Friday, February 23, 2007

The Bible as a United Whole

What is the most important part of the bible to you as a Christian? It's an important question if you think about since it puts your focus on the faith in some paradigm (develops your belief set). Is it the OT? Is it the gospels? Is it the letters of Paul? Is it the letters of Peter, James, or John? Is it the letter of Revelations? What is of most importance to developing your belief system?

Now I know that these are all merely words in books or letters - stories in some regards - and require actual living to make some sense out of them (since they are also framed as teachings). What from our personal environment are we bringing into the texts as we frame these teachings in our life? No person is an island - we have experiences and ideas that shape these teachings to fit us in some regards. And it is hard to let go of what we think is there and what we are reading into the texts - since it shakes us to the core to think - 'we might be wrong' on what we have always thought.

For me the importance of the whole bible lies within the gospels - to me it is of utter importance since the disciples say 'this is Jesus' teachings and words'. The faith is all about Jesus so it makes logical sense to take these teachings as the highest importance. The letters for me are likely second since they expand on those ideas of the disciples and how they look in communities (whether Gentile or Jewish). Paul, James, John, and Peter all write letters and they are directed at communities of peoples (most of the time) - and they lay down some direction for the communities that might not have had a single thing as way of 'the gospels or the OT'. It's these two things I put the majority of my attention into - and I have some sound reasoning.

In the early days the bible (as we have it - 66 books) did not exist as a united whole entity - rather it was found in bits and pieces in certain places. If I wanted to know about the OT then I had to go to the synagogue to 'hear it' read aloud and discussed. No ordinary person had access to the whole OT as a single book they could read at home and then break down into doctrine. You actually see the disciples still going to the synagogue after Jesus had left - to still hear the words and discuss them (like this was the norm).

The gospels and letters were single written pieces of literature that were sent to single regions. They would be copied but not put together as a united whole book for quite some time - and no one had all 39 books and letters we have now. People actually read a single letter or gospel and built belief systems off of that. There were what we could consider 'pastors or rabbi's' as overseers of the communities who were at the same whim of the disciples instruction - or another letter would help them out to build a bigger belief set. It's no wonder that Paul records mass amount of confusion (as does each letter written) amongst the church folk and certain dissenisons and weird beliefs that crept in. Each letter (even Revelation) records problems occuring in the church and what is to be taught as part of the faith. But they started as single units sometimes with single pieces of literature.

But we have the whole book now and we don't have to attend a single service of any sort to read it all - we just need to buy the book or call up Gideons and we have 66 books/letters nicely fitted together. Thanks printing press. However, it also gives us a greater look at the early Christian communities and some context. What if all you had was the book of Matthew or the letter to the Ephesians - could you follow Jesus fully? It's just a question but it puts you back in the early community and makes you focus on the importance of these books. Each is a seperate witness in some way - written to some community. So which book/letter is your focus?

I like Matthew personally. If all I had was Matthew I would be more than satisifed with what I am told about Jesus and the disciples. My paradigm comes from that book. I read the rest of them also but Matthew speaks to me - those teachings as a united whole book make sense to me. It's then I read the letters in light of this look at Jesus - and I read them in context also - as letters to communities breaking down what we need to know about our faith in God. I almost read none of the OT and revelations - although they both offer us something - I just don't put my focus there.

Fact is, as a united whole - these 66 books being combined and taught to be absolutely cohesive is quite irresponsible or takes context out of the picture. If I teach from Matthew then I will use Matthew a whole resource - why does a letter from Paul have to line-up (I mean it usually does but to take scripture here and scripture there might not be the best way to develop doctrine). What do you think? Do we have 66 books that absolutely line-up? How do you read the bible - what book/letter mean more to you?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

They Have a Vision - Yay!

Tuesday night I went to something in Regina held by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada through an organization called 'Community Link' - the event was called 'Vision Regina'. Apparently, unbeknownest to me, there is a group of 43 Evangelical churches and a few non-profit businesses that are trying to work together for the betterment of Regina's inner-city. Needless to say, I was quite happy about it.

