Thursday, October 30, 2008

Taxation and Representation

Thinking a little more about the call for increasing taxes on wealthier Americans (by revoking current tax cuts which have them paying only 35%)...

Shouldn't those who pay more taxes have more votes in a democracy where "no taxation without representation" is supposed to be true?

If a person pays 35% of his earnings in taxes, shouldn't he get 20% more representation in the government than the person paying only 15%?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tom Eblen and his "Educated Ideas"

Tom Eblen of the Lexington Herald Leader explains to his readers that "educated ideas" such as the ones which would advocate a certain approach to taxation are superior to the uneducated ideas of those opposed. While Eblen throws around the reference to EDUKASHION in a completely irresponsible manner, let's only worry about his tax ideas here.

First of all, we would all like to pay less taxes on our income and thus take home more money, correct? Is this an educated or uneducated position? (Or patriotic?)

Eblen argues that a "return" to the taxes of 2000 prior to President Bush's tax cuts are superior to our present day's taxes. A quick glance at the tax schedule shows that across the board everyone paid MORE in 2000.

A brief visit to shows the differences quickly and succinctly in the tax breakdown. The numbers that jump out from both is not necessarily the changes that have taken place, but rather the extraordinary difference in the percentage that the higher income brackets are paying.

The Actual Numbers:
In 2000, those making $0 to $26K were taxed at 15%, $26K to $63K were taxed at 28%, $63K to $132K at 31%, $132K to $288K at 36%, and $288K and above at a whopping 39.6%.

In 2008, those making $0 to $8k are taxed at 10%, $8K to $32K at 15%, $32K to $78K at 25%, $78K to $164K at 28%, $164K to $357K at 33%, and above $357 at 35% (still some "whopping" big percentages for those last two brackets.)

What if everything we bought at the store were priced according to our income in such a way that those making $100,000 were charged 20% more for a soft drink than those making $10,000? While that's only 20 cents on a soft drink, it could be thousands of dollars on a car or house.

If Eblen wants to advocate a Robin Hood type of taxation which increases the tax burden on the wealthy while easing it further on the poor, then he should be allowed to advocate such a position, but he should call it what it is: charity.

If Eblen wants to argue for this position because of compassion and out of a need for financial equality, fine. However, to point his finger at Kentucky and make the issue one of being educated and uneducated while he fails to present the real numbers behind what he is proposing is deceptive. To further disguise socialistic economic principles behind the mask of education is seemingly an intentional misleading of his readers.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Terrorist Wine

Main Street in Lexington was closed this morning because of a box of wine on the sidewalk.

Putting their Homeland Security funding to good use, emergency officials responded in force.

I feel safer.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Old Time Religion

Unfortunately, I'm not making this up. I took this pic just down the street from our house.

Sometimes the church sign is just a little too revealing - even in unintended ways.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Fathers as Spiritual Leaders

"Family Integrated Worship" is an approach to Christianity and the church which emphasizes the centrality of the family, especially the parents' roles in the spiritual formation of their children. As I have written on a couple of other occasions on this topic, one aspect of family integrated worship is that the family attends the worship gathering of the local church together. The backbone of this family-styled worship, though, is located behind the closed doors of each individual family, which is one of the reasons I believe there is so great a hesitation among many to embrace family integrated worship as at least a viable alternative to age-segregated church.

Problem 1A: Men

Men struggle to be spiritual leaders. One of the main thrusts of Promise Keepers in its heyday was urging men to step up as leaders and fight against their natural (and often sinful) passivity. It seems that numerous books exist on the topic of being a "better" Christian man/father/husband. There's nothing wrong with striving for such things, but the real point of the issue would seem to be found at the obvious center: a knowledge of God.

Being a true spiritual leader in the home is not merely natural. A man cannot lead and teach in things for which he has no depth of understanding - and here's where I think many flee from spiritual leadership. It is easier (unfortunately) in many local churches to be a recognized leader in the church than it is to be a true spiritual leader in the home. Men who know their spiritual limitations (and we all have limitations) are often inclined to shy away from being discovered. For instance, a man who is not comfortable with his knowledge of the Bible may run from biblical conversations in order to keep from being found out. However, a man can serve on a church council and help make spiritual decisions without directly showing his theology (or lack thereof.) However, in the home a man cannot pretend with his wife and kids to be something he is not.

The kind of involvement in the spiritual lives of one's children which a family integrated approach calls for can be overwhelming. Personally, I know it is certainly not easy to spend time in God's word daily, let alone to call one's family together for even a few moments. (Hey, I'm a fairly new father - I know I don't have all the answers.) A growing spiritual life is really the starting place for us all - one does not need a degree in theology.

I often recommend J. I. Packer's book Knowing God because I think it is simply the strongest and most thorough book dealing with the matters at hand. I would rather a man read Knowing God than 10 men's books from the Christian bookstore, because ultimately the source of real leadership is that of an overflow of the heart of the man. Even still, Packer's book is just a summary of what a man should be constantly gleaning from the pages of Scripture.

