Schooled to Fail?

November 29, -0001
Apparently we have schooled ourselves to fail. At least that's the buzz where the economy is concerned. Writing in The New Republic, Bradford Plumer reports on the backlash against business schools who, for years, have charged exorbitant fees to train thousands and thousands of MBAs, nearly half of whom took up executive positions in "large investment banks, hedge funds, and private equity firms." What did these students learn? They learned how to make big numbers in the short term with shallow programs designed to make everybody happy, but without regard for the future or the larger stakeholders in the firms they were employed to serve. Failing banks, failing businesses, lost jobs, eroded 401(k)s, and an economy reeling out of control are the result of two generations of bad schooling. Wait a minute...short-term numbers? Shallow programs? Hopes fading? And all under the leadership of highly-trained, master's level experts? Church attendance is declining. The population of born-again Christians is not keeping up with the rate of population growth, and although the "born-again" numbers are increasing, less than half of them believe in absolute truth, increasing numbers of them doubt the value of sound doctrine,

Rotten AIGs

November 29, -0001
The astonishment and outrage over AIG's executive bonuses provides a focusing moment for our generation. Listening to the President, members of Congress, and the media talk about this situation you get a clear sense of how completely baffled they are at such blatantly self-serving actions. No one can understand such hubris, such matter-of-fact disregard for decency, propriety, and the right thing to do. Here one of the largest companies in the world, after having ruined its own business, exacerbated the growing economic distress at home, and practically brought down the financial house worldwide, then accepting over $100 billion in taxpayer bailout, stuns the watching world by paying its manifestly incompetent executives bonuses

Know Your Limits

November 29, -0001

Is there no limit to what the federal government considers itself capable of achieving? David exulted to be able to admit that he did not undertake things too great and marvelous for him (Ps. 131.1). A little of that humility would be welcome on the part of our government. Our leaders are

Just Askin'

November 29, -0001
President Obama is asking for the authority to take over failing banks, resolve their difficulties, and get them back on a proper footing. Well, he wouldn't do it himself; Mr. Geithner would oblige, since he's the banking expert in the Administration. You gotta admire the President's ambition. If you think you are the one appointed to fix just about everything, and you don't yet have the power to do it, all you have to do is ask. Mr. Geithner, on behalf of the President, today began the process of asking Congress to grant something called "Resolution Authority", the effect of which would be to give the President de facto control over the people's money. Hmmm. I don't know; something about that makes me a little uneasy. Seems like my money ought to be mine to control, and to put in whatever bank I think I can trust, without having to worry that one day I'll get a letter from the President advising me that he will henceforth and for the time being be acting on my behalf to ensure that my money is being properly handled and everything's gonna be all right. The hubris of this request at this particular time - on the heels of the AIG fiasco and who knows what else (Mr. Geithner is reluctant to tell us more) - would be laughable were it not so shocking. When asked for chapter and verse from the Constitution for such authority, Mr. Geithner replied in "laws of the land" terms, suggesting that he thinks the Constitution has no binding power to prevent Congress from passing whatever laws it wants. The Constitution, this Administration seems to believe, is a work in progress rather than the final bar of appeal for all matters relative to the common weal. James Madison would be astonished. We should be, too.

T. M. Moore

Cultural Extremes

November 29, -0001
Two excellent articles in the current issue of The New Republic illustrate the differences between pop and high culture. Jason Zengerle's study of New York City basketball ("Empty Garden") features phenom Lance Stephenson and tells the story of the declining fortunes of Mr. Naismith's game in the Big Apple. Keith Christiansen's "Facts and Love" considers the career of renaissance painter Giovanni Bellini, as seen

Where There is No Vision

November 29, -0001
As I write, 41 people are being held hostage at gunpoint in a community center in Binghamton, NY. This just a week or so after a gunman broke into a nursing home and wantonly killed a number of residents and staff. And that shortly after a church was invaded by a gunman during morning worship, resulting in the murder of the pastor. Add to this the school shootings, missing children, rampant violence on television and in video games, the greed that has derailed the world's economy, and the reckless - that's the only word for it - spending of short-sighted politicians, and you have a situation in which the people, guided by no transcendent vision of life and truth, are casting off all restraint for the sake of getting by any means whatever they have decided they want. Proverbs 29.18 refers to what happens when Godly vision, a vision anchored in unseen, transcendent truths, is cast off in favor of an "under the sun" approach to life. Where people have no respect for or regard for God, a merely secular and material vision of life sets in, the effect of which is to relativize everything and make every person a pragmatist - whatever works is what works for me. All restraints are thrown off and life becomes a reflection of its secular vision - red in tooth and claw, subject to chance and whim, only the strong survive. How much more of this will we be willing to take before we begin to call for a re-examination of those basic life assumptions that have guided our schools, government, cultural agencies, and the marketplace for the past two generations? And who will begin to question those assumptions if not those who know them to be false. And not only false, but dangerous.