At the start of the event we set up booths - and my brother and I represented First Nations Alliance Church - and the Action Group (my brain-child). That lasted for about 30 minutes and I handed out a few things about FNAC and the Action Group. Then there was a hour long service-type meeting (without the worship) which highlighted some of the endeavors and people in these areas. I knew some of the people in the ministries and actually the last person was a former Pastor of mine - how cool is that. David Macfarlane also spoke - apparently he has some tv show on the Miracle channel that I never watch. The day also ended with visting the booths again - I liked the event.

I was taken in by the rhetoric to be perfectly honest - when you have people qouting James 1:27 to you about 'true religion is helping the orphans and widows' then you have my attention. Also the talk seem to be about unity of the churches in Regina and helping the inner-city area with all of our resources - which I adamantly support 100%. I heard about a possbile mentorship program for the men of North Central - apparently there is 40 men that are willing to do this (awesome). My former pastor mentioned ideas about adopting blocks in the inner city to try and help make a difference - I was like 'hell yeah!'. In essence, they hold dear to two standards I also do: unity and helping the poor. If church was like this week after week - my heart might leap out my chest - I almost felt like saying 'right on and true' out loud about 15 times in that hour. I was quite encouraged by the groups that attended and the idea of making a difference.

They have a vision for Regina and I am all for it. At times I felt myself 'pull-back' from some of the talk but in the end I felt 'this is God's heart'. I think they still lack the funds for a lot of the ideas they are doing and they need to work on that - there is no way these groups should be under-funded. Also they lack the incorporating of the vision as a united whole - and I think I can speak into some of that. They need to start developing program after program for the inner-city and it is now becoming a possibility - with this unity of the churches. It's a beginning and I want to see where this can lead to.

**Ken, JB, Cinder, and other Regina peeps - something good is going down.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

And in this corner...wait...they both say they represent the same man?

I think my big problem is the consevative Christian agenda and their narrow-mindedness. To me the the fundamentalist interpretation of our faith is in opposition to what is actually taught by Jesus. I watch guys like James Robison, Falwell, Robertson, Hagee, Dobson, and a hoarde of others - and as sincere as they come off - they are also very narrow-minded. If I went purely by their rhetoric for what they would do if they ran the country - I'd go into hiding. They openly dislike gay people, they aren't very open to religious freedom of others, they support the war efforts (no matter what the USA does), they deny the existence of global warming, 'end time' theology seems to be a core of their belief set, intolerance to people not 'saved', they are still against the rights of women (in the church), stand opposed to safe sex practices (except for abstinence), Israel can do 'no wrong', and this list just keeps going. Sounds a little Taliban-esque to me?

Frankly their teachings/rhetoric are half the reason for bad fundamentalist actions like: shooting abortion doctors & blowing up clinics, atheists getting death threats, and Muslims being apprehensive of American policy. The core of their beliefs come off very klan-ish or clandestine. When someone says adamantly 'it's their way or hell' - you can bet not all the memebers are going to have the sensibilities to be able to run that through their mind correctly. Some of those people have a strong 'us and them' mentality and they react upon it and create some crazy groups like 'jonestown' or 'creator rights party' (anti-abortion extremists). Hell, even Mel White of Soulforce is adamantly not welcome in Falwell's congregation - for being gay and outing the agenda that Falwell has 'against' gay peoples.

Nothing about that group of people is very appealing or is accurate about the person of Jesus in the bible - or maybe they are and I am deluded. Either way, as a responsible and logical Christian person I have to speak out against their agenda's...but then again, maybe I got this faith all wrong and I am reading into the bible what I want to see and the fundie is correct? If so, I'd rather be wrong.

Do we need to speak out against the 'fundie' agenda? Are the fundies representative of what's in the bible? Is a moderate like myself 'way off base' in what he reads about Jesus? Is being conservative the Christian way or is being more liberal the Christian way? Well above is all my opinion and it came from here (read below).

