Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A Measure of Success

I feel that it is really easy for the majority population, which is able to flex in our increasingly inflexible society, to demand such flexibility in others who may not be able to bend.

I have one gal that I'm working with. She has placed many interviews, has a lot of energy and is highly motivated to get a job. She's got some low-level skills as well. But her ADHD keeps her distracted, and her background with a felony prevents her from obtaining full-time work.

I have another gal who does great in an interview and is freqently hired. But her social skills over time are so low and her depression is so extreme that she is only able to work in any job-- usually entry level-- for a few months before she quits or is just not put on the schedule any more.

I have another guy who is bi-polar and has a history of drug use. It has taken many years, but he has finally gotten to a place where he won't just suddenly break into a sermon in the middle of any-sized gathering. But he has his good days and his bad. On his good days, he can work for hours. On his bad, he is unable to even listen to instructions.

Some folks can flex with our society to meet their standards. But the people I work with can't. It's not an excuse-- trust me, they have tried programs and jobs and other kinds of work. And it's not a matter of laziness or "getting up early in the morning." To have a job and to maintain minimum standards in our society is an increasingly complex group of tasks. You have to be part accountant, part manager, part slave, part techo-geek.

Yet what is our ancestral occupational background-- for all of us, for about 10, 000 years? Rural farmers. And though most of us have the ability and education to be more than that, some of us were born to be rural farmers. But rural farming isn't an option for us in the West anymore. For any of us. Isn't it interesting that in the U.S. today there are more people in prison than there are farmers? When we lost our farmers, where did they go? When we knocked farming out as an occupation, what happened to all those farmer's sons, who really coudn't do anything but work the land, flexing with nature's ebbs and flows, and dealing with only a few people a day, and taking a day off if they really weren't feeling well? They went on the street, they work in day labor, they became seriously mentally ill because they had the shame of being unproductive on top of being mentally unstable.

What I'm saying is that my population-- the "unproductive", bottom of the barrel folks, the folks who the church has truly ignored and called unspiritual out of ignorance, the truly Anawim-- they are the ones who can work, but need their work ethic recognized as equivalent to that of the Constantinian/Calvinist middle class. And the Christian ones, at least, should be given an opportunity by the church to work as they are able. No, they will not be successful in a capitalistic society built upon the premise of Calvinistic human depravity. They will not obtain a middle class standard of living in an economy that exalts the profit margin above all else. AND WHY SHOULD THEY BE? Why can't the church create a separate economy, one of mutual aid and supportive work, and let people do what they can?

This is my measure of success:
To give people honor because they serve God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, even if they are a social and an economic "failure" in the eyes of the world.
To grant people encouragement to love and good deeds, to sell their possessions and give to the poor, to preach the good news to the needy, to surrender all of their possessions to Jesus, even if that means they end the day bankrupt.
To train people in the way of Jesus, even if it means that they are no economic good to the world.
To encourage people to be educated in their work before the Lord, to build up God's kingdom and to love as if their heart would break, even if they never make a salary.

It is time for a new economy-- the economy of the kingdom of God.
Where people are not honored for their annual income as much as for their sincere, humble work before God.
Where people are given an opportunity to work for God in whatever way they are able, rather than what is economically feasible.
Where the full-time pastors, evangelists and bishops are given a piss-poor salary, so that others can work full time for the church at the same salary, acting in areas of service and hospitality.
Where people stop working for themselves and surrender their whole measure of production-- all their strength-- to the kingdom of God.
Where young people go into ministry because it is what God demands of them, rather than the salary they feel they deserve.

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