Join us Sunday at 6:00 pm Eastern for "The Gathering" as we continue our conversation about the role of vision in American life. Go to the tan box and register and get the downloads you'll need for this week.

T. M. Moore

Great Awakening?

November 29, -0001

Speaking at The American Enterprise Institute recently, sociologist Charles Murray called for a Great Awakening to deliver America from its decline into socialistic stasis and to renew the vision of the nation's Founders. He doesn't mean a spiritual Great Awakening, such as occured in the 1740s and during the first thirty years of the 19th century. What Murray wants to see is a kind of Great Awakening, but one limited only to the "elites" of society - scholars, media types, politicians, and others, you know, like Charles Murray. i have appreciated Mr. Murray's work in the past, in particular his excellent study of poverty in America, Losing Ground. But I think he's missed the mark here. Or, rather, he hasn't set the mark high enough. To believe that all that's necessary for renewing America's vision and future is for a few thousand elites to "once again fall in love with what makes America different" is to beg more questions than it will solve. What exactly does make America different? Mr. Murray says "self-reliance" rather than reliance on the government. OK, that's part of it. But what about those real Great Awakenings, and all they did to bring this country into being and set it on the course it followed for so long? These spiritual revivals were certainly not limited to the elites; however, they brought into being a culture of humanistic, political, educational, artistic, and entrepreneurial power such as the world had never seen. It was a revival of true Christian faith among millions of ordinary folk, not a renewal of political insight among a handful of the elite that made America the kind of nation it began to be. Mr. Murray doesn't suggest how such a "revival" as he proposes might be brought about. But the followers of Christ know what is necessary to see real revival come to the nation: "If my people...will pray..."

T. M. Moore

Puzzle it Out

November 29, -0001
Susie and I enjoy jigsaw puzzles. We love the challenge of developing a keen eye for the smallest detail, finding the right pieces by discovering exact points of connection and continuity, and seeing the whole picture emerge from a thousand disparate pieces. When we do a jigsaw puzzle we're constantly studying the picture on the box, to understand what we're working to create, what it will look like when it's finished. The first thing we do is lay down the border pieces. That way we see where the boundaries are and we can begin to associate our resources - the pieces of the puzzle - with various sections, according to color schemes or content. Then the hard work begins of starting to assemble the whole. We usually work two ways at once: the part that seems to be screaming for most attention gets it, while we slowly build other sections bit by bit, alongside the primary one in our focus. Once a major section is finished, then it's on to the next part, all the while filling a detail here and there, and so on until the puzzle is complete. Now this is going somewhere (I hope). Our society today is broken and shattered into a zillion pieces, and the all the kings horses and men in Washington are assuming the responsibility of putting it all back together again. But it's not clear to me what vision is animating all the intrusive actions our government is taking. Where's all this frenetic activity going? And what boundaries do we intend to honor? Right now the vision seems very immediate - get in, take hold, and do something - and the boundaries are defined only by what Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid can push through and the President sign. We don't have unlimited resources to put this thing back together, but I get the impression that the majority in Washington don't share that view. Rather than attack this situation methodically, according to a vision agreed-upon by "we the people" and in a manner that has us addressing everything decently and in order, we seem to be just rushing ahead with whatever promises to make the biggest splash or dent. But then, what can we expect when all anchorage in transcendent truths has been severed, and the only restraints on those in charge is what they can think of next?

T. M. Moore

"Where Are You?"