Some of my opinion comes from reading and conversing with Atheists and their critiques of the faith (and reading the news or watching fundie programs for proof) - and they say we 'Christians' don't speak out against our own faith (against the fundies) - you know what they are right and the critique is valid. Sam Harris and Dawkins have called us out on that kind of stuff - and I agree with them - 'oh no he agree's with an atheist's critique' - in them is an outside source who sees what we do and they are scared of what they see. So why don't we speak out?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Confucious said - dont be confused - about my name

I have read a lot of blogs over the past year or so and I find myself continiually defending certain Christian positions just because I am a so called 'Christ-ian'. I get all kinds of labels slapped on me as if I believe all the rhetoric coming out of the church. What rhetoric?

(1) If it's heads 'you are one of us'
There is 'us' (churchy-folk) and there is them (non-churchy folk). One side is saved while the other is need of salvation. One side has all the answers (the truth) while the other side does not and they are in error. We are told to be seperate from them - lest we be tainted as they are. But the bible seems to point to hypocritical ideals on this subject. Paul mentions 'do not eat' with these un-believers while Jesus did? Jesus teaches us to be 'perfect' and in that context 'perfect' means treating one another equally (no seperation - even God makes the rain fall on both sides of the fence). Jesus teaches the 'sick need a doctor, not the healthy'. How is there a seperation unless we are the one's creating it by our interpretation?

(2) In Your Face Compadre
The church is filled with rhetoric of judging others - for basically no sound biblical reason known to us. We are even told not to judge and if we do - do it with mercy as our aforemost thought. I have heard many a Christian denounce someone to hell for being a non-believer - a judgment they have no right to make (and at it's core - the harshest judgement known to man). But why do we want to judge the un-believer? To make him feel his 'sin' and us our 'righteousness'? To convict him of something he is doing - is this our job? Did we miss part two of the command 'do not judge - unless you be judged too'? Is God making the point - as you judge - expect to be judged the same way? By who exactly...God or man?

(3) Poltico agendo is alrighto
The mainstream church trusts their gov't's more than they trust their own teachings - in some regards. There are wars and rumours of wars - doesn't mean the church has to pick a side, does it? Where exactly in the bible is taking democracy to the world our mission again? We teach so harshly against abortion it was no surprise that some 'fundies' got rifles and shot doctors - is it? Apparently they were following the teachings of Christ...were they? We also have on our agenda the banning of gay marriage which is a hot one right now. All these things we go to the state and vote in leaders that will speak for us. So church and politics go hand in hand it sould seem - it's almost seamless in some places. But again, where does Jesus ask us to gain political affiliation of a country? Seems a little Constantin-ish to me. But we are perfectly alright with this. Where did Jesus teach this again? Oh yeah - that's right - when he took control of Israel as the messiah of the people and killed those Roman infidels. He then set up his kingdom of democracy which hasn't since faded away. Me likey?

(4) Oh, God died and made you king
Smugness - the final frontier. People use the name of Jesus as their credible witness for a variety of things - in the end it's to prove 'they are right cause God said so'. People then don't speak back in case they are speaking against God....which is all too scary a prospect. Until you realize one simple thing - he is reading from the same book as you. Just maybe he made a mistake and made it seem like it's not a mistake by using the name of God quite gliby. So if he is reading from a 'book' then he has to making 'interpretations' from that book - since these are not his thoughts or his writings. Do you speak on behalf of God? If so, how do you know your right? Just what if God tells you you're right and another person he is right - and you're both wrong - blame God.

(5) Tune in and Drop out
Over spiritualization - where everything has to be a part of some vast spiritual message that we have only (isn't this a gnostic idea?). Where telling you the obvious has no place. Where being a simple human being is just not good enough. Where everything Jesus ever said has some spiritual twist to it so as to blur what he meant. Where if you're the good samaritan then you aren't a Samaritan, but a good holy person - like a priest or something. Where Jesus tells us to love our neighbor but this is impossible without a personal relationship with God (and all the doctrine that goes along with it). Was Jesus really that elusive? Was Jesus teaching some things that were common sense? Does Jesus want me for a sunbeam and not a human being? Are we too spiritual we are losing touch with common people?

