The federal government gives financial breaks to whomever it wills. Often those benefits go to industries which it wishes to foster, or to those industries it wishes to protect from foreign competitors. Agriculture has often been on the receiving end of such breaks. So has the petroleum industry. For some time churches have received favors from local, state, and federal governments in the form of tax-exemptions. The rationale was that these organizations help society in a variety of ways that otherwise might not be possible if taxes were imposed on them.

We may be moving into a new day in which governments hungry for revenue take a second look at their policies. One reaction on the part of churches would be to roll over and pay. When outsiders ask, “Why should the church get tax breaks?” this group is ready to swallow hard and bring out the checkbook without uttering any defense.

Read more ...


I recently read an article in First Things entitled, “Alone in the New America.” It talks about how our society has betrayed certain numbers of our population. Reference is made to Jennifer Silva’s, Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty. This study reports that most working-class young adults have difficulty trusting people and institutions. One interviewee, Brandon, found himself $80,000 in debt earning a degree in criminal justice. Eleven years later, he only has a retail job and says, “I was sold fake goods,” when told that a college degree was the way to get to the land of milk and honey. Another, Tori, enrolled in a local college for massage therapy, but when she took the state test to get her license, she discovered that her classes had not covered most of the required material. Her class had a 2 percent pass rate. With no license or degree to show for her work, the best she has found is an $8/hour job as a home health care aide, but hasn’t worked for two months now. At twenty-three, she has $20,000 debt and no job to show for it.

Read more ...

outside the box

We’re always being challenged to “think outside the box.” Easter suggests that we think outside the tomb. No one was prepared for what happened early that morning. All of the explanations for the empty tomb were found inside the box. Only the angels’ message was outside the box: “He is risen.” Hundreds of years earlier, Ezekiel was shown the valley of dry bones and asked, “Son of man, can these bones live?” To his credit, he answered, “Lord, you know.” If one only thinks inside the box, the answer must be a resounding, “No.” If some were to assess the spiritual condition of their congregation and hear a voice say to them, “Can this congregation survive?” they might be tempted to give a quick, “No” as well. All indicators point to a slow death as old-timers die off with none to replace them. Or as younger folk go in search of a church home where all of their friends attend. Or as pastors and people become contentious and fail to heed Paul’s warning about devouring each other.

Read more ...