November 29, -0001
God's first question ever to a human being was not for His sake, but Adam's. We should probably read it as asking something like, "Do you know where you are?" or even "Why are you where you are?" The question is designed to make Adam look at himself with a reflective eye, to consider why he was now wearing leafy garments when before he had been naked, why he was hiding in the Garden rather then standing forth to meet with God, why he and his wife were suddenly estranged from one another, and why he was feeling afraid. God wanted Adam to understand that the changes he had experienced and was now expressing were because of his own unwise, rebellious decision to act against the wisdom and instruction of God. Every one of us confronts this crisis in every aspect of our lives. Everything in

Music to our Souls

November 29, -0001
We take it for granted that music is a big part of our everyday lives. Music comes at us from radios, mp3 players, CDs, and in practically every public place. Music awards programs abound; American Idol seeks to raise music to a kind of national hysteria; advertizing rides the currents of pop music into the hearts and hopes of prospective buyers. Boethius, the greatest Christian scholar of the 5th century, wrote, "Music is part of our human nature; it has the power either to improve or debase our character." Probably most of us agree with this. But how do we recognize which music does what? What about our own tastes in music, the music to which we listen? How does it affect us? Why do we prefer this music over another kind? Should we choose our music simply on the basis of what we "like" or should more thoughtful considerations guide our choices? We don't really think much about music and its effects; but music can convey a worldview - whether one that is uplifting, complex, and filled with intellectual challenges and delights, or one that is degrading, demeaning, violent, and destructive. Or even one that is merely apathetic to noble causes and promotes a life of self-indulgence and sensuality. The worldview inherent in the music we listen to finds its way into our souls and makes an impression there, whether or not we intend for this to happen. What is music doing in your soul? If it's possible to use music to "improve" our character, it seems to me we should make our choices in music with that as our objective. Sweet music fills the backdrop of the heavenly court of our Lord Jesus Christ, and makes Him glad (Ps. 45.8). Does the music we listen to - or the music we sing in church, for that matter - make the Lord glad? How can we know?

T. M. Moore

Christian America?

November 29, -0001
Some Christians are upset because President Obama, speaking in Turkey, declared that, in America, we do not think of ourselves as a Christian nation. I've been thinking about this for days, and, speaking for myself, I have to agree. I would not want to hold up America as she is today as the model of a Christian nation. We are far too shallow, self-absorbed, materialistic, sensual, and besotted with entertainment to qualify as anything other than a purely pagan people. I suppose I would ask of those who insist that America is a Christian nation, Where's the evidence? Sure some 70% of the population claims to be Christian, and most of those also claim to be born-again. But still, Jesus said that by their fruit you will know them, and the fruit which tends to predominate in the lives of the people and culture of our society doesn't strike me as particularly Christian. America never was a Christian nation. There was a time in the history of the American experiment when Christian values, a Christian outlook, and even Christian Law were the driving forces in society. But even then, this was not always a good thing, since some of what it meant to be a Christian was not well understood and what was well understood was not always well practiced. Still, the kernel of that original vision continues to bear a certain amount of fruit in our land; there is much that is good about America, and much of that has its roots in the vision and values embodied in our colonial forebears. This is, I believe, a vision worth recovering, but it will take a good deal of work. Those who decide to throw in with the effort will be mocked, scorned, threatened, and ostracized. So what else is new?

T. M. Moore

Sacrifice? Right!

November 29, -0001
In a refreshingly frank essay in the Spring, 2009 issue of The Wilson Quarterly, Singaporean Kishore Mahbubani warns Americans against thinking that the United States cannot fail. He exposes and explains a good many reasons why we find ourselves in our current mess, and his analysis pulls no punches. He is especially hard on us for our irresponsible way of living and on our lawmakers for their corruption and self-serving ways. We're not being realistic if we don't think America can fail. Mr. Mahbubani demonstrates penetrating insights into the nature of our present morasse, but he is not as adept at pointing the way out. He believes that what Americans need to do in order to keep from failing as a nation is to adopt a regimen of sacrifice. Now there's an idea to which contemporary Americans will readily gravitate. Why didn't someone think of that before? Specifically, Mr. Mahbubani has three recommendations: Stop subsidizing American cotton farmers; establish an additional $1 per gallon tax on gas; and - this is surely the most starry-eyed of all - "Every American politician should declare that the long-term interests of the country are more important than his or her personal political career. As leaders, they should be prepared to make the ultimate political sacrifice in order to speak the truth..." Right. Just where does Mr. Mahbubani think that Americans are suddenly going to conjure up this lifestyle of sacrifice, setting aside their own immediate interests for the good of the nation, the world, and the future? Self-sacrifice is a religious virtue, and even though over 70% of Americans claim to be Christians, this is not a virtue their pastors or church leaders have taught them to embrace. The idea is right on, but in the present environment, it's not likely to happen. For our part we will continue seeking the Lord for revival, for only when He brings that will the kind of sacrificial living we really need begin to be in evidence once again.

T. M. Moore