Friday, September 28, 2012

NOT A GOOD REASON TO 'REFUSE TO VOTE FOR BARACK OBAMA'


My response to Conor Friedersdorf’s op-ed in The Atlantic

By John Franklin Hay 

There may be other reasons to refuse to vote for Barack Obama for President on November 6, but the use of drones doesn't seem to me to be a very good one.

Seeing the link to an article published in The Atlantic posted on few young adult friends’ Facebook walls yesterday, and being upset by the title, “Why I Refuse to Vote for Barack Obama,” and the downcast photo of President Barack Obama that accompanied it, I decided to read it. (Link at the end of this post).

I’m glad I did. It doesn't seem to be the kind of the desperate, late-election smear effort that I thought it might be (and that has become so pathetically prevalent).  Conor Friederdorf is a good, emotive writer.  I'll categorize his piece as a valid tirade genre.  What makes it so is that he leaves out of his picture some rather important facts that impact his decision.

I share Conor's primary concern about America's use of drones in the war against terror and the awful impact this has on others and on America's integrity.  I repeatedly wrote to President GW Bush and now to President Obama both in opposition of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and against the use of drones.  I have protested these wars on the steps of Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis and advocated extensively regarding them--even lost friends over my views.

On the other hand, I can't imagine being in President Obama's shoes: trying to end two costly wars that he didn't start and that most Americans didn't and don't want and at the same time trying to strategically, pointedly strike at the source--with the least possible amount of collateral damage--against terrorists who would do the world and those who value freedom harm.

So, to be clear (and this is what Conor omits): President Obama has ended the war in Iraq and will bring US troops home from Afghanistan in 2014 (sooner, I hope!).  The use of drones has been viewed by conservatives, liberals and military and peace experts alike as significantly limiting casualties on all sides. And, in fact, it is doing so. Still, the accumulative loss of civilian lives is a tragic witness.  But, this, too, must be measured against the 300,000+ civilian lives snuffed out by US military operations in Iraq.

On the other hand, the widening uses of drones on all fronts--including domestic applications--is a serious civil liberties issue for all citizens of the US and world to address. This is so whether Barack Obama or Mr. Romney is the next President.

So, the issue of the use of drones and the impacts, policies and statements surrounding them seems to be the crux of Mr. Friedersdorf's decision. I commend him that he is more liberal, progressive and idealistic than President Obama--and more progressive than me. That says a lot!  Romney and most conservatives are so far in the pro-war direction that their prescriptions surely do not even register in this particular response.

This will not prevent me from voting for President Obama.  From a broader perspective, I observe that he is essentially a person of integrity, balance, reason and sensitivity for all Americans. I see that he conveys a broad and caring worldview. I have followed him pretty closely since before he ran for President. I've read much of what he's written. I recommend "Dreams of My Father" for a look into his soul long before he thought of running for President.

I keep looking for the intentional duplicity in President Obama that right-wingers say is obvious and that Mr. Friederdorf infers, but I haven't found it.  I see him wrestling with difficult--even irreconcilable--dichotomies.  Yes, he has weaknesses and foibles. Yes, I have disagreements some of his decisions.  Yes, I have some disappointments.  Yes, there seems to have been some bad process and questionable policies occasionally.  But duplicity?  No.

In regard to the use of drones and their impacts, President Obama continues to openly confess his struggles regarding, among other weighty leadership matters, the use of war and military as a solution in conflicts at all.  I observe that, while he is decisive, his decisions to use deadly force do not seem to be thoughtless or callous and have been made in light of the desire to preserve life, provide for broad-based security, and limit casualties.

I would urge Mr. Friedersdorf and all who, like me, share a passion for preserving all life, valuing all people, and ending sanctioned destruction of life by the US military in Afghanistan, to reconsider their vote in a fuller light of these facts and reflections. Let's dare to continue to direct our dissent and hope in a more fruitful direction than dropping out.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

THE LEAST OF OUR TASKS


Offered to God, our daily work in the world is sacred

I read from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's Divine Milieu
"The closeness of our union with Him is in fact determined by the exact fulfillment of the least of our tasks... God, in all that is most living and incarnate in Him, is not far away from us, altogether apart from the world we see, touch, hear, smell, and taste about us. Rather, He awaits us every instant in our action, in the work of the moment."

