Me with my lovely wife, Kathy:

Monday, December 8, 2008

Government Bailouts, GM, Ford, Chrysler, the Church:

It is hard to have a cup of coffee without getting into a conversation about the auto-bailout. I've owned cars from all of the "big-three." I grew up on wages my dad earned at a steel mill, and one of my uncles used to make tires in Akron. For a summer I worked for a tiny auto-parts company. The little town where I live, now, has car-connections. Those evaporative-control canisters under the hood of modern autos are filled with carbon from a local chemical plant, and several times a week I drive by a complex of empty buildings where auto parts used to be made. The loss of those jobs still hurts.
I just looked at a map that shows the number of auto-manufacturing related jobs in the various states ( From the 242 jobs in District of Columbia (The sites says 20 workers are involved in auto parts and another score in sales. Are the other 202 lobbyists?) to the nearly quarter-million auto-workers in Michigan, there are people in all 51 units that make up these United States who earn a living from cars. CNN/Fortune Magazine says that over 2 million jobs are involved. (See the above link.) A coalition of auto-related workers, calling itself the "Engine of Democracy," says that 6 million jobs are at stake. ( Howard Merrell says there are a lot. You can quote me. Not all of those jobs are related to GM, Ford or Chrysler, but they are the "Big-Three," so many, perhaps most are.
I have heard no one who maintains that if one, two, or all three of these gi-hugic companies goes belly-up that the short-term consequences will be anything less than devastating. The argument has to do with after that. Is allowing the cruel force of the market to do its work a bitter pill we have to swallow in order to move toward a cure, or are the consequences so dire that allowing the Big-Three to crash would do irreparable damage?
The debate goes on. Since I'm not in congress I don't have to make up my mind. I'm praying for great wisdom from a group of people who don't impress me as being very Solomonic.

What really troubles me this morning, though, is that the car-companies are not the only ones looking for a government handout. The church, the body of Christ, an entity far bigger and more important than the auto-industry, far too often acts as if we are dependent on the government for our existence. Political action on the part of Christians is appropriate--even desirable. When government steps out of line morally or ethically, the voice of the church should be heard--loud, clear, and unequivocal. I'm not encouraging a withdrawal from political action. What I am concerned about is the impression that is often given by Christian leaders that unless the government does this or that all is lost. Fellow Christian leaders our model is not the 3 auto execs, chastened like school-boys, car-pooling to Washington in their politically-correct hybrids, meekly explaining that unless you guys help us out we will surely fail. No, think John the Baptist, here. He expected nothing from Herod, confronted him for his sin, and knew that the cause of God would go on whatever that corrupt leader did. Or think of those early Christians who, following the example of the Apostles, stood for the Lord even to death. They expected nothing from the government in the way of help. They certainly received none. They changed the world.
If we are going to effectively speak truth to power, our words must come from a knowledge that we have a power greater than, longer lasting than, more richly supplied than, and better focused than that of the government. The kingdom of God does not depend on the vote of the electorate or Congress, the decisions of the Supreme Court, or the next speech of the President. We look to the omnipotence of God for our resources. That is not diminished.

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