Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Shepastor Weighs in: “Persuasive Rhetoric or Truth? Reflections Upon the Debt Ceiling Debate and Social Justice in America…”

Some years ago at a Baptist Convention, I heard South African, Theologian/Civil Rights Activist, Dr. Allan Boesak preach a sermon entitled, “Is it True?” His text came from Genesis 2: 15-17 that declares,

15The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”

Dr. Boesak made the case that satan, through persuasive rhetoric and deceit convinced the first humans that God had a hidden agenda – to keep them from being “like God.” They failed to realize, Dr. Boesak argued, that the tree was placed there to remind them that they were "stewards, not owners." Genesis 3: 1-4 declares,

1Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
2The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
4“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5“For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

The devil appealed to their inner resentment that God said, “don’t touch this!” There’s something about forbidden fruit that confronts our flesh and makes it scream – “I want it all!” But that is another message for another day.

What Shepastor will consider today is Dr. Boesak’s question, “Is It True?” Does saying something repeatedly, persuasively and with great conviction make it true?

In the text above, Eve did not know or apparently understand what God said, therefore she was vulnerable when satan questioned God’s command. Crafty, persuasive and even sympathetic (in so many words, “the only reason you were told not to eat that fruit is because it will make you god-like – you will not die!”), the devil hooked Eve, hood winked Adam and sin draped over the world.

Persuasive speech flowing from deceitful lips is a dangerous thing.

We’ve been told repeatedly, persuasively and with great conviction that raising taxes on the wealthiest members of America is a “job killer,” but is it true?

We’ve been told repeatedly, persuasively and with great conviction that America should make trillions of dollars in spending cuts to get America’s spending under control and – this can and should be done with “CUTS ONLY” (no closing of loop holes, no tax reform or increase, no raising of revenue) But is it true?

We’ve been told repeatedly, persuasively and with great conviction businesses aren’t hiring because they are nervous about having to pay more for healthcare coverage for their employees as well as higher taxes, but is it true?

We’ve been told repeatedly, persuasively and with great conviction that President Barak Obama is ineffective, weak, leads from behind, has done little or nothing to help the middle class and the poor, but is it true?

Here are some facts…

Historically, American budgets have been comprised of spending cuts and revenue raised through tax increases up through the Clinton era. Major tax cuts, including those for the wealthiest Americans went into effect under President George W. Bush. Both conservative and liberal economists agree that those cuts served to weaken, not strengthen our economy. The drag of two wars and minimal revenue from taxes sent our Nation’s debt soaring!

For those who hale President Ronald Reagan as the greatest conservative leader, they should consider this…

“After Reagan's first year in office, the annual deficit was 2.6% of gross domestic product. But it hit a high of 6% in 1983, stayed in the 5% range for the next three years, and fell to 3.1% by 1988…So, despite his public opposition to higher taxes, Reagan ended up signing off on several measures intended to raise more revenue.

"Reagan was certainly a tax cutter legislatively, emotionally and ideologically. But for a variety of political reasons, it was hard for him to ignore the cost of his tax cuts," said tax historian Joseph Thorndike.
Two bills passed in 1982 and 1984 together "constituted the biggest tax increase ever enacted during peacetime," Thorndike said.

"What people forget about Ronald Reagan was that he very much converted to base broadening as a means of reducing deficits and as a means of tax reform," said Eugene Steuerle, an Institute Fellow at the Urban Institute who had helped lay the groundwork for tax reform in 1986 and served as a deputy assistant Treasury secretary during Reagan's second term.
(Quote from CNN Money, to read more, see link:

Social Justice Issues surrounding the Debt Ceiling Debate…

It just is not true that America can significantly address the debt crisis without raising revenue through tax increases – specifically on the wealthiest members of our society. Cuts alone disproportionately and negatively impact society’s most vulnerable: the poor, elderly, children and the middle class.

Here are the facts:

After enjoying 8 years of tax cuts and record profits, big businesses and other major employers are claiming that they are reluctant to start hiring because of uncertainty regarding tax hikes.

The harsh recession following the Bush Administration’s economics has disproportionately impacted minorities in America. According to Hope Yen of the Associated Press,

"The wealth gaps between whites and minorities have grown to their widest levels in a quarter-century. The recession and uneven recovery have erased decades of minority gains, leaving whites on average with 20 times the net worth of blacks and 18 times that of Hispanics, according to an analysis of new Census data… The median wealth of white U.S. households in 2009 was $113,149, compared with $6,325 for Hispanics and $5,677 for blacks, according to the analysis released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center. Those ratios, roughly 20 to 1 for blacks and 18 to 1 for Hispanics, far exceed the low mark of 7 to 1 for both groups reached in 1995, when the nation's economic expansion lifted many low-income groups to the middle class.

