Our economy is broke due to inflationary compassion as much as it is from inflationary greed
by Wayne Lusvardi
What shall we make of the following?
Homeless Sensitivity Sleep-overs
Overhead at the Fuller Seminary Bookstore in Pasadena recently:
Guy talking on cell phone: "Hello. Yes, we're organizing churches to have a homeless persons sleep-over at their church to sensitize congregations to the homeless problem.
If I heard the following cell phone conversation correctly, someone at Fuller Seminary was organizing a revolving homeless persons sleepover at different churches. Which jogs my memory as to what year it was that mainline liberal Pasadena All Saints Episcopal Church had one of their buildings burned down by homeless people when the church made it into a shelter? I believe it was in the 1980's?
In Pasadena it seems there is no collective memory or outright denial of this long ago event. Cognitive dissonance is paradoxically to have one's beliefs get stronger despite contradictory evidence. "I refuse to have my idealism mugged by reality."
Compassion for a Beheader
Or consider another example related to me by a prosecutor friend of mine. A man driving recklessly in his car caused a horrendous accident which decapitated his aunt who was his passenger. Alcohol was found in his system but barely below the legal limit to be charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of alcohol. He was charged with felony manslaughter.
The prosecutor assigned to his case felt sorry for him as she felt the defendant suffered enough by losing his aunt. And what would the public think if his case was vigorously prosecuted? She felt that the courts should be an institution that considers public perception and metes out compassion, not justice. Surely, sympathy that this man lost his aunt should be considered in the court system, but at sentencing not at adjudication.
However, as my prosecutor friend remarked "compassion often masks laziness" in our courts. It is just easier in an already overloaded court system to just use compassion as a justification for lenient justice. "Misplaced compassion is ignoring that you or someone else were mugged but refuses to press charges."
Faith-Based Housing Sub-Prime Loans
Or let's consider yet a third form of compassion. During the real estate bubble it became popular in some Evangelical Christian church circles to promote a whole new form of compassionate ministry: an affordable housing ministry. Jill Shook was the so-called leader of this social gospel movement with her book Make Housing Happen: Faith-Based Affordable Housing Models.
Not surprisingly, Shook's book is based on the neo-Marxist advocacy model of Saul Alinsky, the Industrial Areas Foundation, and ACORN which she termed the Biblical "Nehemiah Strategy" (Chap.15). Compassion is not a means but an end in itself in this form of social gospel religion. There is not space to critique her book or the inflated bubble theology of her religious movement, but my review of her book can be found online at Amazon.com.
To state the obvious, our entire economy has now experienced massive asset deflation in part due to the overzealous compassion touted by activists from the Evangelical-Left for affordable housing and sub-prime loans. Since the Housing Bubble burst in late 2008 leaving our economy in shambles, we curiously haven't heard a word of public remorse or contrition from those in the Evangelical-Left affordable housing movement. "A 'Faith-Based Affordable Housing Advocate" is someone mugged by the reality of white collar housing fraud but who refuses to acknowledge their complicity in religiously sanctioning the crime."
The sociological naivete of upper middle class Christian church people eager to sensitize other churches to their social gospel of compassion to the homeless, the misplaced and maudlin sympathy of a court prosecutor, and the puffed-up** affordable housing ministry of the revived social gospel of the Evangelical-Left, all seem to reflect a society drunk with unrealistic compassion.*** Call it the compassion bubble.
The term "bubble" presumes a temporary mass belief that is later proven false; a speculative scheme that depends on unstable factors that a person cannot control ("his proposal was nothing but a house of cards"; "a real estate bubble;" "living in a bubble"). And like a real bubble formed from a thin soapy film, social bubbles are flimsy and fragile however real and durable they seem when they are expanding.
Our society has been influenced by inflationary compassion during the past series of financial bubbles in our economy (e.g., telecom, dotcom, housing bubbles, etc.). Our economy is broke due to inflationary compassion as much as it is from inflationary greed. Will the Obama "stimulus package" promote even more unrealistic levels of inflationary compassion? Or will we experience a reflated compassion that forces us to develop a form of compassion not connected with a bubble economy or government "stimulus?"
It appears that many of the politically unconnected may experience a deflationary form of compassion that will have to be based in mediating social institutions such as family, networks of friends, neighbors, and churches. Neither government or business may be concerned with the politically unconnected or those former renters who have had their homes foreclosed and their Workfare jobs vanish.
To find a more genuine basis of compassion uncorrupted by government or our speculative economy, our religious institutions are going to have to find a deeper and more realistic basis of compassion than that reflected by homeless sleepover sensitivity sessions; or faith-based affordable housing which pushes renters into housing ownership they can not afford. As Catholic priest Richard John Neuhaus once aptly wrote:
"The poor are neither the salvific agents of human liberation that some portray them to be, nor, as others would have it, are they the bothersome refuse that the rest of us must grudgingly tolerate and minimally support."
Unfortunately with the new Stimulus Package, our secular courts, schools and social agencies will likely continue to inflate a compassion bubble that ignores the consequences in human terms. However, if our religious institutions would stop promoting a gospel or ethic of inflationary compassion perhaps that would eventually pervade into our secular institutions as well.
**1 Corinthians 13:4 - "Charity suffers long, and is kind; charity envies not; charity brags not itself, is not puffed up." - Apostle Paul
***Saying 13, Gospel of Thomas: "I am not your Master, for you have become drunk from the bubbling spring which I have dug." - Jesus