The Tired Old Model of Social Work

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2014 by jcwill5

In case you haven’t noticed it, our government uses the industrial, mass-production model of dispensing services.

How the Industrial Model works

Each agency has its own separate system of handling “clients” (i.e. users of services), treating every person exactly the same and requiring compliance to an ever-increasing, ever-petty choke point of rules, regulations, and policies.

Each agency has a specific program they administer in isolation from all other programs.

People go to field offices of all these agencies, wait in long lines, and see an overworked clerk behind a window–often to find out they didn’t follow procedures perfectly and need to return.

Or they call phone numbers, wait a long time, and finally speak to an overworked clerk who answers the phone–often to find out they didn’t follow procedures perfectly and need to call back or call another number.

(The functional people, who are occasional users, go to web-sites and get their simpler issues taken care of without all this).

The traditional process is bureaucracy-centered, program-centered, terribly frustrating, and, ultimately, depersonalizing.

The federal government has a layer of this.   Each state has another layer of this.  Each county and city has another layer of this.

“Follow the procedures, get the benefits” is the motto.

Interestingly,though  the industrial model appears on paper to be a model of efficiency, it is actually hugely inefficient and incredibly time-consuming and wasteful.

The problem is people.

People aren’t the same.

Most don’t navigate huge, bureaucratic systems very well.

And few have the energy to go from agency to agency, program to program, field office to field office, when they are in a place of great need.

So they wait until their problems are so bad they become a crisis.    Then the need is met in the most expensive way possible.

The disproportionately needy

In other words, 3% of the people have 80% of the worst and chronic problems, and are therefore heavy users of the system.

In our city, it’s about 100 individuals who are known by name to most of the agencies–but we can’t let each other know they’re the same people because of privacy laws.

Many of them are mentally ill.   Many of them are disabled.   Many of them are homeless.  Many of them are addicted.  Many of them unemployable.  Many of them have chronic health problems.    All wrapped into one.

The industrial approach doesn’t handle them very well.

The same troubled individuals interact with the criminal justice system, the mental health system, the addiction treatment system, the housing system, the unemployment system, the disability system, and the medical system.

They consume a disproportionate share of time, energy, money, and resources and end up not being helped and doing it all over again.

What if there was a way to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and deal with the disproportionately needful people in a way that actually helped them?

And what if this not only helped the 3%, but all the other layers of increasing neediness as well?

We need another model, in other words.

More on this approach the next time…..


The Absolute Necessity of Easter

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2014 by jcwill5

Death is all around us.

You’ve probably noticed that all living things on earth die.

First, there’s our bodies.

Our bodies are mortal–they age, get sick, are frail, and are subject to disease, to suffering, and to accidents.

In spite of all beauty products, surgeries, injections, dieting and exercise, we will all grow older and weaker and wrinkled and frail.

Then there’s our souls.

Our inner person and our character do not age gracefully.

Most people end up hardened, narrowed, irritable, and demanding in character at the end of their earthly life.

Our character faults  and addictions increase with age and repeated usage.

Whatever we give ourselves to early in life, whatever we indulge in–whether it is anger, greed, lust, lying, or fear–eventually takes us over.   How rare are the truly young at heart–who still take delight in life’s many good gifts and who freely share them with others.

Then there’s our spirit.

We are born disconnected from God, evidenced by the fact that we are at war with God, with ourselves, with all others and with all creation.

We are tormented, isolated, and miserable in spirit–which we hide very well.   We are selfish to the bone.   We are cynical, suspicious, and calculating.

We trash everything sacred.   We pollute everything beautiful.   We are corrupted and corrupting.   We are experts at wrecking the good, and amateurs at doing good.

We proclaim our right to do any evil we wish, and turn the definition of righteousness on its head to justify it.

In other words, we are natural born sinners.    We are dying in every way possible and are already dead.

Why am I going on and on about this?

Because I get the sense that our current world order–our elites and big shots– would rather dispense with Easter altogether.