Teilhard continues: 
"There is a sense in which He is at the tip of my pen, my spade, my brush, my needle--of my heart and of my thought. By pressing the stroke, the line, or the stitch, on which I am engaged to its ultimate natural finish, I shall lay hold of that last end toward which my innermost will tends."

And I pray:

God, You who are great and beyond my imagination,
Yet so near as to breathe with me,
move in me, work through me,
I acknowledge Your steadfast love for me
in all my doings.

You do not ask me to set aside
my daily struggles for the community
in order to worship You,
to be formed spiritually.
But, lest I lose my bearings, I ask
for eyes and heart to see this daily work
more and more as Your holy activity,
announcing, bit by bit, Your kingdom.

Let my fits of religiosity fall by the way side
if they sidetrack or diminish what is most daily.
Instead, let all formal or focused worship of You
be my expression of thanksgiving and intentionality,
of conscious openness to Word, Sacrament,
and fellowship,
set among days and dailyness of co-laboring
with You in Your vineyard.

Teach me how to live in the world
and to love my life here,
all the while worshipping You alone.

Let me not fear the most tedious and
trivial things of the day as
interferences with Your purposes.
Let me live them as challenges, opportunities,
as means of grace,
for the spiritual formation of my soul
and the movement toward Your fullness,
even for the completion of the world.

Amen.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

BEYOND PRO-LIFE


After 30+ years of polarizing single-issue politics, it's time for something more responsible for all who care deeply about life.

Another national election cycle rolls around.  That means a number of my fellow Christian friends are again aligning themselves with the Republican Party and its line-up of candidates primarily because of abortion.  It means a few friends are again openly questioning my Christianity because I do not fall in lock-step conformity with prescribed partisan pro-life mantra.

Typically, I would quietly endure these assaults and continue to vote my conscience.  This time, however, I’m not in the mood to be self-defensive or silent in the face of religious misjudgment and political bullying.

I’ve been on the other side.  As a Christian college student, I formed the school’s first pro-life committee in 1979.  Having attended the Chicago premiere of the five-episode film series “Whatever Happened to the Human Race?” I brought it to campus.  My initial political involvement was voter registration and organizing around this issue.  My stiff views moderated, however, when I began to serve neighbors in the heart of the city, to grapple with socio-political realities in an urban pastorate, and to witness hypocrisy in pro-life politicians and manipulative powers behind the pro-life movement.

The six considerations I share below are not for the sake of defending my political choices.  Instead, it’s an attempt to open up a different range of considerations regarding abortion and pro-life posturing in elections.  And, if possible, to persuade some--who think that if they are against abortion they can only vote for pro-life candidates--otherwise.

1. Most pro-life candidates are primarily anti-abortion, not necessarily life-defending or life promoting.  If one thinks voting for pro-life candidates means one is voting for persons and platforms that consistently and comprehensively affirm the value of life, one would be sorely mistaken.

As it has been expressed over the past 30 years, pro-life politics excludes the lives of persons on death row.  It excludes the men, women and children living in countries considered to be our national enemies.  By policy and investment, it excludes the lives of billions of persons struggling to stay alive in the face of poverty, disease, and scarcity of food and clean water.  It fails to connect to creation care, without which human life will ultimately not be sustainable.

More directly and immediately, many pro-life politicians have not supported basic prenatal and postnatal care and early childhood initiatives that are considered essential preserve life and promote health of our nation’s youngest and most vulnerable citizens.  In fact, some pro-life politicos have actively pursued the reduction or end of community initiatives aimed at reducing infant mortality and early-childhood problems.

