discipleship...Love of God and love of Neighbor...

Good luck with the login...

Anonymous said...

Well I read over my post again to make sure I didn't say I as pissed at her, and I didn't. It's the system that I don't like, and the fact that it is easily corrupted. here is a link for you to get to "know me", www.myspace.com/steveandi_green

I hide behind nothing, just because you have a profile on here does not mean that's who you are or even tell me what you are like. your words tell me more than anything. why do you have the need to see me or know about my family? Does it really matter? My opinion would and will be the same if there's a face with my post or not. regarding the verse you used. this is why I have said we need to be carefull when using the Bible regarding politics. So are we never to hold anyone responsible? Should prostitutes now be able to do as they wish? I am not Christ or perfect be a long shot. But the laws of the land still stand and we as a Nation should stand up for what is right and bring to light what is wrong. You see the reason our country is in the shape it's in is because there is NO accountablility for those who chose to abuse the systems. There is no fear! The original post seems to say that we should be able to live in fear free country. I feel that we already do and that's most of our problem. Do most kids fear their teachers or even the police or any kind of authority? No, so they act how ever they want. Look at these men that just ran Freddie and Fannie(?) in the ground. They just walk around like they did nothing wrong. It's time that we do hold people accountable and put a sense of fear back in this land that will cause people to think twice regarding their actions. Christ is the only one who could look at that woman and forgive her of her sins, but He did not accept her actions or else He would not have said leave you life of sin. I know you don't know this but the main reason I check Anonymous is beacuse I do this from my phone and it won't let me creat an account. I hope you visit the site I provided and then maybe that will quench you thirst of knowledge regarding who i am.

Anonymous said...

didn't know if that link got posted so here it is again
http://www.myspace.com/steveandi_green

saggy69 said...

Hope this has made your day. I have an account now

Maidenfine said...

I have to agree that I don't think the government should be responsible for "spreading the wealth." I work during the tax season at H&R Block and I have to say it sickens me to see all the people coming in with four kids, all with different last names who made right around $10,000 and didn't pay a dime in taxes. But they leave with sometimes more than $4000 in tax money. A lot of them will fill out Homestead returns too (something we do in KS to give homeowners and renters in certain income brackets credit for their taxes and rent). Sometimes they'll say they pay close to $500 a month for rent, but they'll deny that they got any gov't assistance for it. They're getting assistance from somewhere, or they're not feeding they're kids with an income situation like that.

I guess I just think it's ridiculous that we have a system that encourages people to have kids, rather than get jobs to better their situation. And so many of the people leaving with those big checks talk about the cool new TV or trip they're going to use the money for. And yeah, that's nice and all, but I think it would be nicer if they maybe did something with the money so it might benefit them a little longer. You wouldn't believe how hard it is to sell people on the idea of opening a savings account for all that money. They just want to go out and spend it.

Adam Caldwell said...

Steve,

Thank you for your openness and willingness to share with us about yourself...I ask to know who you are not from a standpoint of being a stalker or anything like that...I ask to know who you are simply because I think that it is important to know who you are having a conversation with...in my opinion ideas cannot fully be divorced from people...I don't say that to give freedom to demonize the individual holding the ideas but I say that to show that ones ideas are shaped by ones identity and our identities are wrapped up in our relationships...You have a beautiful family with hopes dreams and aspirations...you're not some random guy on the internet anymore but a face with a name...that was my only point...

I still question your actions in the grocery store though...I think you hit the nail on the head about accountability, but what does that accountability look like? You comment in the store was not holding anyone accountable, on the contrary it was just flaring feelings of resentment on both sides...I assure you...all that you read is who I am...Blessings

saggy69 said...

My actions might have done about as much good as posting a blog on the net but still here we are. My goal was let hr know others are watching and I did that. I really just read the title of this post again and it says "Sharing the wealth= freedom from want"?? Give me a break!

“To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his father’s has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.”
- - Thomas Jefferson
Letter to Joseph Milligan,
April 6, 1816

saggy69 said...

Freedom from want = LAZY people

saggy69 said...

Sorry about mulitple post but phone is messed up.

Lets see, Give loans to anyone who wants a house? where did that get us? There is a HUGE difference in wants and needs. If more people focused on their needs and not the wants we would be a much better country. Need or want a gum ball machine? Need or want a house/car you can't afford. need or want our gov to bail you out? the Idea that others are responsible for your mistakes is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. FDR was not speaking about the fear of wants, Think aboust where and what the USA was going through and was facing at that time. The east and west coast was in constant fear of Japan and germany. Could that have been the Fear he was speaking of? Getting what you want is a privilege, not a right!

John said...

President Franklin Roosevelt famously talked about four freedoms in his address to congress in January of 1941. Freedom of expression - Freedom of religion - Freedom from want - Freedom from fear. In Roosevelt's speech, he spoke of these freedoms as the central values for which we were fighting the second world war.

Nitpick: the U.S. had not entered WWII by January 1941.

John said...

"Freedom from Want"

I've never liked that phrase. To FDR's Four Freedoms, I much prefer John Locke's: life, liberty, and propery.

The concept of freedom from want is inherently flawed because the exercise of this freedom means impinging on the freedom of others. It is a rejection of the right to property, as it implies that person A's freedom from want validates the property rights of person B.

John said...

Typo: I meant to write "life, liberty, and property."

saggy69 said...

“A wise and frugal government… shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and
improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.”

- - Thomas Jefferson
First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801

This is one of my favs

“The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it,
anarchy and tyranny commence. If ‘Thou shalt not covet’and ‘Thou shalt not steal’ were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society before it can be civilized or made free.”

John Adams

A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America, 1787

saggy69 said...

As I said before, Fear is a good thing. I will say that not all fear is good, but there needs to be a healthy amount in everyones life to keep us in check. I hope and pray that this gret land is not getting ready to make one of it's greatest mistakes, but I FEAR this may come to pass. Mr. Obama is on the wrong side of every moral issue in this election and that does scare me when I think where he might lead us. That is a healthy and cautios kind of FEAR. The kind of FEAR that guides you when facing times like these. I pray that more are afraid like I am come Tuesday. God bless all of you.
Steve

saggy69 said...

again please forgive the mistakes, will be so glad when I'm back on my lap top. This is killing my thumbs! lol