These seem to be staples in the mainstream church - and I don't have clue where they came from or how they got to be in the structure. But can we puhleeze get them out of the church, they are making a mockery of our faith. We could use some - how do you say - humility? Reality? Simplicity? Sincerity? Honesty?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Why Do You Attend Church?

Okay, I have been a little on the radical side a little lately but it has raised some good questions and discussion - which I know we all enjoy. But for me, it raised the biggest question - why do we attend church? What are out reasons?

I attend a little church (about 9 members on a good week) called the First Nations Alliance. My brother (and his wife) are the pastor there and it's very 'laid back' (likely because we all came from a strict religious mind-frame prior to some of our de-conversion - pentecostals anyways). There is a about 4 song worship set (all my family on the instruments), then there is open sharing (and by open - I mean really open - this week drugs and child neglect were on the lips of 2 ladies), and followed by the word (which is usually framed as a counseling message). Service concludes with another song.

Now I like this church - although I have only attended twice this year (means I missed at least 4 services - all in a row). First off, I have family there and I am more than glad they support a vision for the Action Group. Secondly, the people there don't have to impress no one and we can 'come as we are' and still find some acceptance (people can say whatever they want and the pastor isn't too proud to admit his every fault). Lastly, we all have a love for our culture - First Nations (Cree and Saulteaux) and that is perfectly cool. We also have a music night where we play songs from CCR, the Rolling Stones, Elvis, etc...we just have fun with our musical talents. I know stone them all - oddly enough many of us were getting stoned before we were doing something like this (little play on words - sorry).

To be perfectly honest I don't attend church for the worship (not much of that smacks of sincerity to me). I don't go to get prayed for - for the same in-sincere reasons or even (in some senses) superstitious reasons. I have to be honest, I really love the word of God and when I hear someone speak on it I always learn something new...not sure why but I always do. The community is also quite cool also - we are a very open bunch of people - I can dig that. We also all know we have a lot of work in our communities to do and no one is bullsh*ting the next one on that point. Were fractured, fragile, hurt, and poor human beings trying to recover what we lost - I like that type of brutal honesty.

To be even more honest, I could live without church - it doesn't do a whole heck of a lot. We meet at a building, sing some songs, maybe give some money, listen to someone talking, and then we leave (all of this done to the magic of Power Point). But in the end, we aren't accomplishing a whole heck of a lot - we don't solve many problems in our communities for as much as we talk about them (unless you count prayer) and the Action Group does what it can for the less fortunate on an extremely small scale (one person at a time) - but Action Group can exist apart from church I noticed (I just want the church as an organization with resources to get involved on a more major scale).

So why do you attend church? What makes you go week after week - or not? Is there a disconnect going on or is the disconnect each person's personal problems? No quick and easy answer here - but a good question nonetheless.

Friday, February 09, 2007

They Just Don't Get It?

I have written quite a few posts on the issue of being poor and it seems a lot of people don't get it - this idea seems to be quite foreign to many a believer in Jesus. I didn't think this was such a hard thing to understand but it seems a lot of people can't believe that Jesus came to help the poor. Here is what I recently wrote to sum up my position:

"We all personally read Jesus as someone that died for us (singular and plural) to pay for our sins (a propitiation). Were we worthy of that? Did we do something to deserve this great gift (salvation)? You mean we just got the greatest gift of all time for free - and did nothing to deserve it? Now go and look on the poor the same way." (SVS)

That is quite simply my position on the gospel, on the grace of God, and the core components of this faith. Am I that off?

I see a lot of people that believe the first part of that quote and are quite happy to 'say so'. Congratulations, me too. But I'll be damned first if this gospel is all about me and my personal happiness in a selfish world. I mean if that is the case - then what 'good' is the gospel? I can personally say he 'saved me' from a life of Is that the end of the story? Did you die at that point (I heard some say yes as they read this)? As long as I am happy and comfortable in my little home - then all is well in the world? Smacks of tainted love if you ask me.