The difference between anti-abortion politicians and those of us who advocate for life is profound.  Like me, they find sweeping away the independently viable life of an unborn fetus objectionable.  Unlike me, they tend not apply the “made in the image of God” rationale beyond the issue of abortion.  They do not oppose the death penalty, unconscionable military spending in the face of domestic and international poverty, or cuts in healthy baby programs on the same grounds.  Because I take the Bible and historic Judeo-Christian ethic seriously, I apply the “image of God” principle to all human life and societal relationships.

2. Once elected, anti-abortion candidates have not addressed abortion as the high priority they gave it when they sought the votes of those who care deeply about this issue.  Thirty years after first making this a top election issue, anti-abortion politicians continue to wave this flag in election campaigns but put it away after the votes are counted.  Their few legislative forays over three decades have produced lots of polarizing rhetoric but negligible movement on this issue.  To the point: politicians’ highly divisive approach to reducing abortions in America has not worked.  Continuing to elect those who hype this as a wedge issue may well prevent real progress toward effective abortion legislation or policy.

More than a few politicians use anti-abortion campaign tactics in a calculating and cynical manner.  Aware that federal-level policy on abortion is defined and upheld by the US Supreme Court, they still posture and campaign as if nothing is more important.  All the while, they know there is little they can or will do administratively or legislatively to impact this lingering moral and social quandary.  I want to elect persons who are more sincere (or at least less disingenuous) regarding social concerns I care about deeply.

3. When single-issue politics is used, voters give politicians a license do just about whatever they please regarding everything else that ought to matter.  If citizens commit to vote for candidates simply because they say they’ll oppose abortion, the politicians are off the hook for the rest of their agendas.  Single-issue voters should not be surprised that politicians serve their own and others’ interests on a wide range of issues with little accountability to “values voters.”  Why?  Because they know they can count on single-issue voter myopia in the next election—no matter what.

4. Politicians who say they are anti-abortion tend to deny, ignore, or contradict a wide range of personal, social and economic concerns that reflect a sound Biblical ethic.  Perhaps voters assume that if a politician stands against abortion, they will stand for what’s fair, just, and reconciling.  Again, voters believing this would be sorely mistaken.  Anti-abortion politicians have routinely blocked laws or aggressively argued against policies that would have assured fair wages, curtailed corrupt Wall Street practices, challenged runaway military spending, mended holes in the safety net for vulnerable citizens, addressed workplace race and gender prejudice, reduced deaths of citizens unable to access affordable health care, or ensured life-saving resources for people in the direst situations in the world.  So, on the one hand is an eagerness to spend taxpayers’ dollars to defend the rights of the unborn, but, on the other hand, an unwillingness to apply US citizen resources to invest in other critical expressions of giving, preserving and extending life.

Why this contradiction?  Conservative political and economic ideology drives more Christian politicians than their personal commitments to follow the way of Jesus.  What the Bible declares about social relationships and life, they filter through a partisan ideological grid so that only a limited set of “values” are positively considered for legislation. Conservative political ideology surmises that the above-listed concerns should be left to the whims of free market promoters and individual charity and choice.  But the Bible declares that a faithful nation’s integrity hinges on these critical collective decisions.

5. Single-issue politics distorts the Bible’s meaning and message, as well as the life and mission of the Church.  It does so by accentuating one issue at the expense of others.  It does so by making one issue the lynchpin for all others.  It does so by lifting specific Biblical texts out of context.  It does so by marrying the Bible and Church with a humanistic conservative ideology in a partisan power play.  The Bible’s wide-ranging story of hope, redemption and reconciliation--and the church’s witness to it--is too great to be conscripted to serve one issue.

6. It is worth challenging perspectives of abortion and choice as good/evil, either/or, all or nothing.  Regardless of what others have told you, candidates who believe choice is important are not evil.  Neither are your fellow citizens who vote for them.  Nor are choice-affirming communities of faith, or nonprofit organizations, or political parties.  If you have demonized others over the issue of abortion, it is time--for the sake of sanity, an ability to understand others and any prospect of speaking the truth in love--to reevaluate your perspective.