They have a vested interest in the cult of eternal youth.   All their chips are on this life.

As if they don’t have a terminal case of mortality!    As if one-hundred years from now anyone will remember them.    As if they don’t need a solution for every level of death.

Easter is terribly, terribly relevant, my friends.

If there is a cure for physical and spiritual death, it would be the greatest development possible.

If there was a way to reverse sin’s corruption and heal the human soul, it would be worth more than all the money on earth.

It would be greater than the greatest experience on earth to obtain it.

When I was six years old and very into science, I hoped that science would find the cure for death through cryogenics or some other wonderful discovery.

This hope allowed me to calm my anxiety and pretend it would all be fixed by the time I was old.

Instead of death being a third person distant event that happens to other people far in the future, I knew in that moment it would happen to me.

It sacred me.  The clock of mortality was ticking, ticking, ticking.

Some forty years later, the scientists are no closer.   And they never will be.

Death is written into the very matter of the universe, into our very DNA.    Everything breaks down and runs out of time, eventually.

That’s why God didn’t just send His Son to die.  

He sent Him to die and be raised again from the dead in a new body that never will die.

It is a picture of what could be our own future–when our bodies, too, will be resurrected and death will be abolished forever.

It is also  picture of the born again reality, of becoming new creatures in Christ with new hearts and new spirits–brimming over with the very life of Christ imparted to us.

Only those who haven’t faced their own looming and very personal death can lightly dismiss Easter.

Thankfully, our hope is not in liquid nitrogen and scientific nonsense.    

Our hope is in a very real Person who, after being crucified and buried, exercised His absolute power over death and came back unaided from the grave with life in His hands for all of us.

The fact is, everyone who finished reading this is 2 minutes closer to their death than when they started reading it.

If you haven’t yet brought your terminal mortality to Him, why not do so right now, on Easter?

The Good in Good Friday

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2014 by jcwill5

I remember wondering to myself as a kid, “Why do they call Good Friday, good?   It’s the day they killed Jesus!”

To my childish mind, it wasn’t a good day but the worst day.

It seemed like the worst thing possible had happened the best Person possible.

So it should have been called, “Bad Friday”.

Easter was a day of lilies and happiness and candy galore and a tasty ham dinner.

Good Friday was a quiet, even depressing day.   What was a kid to do?

Teen years, however, brought a sea change in understanding.

As a young adult, I found I had gained the adult capacity to hate others and deceive myself and commit evils–all the way from the high of excitement when first doing evil to the depths of despair while trapped in it.

I learned that I was powerless and out of control.

I learned I couldn’t fix me.    That I had a monster within that would devour and destroy me, unless it was checked and overthrown by some outside power.

What I learned, in other words, was I needed a Savior.

To the ignorant child, Christ’s cross is a nice, irrelevant story to their blissful innocence.

To the self-absorbed or those on the upside of the addiction cycle–who are feeling smug and superior–Christ is annoying interruption.   “Go away and leave me alone!  I don’t want to hear about it!”

To the self-made person who prides him or herself on living life better than most, Christ is an insult.   “I can do it myself!  I don’t need Him!”

But to the person on the bottom, to the broken and weary soul, to the imprisoned and desperate heart, Good Friday is the best thing that ever happened.

Nowhere else is human need so great, is human plight so desperate.

Nowhere else do we cry out so deeply for help.

Nowhere else do we admit the ugly truth of our utter powerlessness and complete enslavement to the evil within us.

We bring all this to Golgotha.  

And we hear God say, “Yes!  I will supply what you need!  I will love you so much I will give my one and only Son as a sacrifice for your sins–and exhaust My holy wrath on Him, not you.”

We see Christ not as a helpless victim, but as a willing offering.    We see Him loving us there to the uttermost, to the very end of His life and to the very depths of Hell.

In other words, we’re not looking at the tragic and bad circumstances of the day.

We’re looking at the Man of the Hour, the Man of all places and all days.

We’re looking at the Person who laid down His life for us–when we deserved the opposite.