I mean the atheists are putting up a good bunch of criticism about this faith - and you know what - for about 75% of it - they are right. Yet we keep on badgering them with all of our BS about 'me me me' and 'him him him' - yet we have little to show the truly broken in society that just sit and never hear this BS (thankfully). I think there is a 3rd class in this discussion we all have about our faith - and I say it is in doing something 'right by them'. Are the poor my God? You might think so how much I babble about my own grumblings.

In a few days from now I will have the chance to talk with 39 churches in my city (Evangelical) and they are going to discuss 'how to help the poor in our city'? I am going to present them with these crazy ideas I have about the gospel and my 'Action Group' ministry. Now you would think the idea of helping the poor with developing programs and raising money for this will be of utter importance at this service - but I have to doubt it...we might be too damn selfish to care. I hope they kill me at this point, I think I might have too much bitterness to handle after that show of callousness.

I will renounce my faith after that day if I see very little support for the idea of 'caring' - about the poor mind you - who actually could use our paradigm. I find no use for a faith that treats themselves better than the poor - sorry - it seems like a total betrayal of the words of Jesus.

Hey Judas, you only made 30 silver coins for selling my Lord out? Idiot. They sell bibles for more than that.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

You wanna know about poverty - do ya?

You won't believe what poor people are doing until you actually get to meet them - aren't they pathetic - God forbid I ever get my hands 'dirty' and 'put in some work' to deal with....yuck....them. My parents raised me right and I work hard to get ahead in life - those poor people are lazy, drunks, addicts, losers, bums, criminals, and dirty. They need to resurrect more jails for these people. Keep these 'poor' people away from me:

(1) Just robbed a store to put some food on the table for me and my 5 kids
(2) Killed my girl-friend because I hate myself for the addiction that's killing me
(3) Rotting in a jail cell because Momma never know how to love me and Dad was too authoritarian
(4) Just got a welfare cheque for $200.00 - first time I ever seen this much money
(5) Holding you up in your house so I can sell your sh*t and pretend I am rich too
(6) Blood all over my hands from watching my friend get stabbed to death at a house-party
(7) Hiding under the bed since my mom is getting beat to a bloody pulp by my dad - and they are intoxicated again
(8) Have trouble with social interaction since my mom and dad rarely said a legible word to me - and when they spoke I was being 'cut down' or ridiculed
(9) Selling drugs to my neighborhood - I don't care who dies - I need the money - and I have never had money or responsibility before
(10) Want to kill the police for arresting and beating my brother to the ground - they also threw my momma to the ground and called her all kinds of abusive names
(11) Dropped out of school because nothing they teach me makes any damn sense in the 'here and now'
(12) Strung out in the basement - no one is around - I know I am dying - but no cared about me anyways
(13) Stealing cars and doing B-N-E's because I want to make some money and my parents don't give 2 sh*ts where I am tonight
(14) Had to steal your sh*t because my parents drank all my allowance up - and I don't care about you when no one cares about me - don't be stupid
(15) Had to kill that kid for trying to 'test me' - I'm violent because I know I can keep myself safe - I ain't failing where my parents did
(16) Strung up in the basement - I had to live with sexual abuse all my life - rather be hanging than hanging around here anymore
(17) Family has no respect for me in my accomplishments - they think I am trying to be 'better than them' - I feel worthless and I wish they were dead
(18) I'm begging in front of 7-11 since I gave up hope- no one cares about me - just give me some cash to drink as you look down on me - your the reason I am doing this you inconsiderate assh*le
(19) Been in jail for 6 months now and each night is lonelier than the last - it's kill or be killed in here - 'Don't let them see you cry', I know - but it's hard to live like no one loves you.
(20) Got 3 kids to raise and I'm on my own - no clue where the father is - some days we go without food - my kids get suspended at school for not listening - I have no life but when I can get my hand on a drink or two I am downing it - can't say whats worse - the stress of these kids lives in my hands - or the fact I am a failure.
(21) Got razorblade marks from shoulder to wrist - been so dulled by my existence - it's when I cut I actually feel something - that's so much better than nothing
(22) Life has no meaning - look around - all I see is people living poor - what's the point of that? - no hope for as far as the eye can see
(23) Been on the street corners for 3 months - I need the money for my kids - I do drugs to forget what it is I am doing - I hate myself and I hate these assh*les that pick me up - but for once I feel like someone does 'like me'
(24) Never owned a home, a decent car, or had the money to even think of that stuff - even if I had the chance I wouldn't know where to start - I know jack sh*t about the bank system
(25) I can barely afford to keep my power and energy bills going - welfare isn't cutting it anymore - most people won't give me a job - addictions are dragging me down - rch people look down upon me - they are going to get theirs.