Finally, I really appreciate the advice of a former pastor of mine who encouraged us to keep our family devotionals reasonable. With much grace he advised us to set our expectations small and not beat ourselves up if everything did not always work out. Sound advice, I believe.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

"Family Integrated Church" by J. Mark Fox

Family Integrated Church: Healthy Families, Healthy Church provides the church today with some timely and challenging insights into the idea of churches which promote spiritually healthy families. Pastor J. Mark Fox's book provides us with an experience-rich account of a church that has made the family a priority over and against today's trend to age-segregate the church.

Though published before Voddie Baucham's book, Family Driven Faith, Fox's book really works best as a follow-up to Baucham's arguments for a church based upon the spiritual leadership of fathers and mothers. Fox's book is a broad and gracious look at the local church using his own local congregation and experiences as a case study in which he admits many shortcomings and failures along the way, providing something of a blueprint for a local church to make the family the center of Christian life and experience. Fox fleshes out the way that fathers have a responsibility before God for the instruction of their own children and makes the connection to how leadership is biblically described for the local church. Without being overly critical, Fox really hits at a dangerous fact: the void of true spiritual leadership in the home and in the church.

As Fox admits in his book, the transition from age-segregated gatherings to a more family-integrated approach among their congregation had more to do initially with pragmatic needs than biblical conviction. I find this aspect particularly interesting in light of the perceived difficulty of any particular church "transitioning" from one structure to another. However, as his book demonstrates, attitudes and structure in a local body of believers can change, and sometimes such changes are brought about by God in ways we do not expect.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Family Integrated Christian Worship

While the phrase "family-integrated worship" seems to have become a very specific label for a very specific kind of local church, the larger concept is one worth much thought for all churches and all believers where we find ourselves in 2008. [See my earlier post on Voddie Baucham's Family Driven Faith.]

Family-Integrated Worship refers to the practice of fathers and mothers worshiping with their children both in the home and in the church. The backbone of this "ground-breaking" concept is that fathers (first) and mothers are to be the primary spiritual leaders in the lives of their children. (Maybe ground-breaking in Deuteronomy 6; you decide.)

Today's blueprint for "doing church" has become the only way people expect evangelical churches to operate. Disagree? Just consider how great an expectation is in place that when you show up at a church event there will be a nursery to care for your infant and a children's program to pacify your school-age child and a youth event to entertain (uh, I mean, instruct) your teenager.

Such an age-segregated approach to the local church is a fairly recent product of current thinking. Certainly there are some good and helpful aspects of different programs and structures which churches have adopted over the past century or so.

By contrast, the main thrust of a family-integrated approach looks amazingly simple and straightforward. If families are together in the worship gathering of the church, not only is the gathering of the church not split up artificially all over the place, but the parents are able to directly interact and be involved in the lives of their children.

Is it easy? No and Yes. Taking personal responsibility for the spiritual life of one's children is a daunting task. However, in light of what is at stake, is there anything more important in this life? On a purely practical level, is there anything more basic than taking personal responsibility for your own children? Instead, we've mostly come to view being gathered in worship as something only for the adults who need to be unhindered by any distractions which children may bring to the gathering. (Such a view of children sounds close to that of the world around us, does it not?)

Many people have asked me about Voddie Baucham's book, Family Driven Faith, and many of the questions have been loaded with skepticism. Baucham's book solidly builds the case for the place of the family in Christianity, beginning in the home and spilling over into the church. My answer to many is: First, read Baucham's book - he explains all of it 100x better than I ever could. Second, I like to challenge people to think about how their modern ideas of church have become so ingrained that everything else is simply unthinkable. We live in an age of program-driven churches. Maybe programs aren't the answer...

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Consumer UN-Confidence

The current economic roller coaster is certainly something of which to take note. While I am not anything of an economist or a financial advisor, I am an average citizen who takes money and personal financial planning quite seriously. So I am intrigued by the media's frenzy over consumer confidence and the dark clouds that seem to indicate that we'll all be living on bread and water in cardboard boxes by this time next year.

There is a legitimate survey performed to determine the average consumer "feelings" about spending. I do not doubt the results of these.

What I doubt is how most of us arrive at our "confidence." Shouldn't our ability to spend be based upon our monthly budgets, and our bank ledger? The answer, in the United States, has clearly been "no" for a very long time. Buying and spending is apparently so Credit Card driven (read "ruined") that there is no logic to begin with when it comes to so-called consumer confidence.

Listening to financial gurus speak on TV the past few days about "how to deal with this financial crisis," their ypical advice sounds pretty much like any good financial planning advice for anytime: spend less than you earn. Is this such a revelation?

As for how much confidence typical buyers ought to have for everyday things: if you have the money and you've planned for it within the budget: BUY IT with cash and slay your credit card.