Friday, August 27, 2010

Hyperinflation?

I've been concerned for the past 3 years about the possibility of hyperinflation in the U.S., a la that of the early 1970s, but hadn't really thought through what an even worse case scenario would look like. Typler Durden, on the other hand, lived through hyperinflation in Chile during that period, and describes the dangers and the opportunities in Zero Hedge.
"Once basic necessities are unmet, and remain unmet for a sustained period of time, any asset will be willingly and instantly sacrificed, in order to meet that basic need.
To put it in simple terms: If you were dying of thirst in the middle of the desert, would you give up your family heirloom diamonds, in exchange for a gallon of water? The answer is obvious—yes. You would sacrifice anything and everyting—instantly—in order to meet your basic needs, or those of your family."
So clearly Mormons are on to something here with the idea of storing a year's supply of food.

Even then, Durden suggests, there is opportunity (see the article for two great examples):
"Buy when there’s blood on the streets.
That’s Baron de Rothschild’s famous line—but it hides a key insight, one which should be highlighted perhaps even more forcefully than the line itself:
Even in the midst of Apocalypse, things will get better."

On the other hand, Durden adds, things might then get worse in a different way:
"...just about every period of hyperinflation has been stabilized by some subsequent form of autocratic or totalitarian government."

Read the whole thing here.

Monday, August 9, 2010

It's not about you

A recent New York Times column by Massachusetts UCC pastor G. Jeffrey MacDonald suggests "churchgoers increasingly want pastors to soothe and entertain them" as though that were a bad thing. The column continues "In the early 2000s, the advisory committee of my small congregation in Massachusetts told me to keep my sermons to 10 minutes, tell funny stories and leave people feeling great about themselves."

Brings back memories, that does. As a seminarian in Boston 47 years ago, I was advised to write my sermons down, and limit their length. But that was because I had little of value to say yet, especially when I tried to preach without full notes. Fortunately for both me and the congregations I served, my preaching improved enough I was allowed to preach to an audience of thousands monthly on TV just four years later, for exactly 21 minutes each time.

In the Commodore computer era, I would occasionally speak before large groups, answering any and all questions, and was embarrassed to realize I was vastly more comfortable speaking about the details of operating a cheap computer than I was about the content of the Bible - because I knew so much more about the computer than the Bible.

Twenty-five years later, I know quite a bit more about the Bible than before, but still not nearly as much as many fellow 'Creekers. But I know enough to recognize that even Jesus used stories (parables) to keep the audience awake as he taught. I had Elmer King for that. He sat in the front row at the Church of All Nations in Boston, and as long as he occasionally said "Amen" or "Preach it" or really anything at all, I could continue. But when Elmer shut up, so did I, because he was thereby gently letting me know I no longer had anything to say worth the congregation's time to hear.

Pastor MacDonald seems to think church is all about him - what he thinks the congregation needs to hear. Worse, he seems to think whining in the newspaper will improve matters. Good luck with that!

As a counter example, I understand Pastor Rob Bell grew the start-up Mars Hill church in Grand Rapids, MI from nothing to 800 people in a year, preaching on nothing but the (to me incredibly-boring) book of Leviticus! I heard Rob myself two weeks ago, and as always, he easily kept me awake and learning for a full 45 minutes, without watering down any aspect of the Gospel.

As a 'Creeker, I am familiar with the "theater-style seating and giant projection screens" MacDonald decries, and would only remind him those came later. In the beginning, Willow was just a group of twelve teens with a student pastor. If that pastor hadn't listened to and shared the whispers of God as they attempted to recreate the loving community of the original Acts 2 church, there would never have been any theater seats or screens.

If it were just about being entertained, as MacDonald suggests, I for one wouldn't waste my time even showing up. What keeps me involved is the continuing sense that our congregation is the eye of the hurricane of what God is doing in this generation, and the chance to be part of that important work.

If MacDonald's church isn't like that, he might consider looking inward rather than outward for the reason. And when he's ready to actually do what God presumably called him to do, he might consider attending something like Willow's Leadership Summit next August rather than complaining about his sheep to wolves.