The white-black wealth gap is also the widest since the census began tracking such data in 1984, when the ratio was roughly 12 to 1.
"I am afraid that this pushes us back to what the Kerner Commission characterized as 'two societies, separate and unequal,'" said Roderick Harrison, a former chief of racial statistics at the Census Bureau, referring to the 1960s presidential commission that examined U.S. race relations. "The great difference is that the second society has now become both black and Hispanic."
To read more, visit

Banks, Insurance Companies and Oil Companies are making record profits while middle and lower class America are made to bare the brunt of the economic down turn…

According to the New York Times…

HOUSTON — Exxon Mobil, the largest American oil company, reported a 53 percent increase in its fourth-quarter profit on Monday, helped by an improving world economy that has increased energy demand and crude prices.
It was the strongest quarterly profit in more than two years, reflecting the strong recovery in oil markets. They soared in 2007 and 2008, collapsed in 2009, and returned to loftier heights by the end of 2010.

“It’s a home run,” said Fadel Gheit, managing director for oil and gas research at Oppenheimer & Company. “It’s a big positive earnings surprise on strong operating results across all business segments underpinned by strong production growth, higher oil and gas prices and improved margins.”
To read more, visit

In the article, “Health Insurers Making Record Profits as Many Postpone Care,” Reed Abelson of the New York Times writes…

The nation’s major health insurers are barreling into a third year of record profits, enriched in recent months by a lingering recessionary mind-set among Americans who are postponing or forgoing medical care.

- Tim Shaffer for The New York Times

Dr. Rebecca Jaffe, in Wilmington, Del., said that after years of resisting generic medicines, more patients were now requesting them to avoid paying hefty co-payments for brand-name drugs.

The UnitedHealth Group, one of the largest commercial insurers, told analysts that so far this year, insured hospital stays actually decreased in some instances. In reporting its earnings last week, Cigna, another insurer, talked about the “low level” of medical use.
Yet the companies continue to press for higher premiums, even though their reserve coffers are flush with profits and shareholders have been rewarded with new dividends. Many defend proposed double-digit increases in the rates they charge, citing a need for protection against any sudden uptick in demand once people have more money to spend on their health, as well as the rising price of care.

Even with a halting economic recovery, doctors and others say many people are still extremely budget-conscious, signaling the possibility of a fundamental change in Americans’ appetite for health care.

“I am noticing my patients with insurance are more interested in costs,” said Dr. Jim King, a family practice physician in rural Tennessee. “Gas prices are going up, food prices are going up. They are deciding to put some of their health care off.” A patient might decide not to drive the 50 miles necessary to see a specialist because of the cost of gas, he said.

To read more, visit

Concerning President Barak Obama being a weak, cowardly, ineffective leader, check the record…

In his first 3 years, he has accomplished more than most during their entire presidency…

- Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: Expands healthcare insurance to millions of Americans, prevents insurers from rejecting patients with pre-existing conditions, opens the door for increased reform and overhaul of the healthcare system
- Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Financial Reform) Tightens government oversight of Wall Street, empowering the government to shut down failing institutions before they threaten to undermine the US economy. Capped fees on charges Banks can impose upon consumers
- Credit Card Reform Act: Imposes consumer protection restrictions on interest rates and fee hikes
- Troop Surge in Afghanistan: Drew down soldiers fighting in Iraq while increasing the number sent to Afghanistan, significantly impacting the Taliban’s ability to spread
- Found, captured and executed, arguably the most wanted terrorist in American history – Osama Bin Laden
- Despite wide range criticism, President Obama sacrificed his reputation and call for “shared sacrifice” to painstakingly work out a deal with unreasonable, uncompromising, “my way or the highway” ultra conservatives to increase the debt ceiling and avoid the first Default in U.S. History: While commentators conveniently sit on the side line and accuse the President of “Folding like a lawn chair,” President Obama and America now live to fight another day. Stay tuned, I have a feeling that we have not heard the end of this story. Just as he systematically and quietly planned and carried out the mission to capture and execute a terrorist, the President will do what is necessary to bring our economy back to health – let us pray!

What is true? Consider the facts and you decide.

Post a comment or send me an email at

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

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