Sliding Down the Banister of Life

As you slide down the banister of life, may the splinters never point your way.

Micah Wakefield

The Lamb of God

Lamb of God

(Painting: Lamb by Francisco Zurbarán)1

The sounds of Passover
fill the streets with
desperate bleating
as all the animals
must be dragged
to play their
sacrificial roles.

All, that is, save one
who goes quietly
with determination,
strength, and purpose.

Lamb of God
have mercy on me.

Amen

  1. Zurbarán, Francisco, 1598-1664. Lamb, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=47446 [retrieved March 27, 2017]. Original source: . 

Who Is My God?

Does my God
love only what I love,
and hate only what I hate?

If so, then who is my God?

Does my God
demand nothing of me
that I don’t want to give?

If not, then what value is this grace?

Lead me away from the
altar of my convenience,
and teach me once again
what it means to love you.

Amen

Obama's Economic Record

In a recent discussion, one participate claimed that the “last eight years of Obamanomics has crippled our struggling state,” which I suspect is supported more by a political narrative than an analysis of the data.

The new administration is at least fortunate that the problems handed to them are not at the same level as those handed to the previous administration. During the Obama administration, economic growth was admittedly slow, but considering that he took office on the precipice of what could have been the second great depression, these national numbers look pretty good:

  • Longest streak in US history of private sector job growth, the difference can be noted by comparing 2008 and 2016 numbers:
    • In November 2008, the economy lost 533,000 jobs.
    • In November 2016, the economy gained 178,000 jobs.
  • Unemployment dropped from 10% to 4.6%.
  • 800 billion dollar decrease in deficit.
  • Deficit as percentage of GDP dropped from 9.8% to 3.2% with no increase in middle class taxes.1

To be fair, the economic numbers for the Obama administration are not all rosy, however. A significant worry is the increase in the national debt. Obama’s policies added 983 billion dollars to the national debt. The budget deficits under his administration increased the debt by 6.5 trillion.2

If the economy of Oklahoma has been crippled, surely the state government, dominated by the right, has played a significant role.

  1. I originally saw these numbers here. Since the article contained no citations of sources, I corroborated and made some adjustments to them using this piece by Patricia Cohen

  2. Determining how much of the national debt a president is responsible for is a tricky matter. One could just look at the total increase in the national debt, but that unfairly saddles a president with a debt increase during the first year that results from the previous president’s final-year budget. One could also add up the deficits of the president’s budgets, which is fairer than the first method, but saddles the president with deficit spending that was either out of the president’s control or not a result of the administration’s policies. The third method, which is the most meaningful but hardest to calculate, is to determine how much the president’s policies contributed to the national debt. Kimberly Amadeo provides a clear explanation of these methods, along with the resulting numbers, here

Usury in Oklahoma

Yesterday, the House of Representatives of the State of Oklahoma passed HB 1913, a bill giving lenders the ability to charge an Annual Percentage Rate of 205.92% on a $1,500 loan.1

This bill is inconsistent with historical Christian values and should be opposed by conservatives and progressives alike. The practice of taking interest on loans is expressly forbidden in several passages of Scripture:

  • Exodus 22:25-27
  • Leviticus 25:35-38
  • Deuteronomy 23:19-20; 24:6
  • Psalm 15:5
  • Ezekiel 18:7-8; 22:12
  • Nehemiah 5:6-132

Before 1500, every Christian writer who discussed the practice expressly condemned the practice of charging interest. Ambrose called it wicked, and Augustine, in the Enarration on Psalm 129 said that the person who loaned at interest would “…go into the flame.” Like the church fathers, every church council that discussed loaning at interest condemned it. Luther also condemned charging interest, although Calvin did not. Calvin saw interest as a necessity in a fallen world, since the lender is risking non-payment. Interestingly, though, in his Commentary on the First Twenty Chapters of Ezekiel, he said “It is always wrong to exact usury from a poor man.” For Calvin, it looks like interest can be charged, just not to the poor.

Note that the Bible and the Church for the first 1600 years of its existence defined usury simply as charging interest on a loan. We now define it as charging excessive interest, which shows a compromise to the modern world. Regardless, taking a stand against this bill is taking a stand for traditional Christian values; something the right should certainly support.

  1. The full text of the bill in its various versions can be found here. It was sponsored by Rep. Chris Kannady. It is surprising that a veteran should sponsor a bill like this, given that young soldiers are often targets for predatory lenders. The bill passed 59-31. Note that the bill allows a 17% monthly rate, equivalent to a 206% annual rate. 

  2. Strictly speaking, these passages forbid taking interest from fellow Israelites. Christians should be willing to expand this, given Jesus’ expansion of our understanding of neighbor.