In my decades of work with neighbors who are confronted with the choice to birth or abort, I have not encountered one evil person.  I have not talked with a single choice advocate who conveys a cheap view of life.  Few take abortion casually or dismiss its ethical implications.  Most choice advocates labor to make abortion as rare and safe as possible.  Though we may have disagreed—sometimes vehemently—over our views of abortion, I have not found people worthy of the demonic labels and dehumanizing stereotypes that have been heaped upon them.

On the contrary, I have found those who advocate choice do so because of their genuine care for vulnerable women.  As much as an anti-abortion advocate expresses care for an unborn child, a choice advocate defends a woman’s ability to make considered choices about her body regarding reproduction and sexual activity.  As much as one may see abortion as robbing the life of an unborn child, a woman may feel her own life being used, taken over, and snuffed out by others.  The stories of girls and women who have been coerced into intercourse and sexually abused are real and persistent and many.  If evil is to be named in this context, it must include men who exploit women as sexual objects, who control them with threats of violence and compel unwanted sexual intercourse even within marriage.


Make no mistake: to me, abortion is lamentable.  Whether it is necessary to save the life of a mother, induced after rape, because of unsustainable birth defects, or chosen because a pregnancy was perceived to be inconvenient, to me, at least, abortion is cause for soul-searching decision-making and not infrequently, grieving.  But so is the choice to take the lives other human beings, whether through the sanctioned violence of war, death-sentence executions, or withholding available life-giving resources in the face of hunger, disease, natural disasters or the inability to pay for health services.  Every preventable loss of human life sends shutters of grief through the human family.

I do not have a satisfactory resolution of the abortion/choice tension.  It seems to me, however, that we must explore and carve a new path forward beyond partisan posturing and polarization that politicians cunningly use to gain and maintain power.

With all my heart, I believe that one vital part of moving forward and achieving breakthrough is by unequivocally advocating for human life in all its dimensions.  Perhaps we can find common ground in actions that give life, affirm life, restore life, liberate life, give meaning to life, lead to life, cultivate life, preserve life, extend life, provide for life and celebrate life.  What candidates will move in that direction?  That’s what I’m looking for and casting a vote for in this election.

BRINK OF AUTUMN

LEAF CHANGE. So early do schools start in Indiana, late September feels like we are deep into the season instead of at autumn's onset. I love the spirituality of fall, which is what I try to describe in this poem. Change is occurring, ready or not. Better to turn and face its in-gathering and soul-baring possibilities. Autumn invites us to an experience of grace. Live it to the full. 

On the brink of autumn,
a hint of chill in the air,
the sun’s setting sooner,
in a few days we’ll be there

where green turns to golden
and reapers harvest the yield,
where dry leaves are falling
and flocking fowl arc the fields.

Then we’ll don our jackets
and brace ourselves for the wind
that rustles through branches
and billows our souls again.

Do not shrink back from fall;
embrace this gilded season
as a grace that descends;
a gift to all from heaven.

It’s time for returning,
for in-bringing and burning,
for heart walks in deep woods,
for distilling, discerning.

What’s muddled becomes clear
and all chaff is left exposed
as autumn’s sun glows bright
and a harvest moon shines cold.

We may shed pretenses
and travel a lighter way
our hearts as crisp as leaves
that lift and then sail away.

As we are being turned,
turn—facing all the changes,
the falling, the cooling,
and the encroaching darkness.

Lean into the season
lest it overtake your way.
let your soul be opened;
relish its gift this fall day.

Friday, September 14, 2012

HOW I VOTE: 5 CONSIDERATIONS

How I bring my Christian faith and perspective into national election choices

As Christian clergy and a community advocate, I face quandaries in national elections. I’m not a single-issue voter. I resist being ideologically stereotyped. And I resent distortion-ridden voter guides. I choose to sort through the paradoxes in candidates, parties and platforms. People of earnest faith have tough choices in the voting booth.

Here are five considerations I make when it comes to public leadership and the democratic process in national elections. I try take these to heart, also, as I live as an engaged citizen between elections. These help me bring the breadth of my faith and hope into electoral politics, even though they make choices less clear-cut.

