Saturday, December 6, 2008

Values, anyone?

I know I haven't posted anything in a long time--it's been a busy year for me. I've wanted to get back to it, but just haven't managed it. For a while after we moved I didn't even have Internet access at home. But through it all I did keep reading.

One of the things I read this year--actually re-read-- was one of Francis Schaeffer's later books, "How Should We Then Live." Some of the things in that book struck me this time, especially in light of the election, the economic events of this year, and some other happenings. He believed that most people in this country had drifted away from the Judeo-Christian values of the past and were left with two "impoverished" values--personal peace and affluence, which he described this way:

"Personal peace means just to be let alone, not to be troubled by the troubles of other people, whether across the world or across the city--to live one's life with minimal possibilities of being personally disturbed. Personal peace means wanting to have my personal life pattern undisturbed in my lifetime, regardless of what the result will be in the lifetimes of my children and grandchildren. Affluence means an overwhelming and ever-increasing prosperity--a life made up of things, things, and more things--a success judged by an ever-higher level of material abundance."

Schaeffer wrote this in the mid-1970s, and I think the trend he saw got worse in the years that followed. But on September 11, 2001 Americans' personal peace took a hard hit, and at first many stepped up and reponded to the need to act against the new enemies. But as the years passed and the struggle continued it has become clear that many of our people no longer have the stomach for long drawn-out action. "Personal peace" does not provide men and women with the stamina for difficulties that cannot be resolved in short order. "Personal peace" demands that everything be settled in an hour or so, like on television, so we can go back to our own little affairs.

And now "affluence" is taking hits. The "dot-com" bust at the turn of the new century was the first warning, but the "housing bust" of the last couple of years and credit crisis of the last few months have shattered our comfortable complacency. Just a few years ago, when I was contracting in southern Indiana, if my customers felt secure in the balances in their 401K and mutual fund accounts, and their houses continued appreciating, they spent money--a few spent money like drunken sailors (the ones I was more comfortable with tended to be more careful). Now stocks are down, retirement accounts are shrinking, house prices have plummeted, new home construction is way down, and the news is full of doom and gloom.

I do not claim to know what will happen. I don't think it will be as bad as the worst of the predictions, but I don't put much stock in the rosiest projections, either. There have been a lot of excesses in a lot of areas--mismanagement, misuse of credit, misplaced trust, and others, both in business and in government. I think we as a people are having our assumptions and our belief systems tested--will they hold water or not? My hope is that many will see the emptiness and shallowness of what they trusted in, and turn to the Source of Living Water, and values that will see them through tough times.

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