It is on the cross where this Person is revealed as supremely good!

His act is supremely good–unmatched and unrivaled in all history!

And we are looking at its world-wide impact–of countless hearts changed, of hardened sinners converted into caring saints, of grace yielding grace in every aspect of life, and we rightfully say, “This is the epitome of GOOD!”

Instead of indulging in excessive and misplaced mourning, a whispered and deeply felt “Thank You!” is a far better response.

Let it have the greatest and best impact on your attitude, your view of life, your treatment of others, and why and who you live for.

It is the best tribute of Christ’s cross-revealed love I know.  It is what the world needs to see in such dark times as these.

Time for Civil Disobedience?

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 8, 2014 by jcwill5

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday declined to hear a case from New Mexico where a photographer was sued and fined over her refusal to take pictures of a gay wedding.

Which means….

Our society is quickly moving from allowing homosexuals to marry to requiring everyone in society to support these marriages–overriding all objections of morality or conscience or free speech.

The last few years we have seen photographers, florists, and other associated with weddings refuse to use their artistry to support these ceremonies, and get sued.

In all cases, the parties were easily able to find an alternative provider to perform these services.

So where does that leave a businessperson, an artist, or anyone else whose conscience tells them it is wrong to be a party to such ceremonies?

It leaves us in the position of suffering for the sake of conscience.

The truth is nobody can force us to violate our conscience.

They can take away our money.   They can take away our property.   They can even take away our lives.

In the case where the laws and courts refuse to provide relief, the individual always has the ability to quietly defy and refuse to be coerced into performing an offending requirement.

And entire groups, as well, can adopt this approach to uphold their conscience and their shared moral views under assault.

What would this look like?

First, those artists and business people of conscience could continue to graciously decline to participate in these ceremonies.  And if sued, refuse to back down.   If fined, refuse to pay.  If jailed, stay there and contribute to massive overcrowding.

Second, many, many more such individuals could be recruited to defy these laws and openly announce their convictions for all the world to see.

Which, of course, will generate far more complaints and suits in far more places.

Then the authorities, being defied,  over-react.

The consequences escalate to the point of ridiculousness and viciousness–exposing the real agenda behind those attempting to force or require compliance.

No matter what they say or do or threaten or require, we just don’t do what they want and keep on not doing it.

And when enough people do that in enough places in spite of all consequences, the system gets overwhelmed and reasonable people start to question if it’s worth all this conflict to require people to violate their conscience.

The key is massive civil disobedience where many share this load–not just an isolated few individuals to bear all the weight of the law.

And if enough people refuse compliance long enough to the point where society gets sick and tired of it, then that’s when laws change and space is created for dissenters of good conscience to live in peace.

The other approach is this:  mass withdrawal and non-participation in the system.

We who believe in truly Christian, Christ-and-the Church modelling, male-female marriages stop registering them at the county clerk on a massive scale.

We still have our church ceremonies, but don’t buy into the newly redefined brand of marriage society is now requiring us to embrace.

We drop out of the system entirely, in other words.

Neither pastors nor participants in our ceremonies obtain marriage licenses, sign them, or file them with the county clerks.

The State finds it impossible to track marriages and know who is married or not, collapsing the system.

Then they come to the negotiating table and work for a settlement.

Here’s the settlement I would propose:

Get the government out of the marriage business entirely!

The government could have a Civil List of people in committed relationships, with various check-boxes to indicate what kind of relationship they are registering.

One of those boxes would be exclusively for people who still believe in the male-female, historic morality, Christian view of marriage.

We self-identify as such, without having to identify ourselves with those who advocate or practice diametrically opposite views as ours.

It allows room in a pagan society for many, many views and types of committed relationships without requiring anyone to identify with any, some, or all of them.

So why not?

The Appalling Treatment of Brendan Eich

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 4, 2014 by jcwill5

Mozilla, the non-profit corporation behind the popular browser Firefox, recently promoted Brendan Eich to CEO.