1. WHAT DOES IT DO TO THE POOR? I ask of any candidate or administration’s positions, policies and proposals: What does it do to the poor? This is a bottom line in both Hebrew and Christian scriptures. It was to the poor who were being crushed by domination and struggling within their communities that Jesus of Nazareth primarily addressed himself. Domestic poverty and policies that impact the poor globally may not factor much in most elections. But all are diminished and the promise of democracy is betrayed when concerns of the poor are either ignored or pandered to while the real agendas are set mostly for the preservation of moneyed advantage.

2. BEWARE LITMUS TESTS. I don’t expect a candidate to be my brand of Christian or a professing Christian at all. I don't expect them to line up with all my values or presumedly right positions. Politicians love to wear righteousness on their sleeves and court faith votes and "values" voters. Beware: personal piety and pandering does not necessarily translate into sound leadership or policies that reflect scriptural integrity. It seems to me, for instance, that many politicians, once elected, have taken Christian groups for a ride over the past 30 years, giving only lip service to a very limited range of Christian concerns. Instead of holding candidates up to narrow litmus tests, I expect democratically-elected leaders to uphold the Constitution and lead with utmost wisdom, compassion and diplomacy in behalf of all the people.

3. COMPASSION BEYOND CLICHÉS. I look for a candidate whom I perceive will actually lead compassionately--not just claim to be compassionate. George W. Bush loved to claim he was a "compassionate conservative" while gutting real support and opportunities for the most vulnerable and leaving the much-vaunted faith-based initiative high and dry. How will the candidate give voice to those who are vulnerable and dominated? Will he or she be moved by more than lobbied self-interest, partisan pressure or news media reactions? Beyond personal benevolence, will the candidate seek to make America fairer, instituting policies that counter prejudices, extend equal rights and opportunity, and end poverty? Will he or she hold truth, human rights, and civil liberties higher than economic expediency?

4. USE OF VIOLENCE. I ask: How has a candidate responded to violence or used violence? In what measured ways will he or she likely act to prevent, respond to, or use violence in the future? Life is sacred, and killing--for convenience, by slow, suffocating neglect, in criminal acts, in capital punishment, or in battlefield action--has devastating consequences even when “good” results. We also know that violence begets more violence, the spiral increasing in intensity and breadth every time it is even “justifiably” used. The specter of the use of deadly force is, to me, a critical concern in elections. Will the candidate lead, not so much by the threat of violence and militarism, but with the winning power of sound policies, personal influence and diplomatic persuasion? Will the candidate use power responsibly and with an eye to ending violence abroad by the hands of Americans? To what extent will he or she influence all nations to abandon nuclear weapons programs, reduce and guard existing nuclear weapons caches, and turn away from militarism as the dominant method of crisis intervention and problem resolution?

5. AMERICA’S ROLE IN THE WORLD. Finally, I consider how candidates envision America’s place and role in the world. I continue to be concerned about an aura of American empire that threatens our nation's effectiveness as a global neighbor. Whatever the intention of a global war on terrorism, the interpretation and application of it has resulted in Americans and American-based interests being resented, hated, and unwelcome in more places by more people. This undermines redemptive spiritual and compassionate outreach efforts as well as economic market development. So, how will a candidate address this macro issue? Do they see it as a “winner take-all” battle, an ideological game, a religious war? Do they perceive enemies and rivals more than neighbors and potential partners? What direction will he or she take for the immediate and long-term future for America’s place in the world?

Certainly, I consider more than this when I vote. But, to me, these are primary. They reflect my understanding of the Bible and my sense of neighborliness and community in local, national and international dimensions. They reflect broad values and principles, not prescribed positions and pet policies.

I am not so naive as to imagine I will ever a see the candidate who perfectly fulfills these five considerations.  If so, they would likely not be electable!  But I consistently find electable candidates who demonstrate sensitivity to these considerations, not as a matter of pandering or promise-making, but as a matter of character, perspective, and responsible action.  Such people will receive my vote.