This is merely a sample of the inner-city struggles and the issues they have to deal with. I meet these people all the time and have throughout my life - and when I mean poor and broken - well - this is what I mean. It's a struggle the church had forgotten about. I am resurrecting it.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Dollars & Figures - could we really solve some problems?

Here is my take on church budgets and when I researched I was quite amazed at the kind of cash we are dealing in as a church society.

Giving in 7 National Churches (Canada)

Alliance Church - $22,537,661 (possibly including more countries)
Lutheran Church - $10,924,620
Mennonite Church - $3,420,000
Evangelical Church - $3,836,882
Christian Reformed Church - $9,835,920
Free Methodist Church - $768,900
Pentecostal Assemblies Church - $8,830,044

Total: $60,154,027 (based on giving about $5.00/month for each member)

Some Examples

(1) Alliance Church: Has 429,000 members that raised $22,537.661 - each person was giving approximately $53.00 a year (or almost $5.00/month).

(2) Evangelical Lutheran: They have 182,077 members and if each gave $5.00 a month they would raise $10,924,620 in a year.

(3) Mennonite Church: Has 57,000 members and of each gave $5.00 a month they could raise $3.420,000 a year.

(4) Evangelical Fellowship: They have 15,000 members (and families) and they managed to give $3,836,882 in 2005.

I took all my statistics from each Canadian churches official website - for member counts and some even had annual budgets posted. I found out that churches are raising a heck of a lot of cash - the majority of it is being used by the churches for various projects - for the Alliance those projects mainly include the 'mission field' (money leaves country) and for others very similar projects - some of them even addressed poverty.

My question is this: can this kind of cash help to re-define the Christian stance on poverty? Can we develop new programs to address needs within our inner-cities? Do we have to power base and resources (people/money) to handle those programs? Let's say we gave more than $5.00/month in these churches - what would be the end result? I wish I was dreaming these numbers but 'hey' while we got Capitalism as a system - let's use it for some good - the kind where we address the the ideas in Matthew 25:35-40.

'I have a dream...'

I Wish We All Were Ready - for this type of message!

"I would agree - there is no justification for me hoarding what I own - to another's demise. The way I see it is quite simple - if they ask, and I do nothing - then I am not listening to the voice of God or even following a single teaching from Jesus (break one - break em all). I have forgotten to love the other as much as I love myself - apparently I have healthy love for myself - but loving myself just seems selfish after awhile." (SVS)

"I have a warm house when there are plenty of others that don't and that I'm allowed to have a library of books amongst other things while there is even a single death from malnutrition or starvation (not having enough), there is no justification possible for this. Reasoning like, "I am a good steward" or "I can bless others with what I have" or even "I and my family are entiled to a little something" ring extremely hollow to me when I can save lives by giving even a fraction of that to others. People are dying because they need and do not recieve the things I have. I am responsible for these deaths, I have murdered the other, broken the command "Thou shalt not murder" and killed my neighbour." (Heinini)

"Levinas points out that this isn't simply stabbing them with a knife, there are many ways in which we murder, and all of these are "self-ish" pre-occupied with self, justifying self, perpetuating self, always at the expense of the other." (Heinini)