Mr. Eich had risen through the ranks, and had both pioneered and produced many features we enjoy today in computing.

He more than amply demonstrated a capacity to work with diverse groups of people, and, by all accounts, had treated everyone with civility, respect, and graciousness.

Then it came to light he had donated $1,000 to the Proposition 8 campaign in 2008.

You’ll recall this initiative sought to preserve the definition of marriage to be that between a man and woman, and that a majority of Californians voted in favor of it.

Several Mozilla board members resigned in protest.  Several app developers publicly said they’d never develop apps for Mozilla.   An online dating service, OK Cupid, began a public campaign to oust him.

And, within a week, this supremely qualified person who both lived well within and promised to uphold a welcoming, diverse corporate culture, had “resigned”.

Sadly, he had asked his opponents for time to demonstrate that he could both hold his personal views and practice corporate and professional tolerance with those who disagreed with him.

But no such decent, civil, fundamental courtesy was extended to him.

Here is some opinion pieces by both the Wall Street Journal and  the New York Times that sum up the controversy:

Which raises some disturbing questions:

Is it now the goal of the gay rights community to purge everyone who disagrees with them about homosexual marriage from all positions of public life, corporate life, etc.?

Is there any room for legitimate disagreement with them?

And if not, what do they propose to do with those like me who will never agree with them?  (Are they going to build a cage and put us all in it?   A concentration camp, perhaps?)

Are those who disagree with them still allowed to hold their views, even privately, without fear of bullying, retribution, and being hounded out of jobs and/or deprived of their livelihood?

Are we going to have thought police in government, schools, and businesses–or neighborhood cadres like they do in Cuba–who monitor our conversations and private views and turn us in for punishment?

Where will it end? 

Even some champions of gay marriage are worried.   Here is what Andrew Sullivan says on The Dish:

I wish Mr. Eich well, and guess it’s only a matter of time before someone of his exceptional achievements either starts a company of his own or is snatched up by a company that values exceptional achievement over political correctness.

But what we are seeing at work here, folks, is a form of totalitarianism–where one ideology holds supremacy and allows no dissent and requires all fields of society to conform to it–or suffer increasingly vicious consequences.

There is no room for dissent–even in private, in any sphere of life–is such a system.

It requires people to live double-lives– one in public, another in a closely guarded circle.   One must go underground to think and express one’s real views.

But instead of being imposed by a revolution, we have a creeping kind of totalitarianism that is relentlessly pressing and pushing out all dissenters from all positions everywhere.

Under the banner of tolerance, there is exactly none–only bullying hostility instead.

Meanwhile, most of us continue to watch mind-numbing screens full of dancing images and will do absolutely nothing about it.

Unleashed Identity

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 1, 2014 by jcwill5

If the church is such a force to be reckoned with, such a positive unifying force among people, why don’t we see it living up to its potential?

I supposed some will give economic explanations–rich people oppress the poor.

Others will give sociological explanations–people of certain classes and colors prefer gathering with those who look like them or belong to the same class.

Others will give a political explanation–the church as been co-opted by political parties and movements.

And there’s a grain of truth in all of this.

But I believe the main factor behind our failure is we simple don’t know how to release the God-given good in one another.

We focus on managing the bad.  

So we develop elaborate policies, procedures, programs, and systems designed to contain the bad and keep things on an even-keel.

We make a religious system out of it.

And human religious systems do what all systems do–favor some and disfavor others by creating an identity in some ritual, practice, era, achievement, distinctive belief, or larger-than-life personality.

Then most people put a lot of energy into performing and conforming to the system.    The Person of Christ has little to do with it.

What if, instead, we listened to each others’ life stories for signs of God’s activity and hidden presence, and pointed it out to each other?

What if, when we confessed our sin and failures, we reaffirmed each other’s new identity and reminded each other that we’re still saints?

What if, when we noticed something good of God in another person’s life, we pointed it out to them and encouraged them to run with it and move with it?