I welcome your comments and/or questions in the spirit of dialog. Share yours by clicking on "comments" just below. They're moderated only to reduce incivility. Shalom!

Monday, September 10, 2012

CONVENTIONAL MIDDLE


The notion of a safe middle ground is, to me, quite dangerous

When I wrote the following poem, I was thinking that I don’t want to come to the end of my life having protected myself, insulated myself, isolated myself from real hope and raw pain in the world.  I'm convinced that the most dangerous spiritual and cultural place in America is the conventional middle.  It only seems like middle ground.  It only appears to be safe.  It is, in fact, a place of tepid compromises based on suspicions, fears, and herd mentality.  So, hang appearances.  Shake loose illusions and creature comforts.  The invitation—the challenge—is to move to the edge of faith and discipleship and the fullness of living today.

The conventional middle
resists change.
It is a safe place
for now.
It counts on eventualities
and references everything
by how it may impact
me.
It fears more than
it believes.
It surrounds itself with
symbols of assurance
and mistakes dutifulness
for obedience
and pleasantness
for joy.

Monday, September 3, 2012

WORK TRANSITIONS & SAVING SOULS

Seeking to understand and stand with workers amid transitions and market shifts is essential for spiritual leadership 

ONE IN FIVE. The news media reports that more than one in five Americans has been laid off work within the past three years. One in five! Look around. See five people? It’s likely one of the folks you know has had the experience of feeling secure about their job, maybe even seeing themselves working unto God, and then losing it through no fault of their own. Some of the given reasons: the housing market crash and bank bust of 2008, downsizing, mergers, consolidations, cutbacks. Somebody may be benefiting from these transitions, but it doesn’t seem to be America’s laborers.

OUT OF WORK AND HOMELESS. It is frequently noted that many Americans are just a few paychecks away from being homeless. I have seen this in my work with homeless individuals and families. Many of the neighbors who turn to Horizon House, a homeless day center in Indianapolis, Indiana, do so because they’ve lost good work. They’ve been downsized, expended, or fired. They are truckers, machinists, factory line laborers, telemarketers, warehouse workers, and hotel and food service workers.

COSTLY TRANSITIONS. Job transitions sometimes lead to homelessness. I recall celebrating with one homeless neighbor, a man in his late forties, who finally landed a job with a trucking company. He had been laid off two years earlier. While he tried to cope with his unexpected and extended homeless experience, Horizon House staff and volunteers had helped him mail and fax his job applications to many companies many times. He’s back in the ranks of the employed, but his work transition was costly to him and to the community.

INDUSTRIAL RE-TOOLING. Before it closed a few years ago, I visited the local Visteon facility. In Indianapolis, Visteon made steering components for Ford and other automakers. Visteon used to be Ford. Then, due to being spun-off in one of Ford’s efforts to be more competitive, Visteon had become a competitive supplier to Ford. Its viability depended on its ability to deliver highest quality parts built to Ford specifications at prices that competed with suppliers using cheaper labor in other countries. These transitions occur in many industries without market eyebrows being raised. But the resentment heard in the voices of laborers whose lives are on the line is deep.

COMPANY FAITHFULNESS PAYS? I talked at length with a colorful fellow who has put in thirty-four years at Ford, er, Visteon. He started at this same Ford plant when I was a child. I told him that I don’t know anyone my age who has held less than three different jobs; many of my peers have changed career areas several times. He pointed out person after person who had logged at least thirty years at the plant. For all their company loyalty and reliability, these are the very people corporations are anxious to coax into early retirement or lop off. Younger laborers can be brought in at lower wages.

DOWNSIZED AND SEEKING. While visiting Visteon, I met a middle-aged woman who was representing a non-profit charitable organization. She was a volunteer, out of work, and actively looking for employment. She was articulate and outgoing. She had been a specialist in parking facilities and equipment, working with engineers and architects. Downsized, she tried consulting. Consulting wasn’t paying the bills. She had decided, she said, that she would like to work with a non-profit organization in community service. I wish her, and all like her, good luck.

