Thursday, March 19, 2009

Good on You John

According to the Herald this morning, John Key is asking New Zealanders to spend their tax cut or give it to charity (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10562448).

I for one don't think now that is the time to be giving tax cuts to New Zealanders when we are facing a real economic crisis. Labour should have moved in this direction when the economy was strong, but now the moment has passed. It will come again, and I think we should wait until the crisis has passed. I suppose Key thinks he can't break an election promise. However, I think he should as this increases the national debt and we may need that money for the unemployed and suffering. We may pay for it in the long term especially if the unemployment levels really rise as they may.

I also think he should not over-rate the tax cut. For a worker on $45,000 that gives them $11.54 a week; those on $100,000 $24. Excellent, $11-12 covers about 7 litres of milk, 5 bottles of coke, a block of cheese, or one kg of mince! Now, I know that it every bit helps, but come on John! Does this really make that much difference. Not for me and my family, but thanks for trying, all credit it to you as Sean Fitzpatrick might have said. I think Goff has a point, this will do almost nothing for those on lower income levels.

Anywhy, moving beyond that, John Key here is saying something very interesting. His concern for us developing an American culture of giving has a noble ring to it. If it is correct as the article says, that Americans give twice as much to charities, then bring it on!

He wants those who can't bring themselves to spend their tax cuts to give it to charity. Is he dreaming? Sadly, I suspect he is. As noted above, it is a drop in the 'pressure on families bucket'. Many of us are trying to save to buy a house. Now is the time. This money will add a little to mortgage repayments, to savings.

Having said that, isn't it great to hear a political leader call for New Zealanders to give money to charities. John himself is a great example in that he gives a reasonable portion of his nearly $400,000 salary to charities and will continue to do so. That is great. I know his detractors will note that he can do this because he is rich. However, that is not a crime. A Christian view of wealth is concerned not with how much we have but how we got it and how we use it for God and his Kingdom. He does set a great example to other New Zealanders.

So, good on you John when you say of New Zealanders being more like Americans in this regard: 'That's the kind of attitude I want to foster here.' Wouldn't it be great if we Christians hear this call and lead the way. It is great to see us ensuring such giving is rebated, shifts to the tax system to make giving more worthwhile, that businesses will be supported with a government 'gift in kind' system.

We Christians know though that, nice ideals that these are, charitable giving comes from the human heart moved by grace and compassion rather than a government directive. We need to address the hearts of NZers and this comes from the message of service and grace in the gospel. We do not want to go to a honour-status patronage system as dominated the Greco-Roman world before Christ turned the world on its head and said, give not for personal gain and prestige; give to address need out of genuine love and compassion. What we need is not 'an American style of giving' but a Kingdom - style of giving.' Perhaps that is asking too much. Whatever really motivates his thinking, for the good of NZ and humanity, good on you John.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Thoughts on Josef Fritzl and Evil

What do we make of Josef Fritzl (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=10562205)? He's the guy who locked up his daughter downstairs for years, raping her and fathering her children while deceiving his wife and raising some of her children. His behaviour is evil. What causes such monstrous evil? It brings in the wider question of evil. What is it that makes Robert Mugabe treat his nation and citizens as pawns in his power game? What led Adolph Hitler and other meglamaniacs in their lunacy?

Such people demonstrate that there are forces at work in this world that lie behind what we see and experience. The notion of Satan and demons are out of vogue in the western world. Some Christian thinkgers have sought to explain the biblical material on such things as remnants of an ancient world view and/or imports from other religious perspectives. Others see Satan and demons not as personal beings but as human evil individual and corporate.

For me, before my conversion to Christ, having heard of the New Testament view of evil which includes personal fallen spiritual beings who invade people and structures, as real. I actually believed in Satan and his minions before acknowledging God. I saw the Josef Fritzls of this world and realised that human arrogance, sin, violence and pride, henious though it is, as insufficient an explanation for the horror of evil. This led me to despair and ultimately to redemption as I realised that the only way I could start working for good in the world was to acknowledge that evil was seared into my soul, and I needed to begin to work against it. I came to understand that only Christ had a solution to this, he the Son of God coming to earth resisting evil, refusing to yield to it or respond to it with evil, allowing evil to destroy him, and then triumphing over it. He invites us into his being, sets us free, and we have the power of God within us to energise us to join the war against these forces.

I pray for Josef Fritzl that he will come to see that even he can find this redemption. His crime is horrendous, it is demonically inspired. Yet, God yearns for him to know him, to find the redemption that will release him not only from the corruption that is fused into his being, but be set free from the demons that have taken opportunity to turn him into a monster.

I note in this nation that violence in the home, the school and in society goes on and on and seems to perpetually increase. It is not safe to be a child in many homes, go to school in some cases, and walk the streets. We need to find Jesus and pray for him to set us free from the forces of evil that hold captive the world. Thankfully he is at work and good will triumph.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Air buses, families without fathers, money and the supermarket

I see in the Herald on Sunday that the lead story is about the tragic air bus crash in France. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10561736. In this crash, tragically 5 people died pilot Brian Horrell, 52, aircraft engineers Noel Marsh, 35, Michael Gyles, 49 and Murray White 37, and Civil Aviation Authority inspector Jeremy Cook, 58. What gets me as I read this is how money ends up clouding every issue. One would have thought that the companies involved would move quickly and compassionately to compensate the families. These men gave their lives for the company and their families are now withut their fathers and husbands. Yet, according to this article, this is going to get messy as XL airlines, Air NZ and ACC decide who pays what, when etc. We are utterly held captive to money aren't we. We have formed our society on it, and we are in its grip. This demonstrates this.

I saw this at the supermarket last night. I was in a bit of a rush and saw a check out with a woman just finishing her shopping. I unloaded the trolley and then I had that sinking feeling that I would be there for a while. She had picked some organic cheese and it was supposedly labelled $4.80. It came up at $5.90 when swiped. So the dispute began. It went on and on. Foodtown people checked, argued she was wrong. She refused to relent. I started to get annoyed and said, let me pay for it, all of it, if I can just get my shopping done and get home. Ultimately the customer backed down and went home paying for it all.

It was a classic stand off and over $1! Foodtown should have relented and let the lady pay the original, what the heck is a $1? She could have backed down. Personally, I would have let me pay.

All this shows how we are trapped. Jesus was not into money and being concerned about it. He did not have a problem with it, but saw its dangers. It gets a hold of us, grips us, it becomes our governing imperative. Whether you are rich or poor it can have the same effect; the rich hoarding it, wanting more and living a life of apparent luxury when it is oppression. The poor can be in its grip too, wanting more, cutting corners, desperate for more more more.

Jesus said you cannot serve God and money... we must not. We must make Jesus and his Kingdom our treasure. We must show compassion, hold it lightly, and help others with it.

Those with power and money should lead the way with compassion and grace. I think Air NZ should stump up some really good compensation packages for these poor families. They should work to see XL airlines recompense them. But they should show the compassion of Christ to these families. They have the power. They have the money. They should lead.