What if, instead of being kill-joys and complainers, we were catalytic encouragers that called out of people all the goodness of Christ that Christ put within them?

It’s almost like we enjoy pointing out each other’s sin far more than we enjoy seeing Jesus at work in other people.

It’s almost like we’ve made a competition out of it–with few winners and many losers–instead of a race that everyone–especially the least likely–can win.

It’s almost like we taken all the adventure, unpredictability, and serendipitous surprises out of being new people, and settled for cheap security, deadening predictability, and surprise-free boredom–then called it “church”.

It’s as if we’re in Satan’s POW camp, waiting out the war in a stated of dejected defeat.    Or on KP duty far behind the front lines, spewing bad attitudes at the unfairness of it all but not wanting to fight in the war either.

The truth is, as new people with a new identity, we are behind enemy lines doing missions of significance to prepare the ground for a massive invasion of God.   Like Green Berets of God’s Kingdom.

The risk and the significance are exhilarating and more adventure than we can handle.

Sign me up!

It is pure stupidity that we’ve turn church into such a dull, institutionalized part of the establishment.

And totally unnecessary.    And utterly tragic.

So let’s suit up.   Pack our packs.   Board the airplane.   And jump and hit our targets behind enemy lines.

Let’s start being the Church God meant us to be, and not this toothless, feckless, embarrassing religious game we’ve made it into.

And it begins with speaking life into each other, and releasing the good in each other.

Point out what’s right, and go with it!

Shared Identity

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 28, 2014 by jcwill5

God not only gives individuals a new identity.

He creates a new group composed of all those who share in this new identity–open to all races, genders, nationalities, cultures, and languages.

It’s actually a new race of people, a brand new and different kind of humanity.

The earliest members no longer thought of themselves as Jews or Greeks or Romans–they called themselves the “third race”.

A group composed of all races yet a member of none of them.    A group from all tribes and people yet no longer defined by any one of them.

A group from all classes and all strata of society–yet defined by none of them.

They care for, love, and welcome into their ranks anyone from any group, but they themselves belong to no group.

The especially care for those rejected by the current world order, neglected by the present state of things, and who receive the short end of the stick under “the system”.

They live under governments and belong to specific nations, but owe their ultimate allegiance to none of the above.

They are under the Ultimate Monarch in an everlasting Kingdom not of this present world order.

They are citizens of a perfect Nation that is yet to come.

So who is this group of people, you ask?

Are you ready for this?

They are…

The Church.

What?!   Those people?!   What you’re describing is nothing like those people?!

Maybe not in the hyper-affluent, secularized and co-opted United States.     But in most places in this world–the Third World–they are exactly that.

And when they aren’t–it’s because representatives from the West failed to see them and themselves as part of a third race.

Strangely enough, even though they are a threat to nobody, regimes everywhere see them as a grave, existential threat to their power–from the Romans down to the Communist Chinese.

The reason is this:   they give their ultimate allegiance to no state or empire or nation and are under the control of Another, far more supreme Power.

When push comes to shove, they obey Him instead of them.

So all control-obsessed governments view this new identity with alarm.

Because, strangely enough again, people who are freed from all earthly identities are the most free on earth.    Free to speak their minds.  Free to tell the truth and live differently and better.   Free to cherish and help those the regime despises and scapegoats.

They are free also to die without fear, having a far better country to go to afterwards.

So the regimes can neither bribe them nor threaten them into conformity–driving them nuts and working them up into a frenzy of persecution.

I say all this because, yes, there is a high price under the present world order for receiving a new identity and gathering together to share this identity with others who share it.

The church is terribly subversive, in other words.

The grace of God is a corrosive acid that elevates the lowly and humbles the arrogant–equalizing all in the presence of God.

It dissolves all man-centered, artificial distinctions we make and build identities upon.   Which causes some to do cartwheels of frustration and rampage against us.

Which is why many isolate and are afraid to openly identify with others sharing the new identity.

Next time I hope to highlight how catalytic our new identity can be, and how we can stir it up within each other when ever we gather.


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