SPIRITUAL INTEGRITY AT STAKE. Those of us who claim to care about the souls of people should pay close attention to how work and the lack of work impacts these souls. Loss of work, downturns in the economy, and the way we collectively under value workers are not just economic issues—they are profoundly spiritual issues. Wishing people good luck with that job transition is not enough. It’s spiritually hypocritical to dismiss our worker neighbors with a “keep warm and be well fed” banality.

HOW DOES ONE SAVE A DOWNSIZED SOUL? "Saving souls" may begin with walking with a person through the extended pain and promise of a work transition. Saving souls may equally involve challenging the norms of a corporate and market system that is chewing people up and spitting them out in alarming ways at alarming rates. The soul you save may be your own.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

CAVEATS TO WESLEY'S "GAIN ALL YOU CAN" DICTUM

The 18th-century reformer's take on wealth acquisition invalidates Romney's way of gaining all he has. Read carefully.

UNBRIDLED FREE-MARKET SYMPATHIZERS BEWARE!

Perhaps you’ve heard it many times: “Gain all you, save all you can, so you may give all you can.” Attributed to 18th-century English preacher, social reformer, and founder of the Methodists, John Wesley, these words have been grossly oversimplified and misused. Particularly, “gain all you can,” taken out of Wesley’s very carefully-described context in his 50th “standard sermon,” has justified horrific workplace abuses and all manner of ill-gotten gain. 

For the sake of some clarity, here are excerpts from the section on “gain all you can” from Wesley’s message. Titles and highlights are mine. You can read the full sermon “The Use of Money” at this link. Unbridled free-market sympathizers beware! Labor, management, and consumer ethics have much to learn from John Wesley. The implications in a global economy are profound.

NOT AT THE EXPENSE OF ONE’S OWN HEALTH. 


1. The first of these is (he that heareth, let him understand!) "Gain all you can." Here we may speak like the children of the world: We meet them on their own ground. And it is our bounden duty to do this: We ought to gain all we can gain, without buying gold too dear, without paying more for it than it is worth. But this it is certain we ought not to do; we ought not to gain money at the expense of life, nor (which is in effect the same thing) at the expense of our health. Therefore, no gain whatsoever should induce us to enter into, or to continue in, any employ, which is of such a kind, or is attended with so hard or so long labour, as to impair our constitution. Neither should we begin or continue in any business which necessarily deprives us of proper seasons for food and sleep, in such a proportion as our nature requires. Indeed, there is a great difference here. Some employments are absolutely and totally unhealthy; as those which imply the dealing much with arsenic, or other equally hurtful minerals, or the breathing an air tainted with steams of melting lead, which must at length destroy the firmest constitution. Others may not be absolutely unhealthy, but only to persons of a weak constitution… But whatever it is which reason or experience shows to be destructive of health or strength, that we may not submit to; seeing "the life is more" valuable "than meat, and the body than raiment." And if we are already engaged in such an employ, we should exchange it as soon as possible for some which, if it lessen our gain, will, however not lessen our health.

NOT AT THE EXPENSE OF ONE’S SOUL. 

2. We are, Secondly, to gain all we can without hurting our mind any more than our body. For neither may we hurt this. We must preserve, at all events, the spirit of a healthful mind. Therefore we may not engage or continue in any sinful trade, any that is contrary to the law of God, or of our country… Other businesses there are, which however innocent in themselves, cannot be followed with innocence now at least, not in England; such, for instance, as will not afford a competent maintenance without cheating or lying, or conformity to some custom which not consistent with a good conscience: These, likewise, are sacredly to be avoided, whatever gain they may be attended with provided we follow the custom of the trade; for to gain money we must not lose our souls. There are yet others which many pursue with perfect innocence, without hurting either their body or mind; And yet perhaps you cannot: Either they may entangle you in that company which would destroy your soul; and by repeated [experiences] it may appear that you cannot separate the one from the other; or there may be an idiosyncrasy, -- a peculiarity in your constitution of soul, (as there is in the bodily constitution of many,) by reason whereof that employment is deadly to you, which another may safely follow… None therefore can here determine for another; but every man must judge for himself, and abstain from whatever he in particular finds to be hurtful to his soul.