"In essence I agree with you about the 'have's' and the 'have nots' and learning to go back to when we played as kids - and sharing. The idea is not an extremely hard one to understand from the gospels and Christian writings - it's there in red and white a lot of times. So in essence, I agree with the concept." (SVS)

"I think we need to develop programs and ideas that will get people to think along these lines - programs that find a way to use what 'we have' to help the people that 'don't have'...I can see the power of the point of view - working with one another is of the highest importance. Many people are so heaven-bound they forgot about their responsiblities here." (SVS)

Saturday, February 03, 2007

'To Hell With It All' - Commentaty on Hell?

"And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him! Luke 12:4-5" (Bible)

"This teaching is hard to accept but after some serious thought and prayer it makes sense to me. And I am not just focusing on the requirements and warnings of the faith, I have found a better realization of the blessings also." (Ken)

"A man holds a gun to his wife's head and says, "Say you love me or I will shoot you." What could it possibly mean for her to say she loves him? Is that love? A god holds the fires of hell beneath humanity and says, "Love and believe in me or you will spend eternity in the fire." What could it possibly mean for humanity to love that god? Is that love? I neither love that god nor believe in him. He never existed except in our own masochistic thinking." (John)

Oh the fires of hell are raging for this topic...does hell exist and if so, why? What is your take on the 'hell' that is mentioned quite a bit in the gospels - how do you deal with interpreting things like 'gehenna' and 'brimstone'? Inquiring minds want to know - and some even want avoid it.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

When Communism meets Capitalism

I just finished reading an article in the BusinessWeek ( magazine about Chinese factories and American companies - the meeting of Capitalism and Communism. The magazine focused on factory work conditions and American investment - 3 points came up as 'obstacles to reform' within those factories (concerning work conditions).

(1) Price Pressures: American's expect to pay less for the goods they recieve and since 1996 prices on many articles (ex: clothes, toys, and games) has been dropping - Americans have become accustomed to paying the low prices.

(2) Few Alternatives for Manufacturers: Other low wage nations enforce their codes of conduct more stringently but China is very efficient in workforce, infrastructure, supply base, and massive ability to manufacture so much in so little time. Problem is China doesn't enforce codes of conduct as efficiently.

(3) Worker Demands: The Chinese workforce is quite alright with getting as much hours as possible and not making overtime pay (3-4 hours OT a day on a 5 day workweek) - however this is not what American companies endorse yet they never use their leverage to change the situation.

The problem with the whole scenario is that these Chinese factories are breaking all the American rules for 'code of conduct' in an effort to keep American business on their soil. The problem really lies with the 'pricing' - most Chinese factories admit that on order to meet American demand for what a product should be produced for (ex: $0.64/hour) they have to not pay overtime - and there isn't much they can do to change that (since Americans demand a low price on a lamp or sweater).

The Chinese 'doctor' the accounting books during audits to make it look like all is fair - they only get found out during routine visits by American companies visiting those factories first-hand. There is even Chinese companies willing to help 'doctor' those books for the factory - as a help to keep them in business. All the while, even when the American companies know some of the discrepencies (ex: no OT or underage kids working) rarely do anything since that's a Chinese thing to deal with - again, bottom line is the focus for both sides. The end of the article even states this is still an 'economic reality' - so this is still happening (right now as I type on a Dell computer).

So next time you shop at Wal-Mart, Target, Nike, Adidas, Eddie Bauer, Nordstrom, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Motorola (owns a literal factory), General Electric (owns a factory also), McDonalds, Walt Disney, Home Depot, Sears, retailers under 'Young Sun Lighting Co., and J.C. Penney - remember they all do business with China so you can 'pay less' for their products.

Of an even greater note, we can't solve the inequitable problem in China but we can learn this simple lesson - with all the money we save for buying at these outlets on all the products we buy each month - possibly we can use that money we save to help someone struggling here with poverty - although the Chinese still will be worked to death - let's not let their sweat go wasted on a Capitalist machine that also forgets it's poor here.