NOT AT THE EXPENSE OF HURTING OUR NEIGHBOR—IN HIS SUBTANCE. 

3. We are, Thirdly, to gain all we can without hurting our neighbor. But this we may not, cannot do, if we love our neighbor as ourselves. We cannot, if we love everyone as ourselves, hurt anyone in his substance. We cannot devour the increase of his lands, and perhaps the lands and houses themselves, by gaming, by overgrown bills (whether on account of physic, or law, or anything else,) or by requiring or taking such interest as even the laws of our country forbid. Hereby all pawn-broking is excluded: Seeing, whatever good we might do thereby, all unprejudiced men see with grief to be abundantly overbalanced by the evil. And if it were otherwise, yet we are not allowed to "do evil that good may come." We cannot, consistent with brotherly love, sell our goods below the market price; we cannot study to ruin our neighbor's trade, in order to advance our own; much less can we entice away or receive any of his servants or workmen whom he has need of. None can gain by swallowing up his neighbor's substance, without gaining the damnation of hell!

NOT AT THE EXPENSE OF HURTING OUR NEIGHBOR—IN HIS BODY. 

4. Neither may we gain by hurting our neighbor in his body. Therefore we may not sell anything which tends to impair health. Such is, eminently, all that liquid fire, commonly called drams or spirituous liquors. It is true, these may have a place in medicine; they may be of use in some bodily disorders; although there would rarely be occasion for them were it not for the unskillfulness of the practitioner. Therefore, such as prepare and sell them only for this end may keep their conscience clear. But who are they? Who prepare and sell them only for this end? Do you know ten such distillers in England? Then excuse these. But all who sell them in the common way, to any that will buy, are poisoners general. They murder His Majesty's subjects by wholesale, neither does their eye pity or spare. They drive them to hell like sheep. And what is their gain? Is it not the blood of these men? Who then would envy their large estates and sumptuous palaces? A curse is in the midst of them: The curse of God cleaves to the stones, the timber, the furniture of them. The curse of God is in their gardens, their walks, their groves; a fire that burns to the nethermost hell!

NOT AT THE EXPENSE OF HURTING OUR NEIGHBOR—BY PROFITING FROM HIS UNHEALTH. 

5. And are not they partakers of the same guilt, though in a lower degree, whether Surgeons, Apothecaries, or Physicians, who play with the lives or health of men, to enlarge their own gain? Who purposely lengthen the pain or disease which they are able to remove speedily? Who protract the cure of their patient's body in order to plunder his substance? Can any man be clear before God who does not shorten every disorder "as much as he can," and remove all sickness and pain "as soon as he can?" He cannot: For nothing can be more clear than that he does not "love his neighbor as himself;" than that he does not "do unto others as he would they should do unto himself."

NOT AT THE EXPENSE OF HURTING OUR NEIGHBOR—IN HIS SOUL. 

6. This is dear-bought gain. And so is whatever is procured by hurting our neighbor in his soul; by ministering, suppose, either directly or indirectly, to his unchastity, or intemperance, which certainly none can do who has any fear of God or any real desire of pleasing Him. It nearly concerns all those to consider this, who have anything to do with taverns, victualling-houses, opera-houses, play-houses, or any other places of public, fashionable diversion. If these profit the souls of men, you are clear; your employment is good, and your gain innocent; but if they are either sinful in themselves, or natural inlets to sin of various kinds, then, it is to be feared, you have a sad account to make. O beware, lest God say in that day, "These have perished in their iniquity, but their blood do I require at thy hands!"

HONEST INDUSTRY WITH ALL POSSIBLE DILIGENCE. 

7. These cautions and restrictions being observed, it is the bounden duty of all who are engaged in worldly business to observe that first and great rule of Christian wisdom with respect to money, "Gain all you can." Gain all you can by honest industry. Use all possible diligence in your calling. Lose no time. If you understand yourself and your relation to God and man, you know you have none to spare. If you understand your particular calling as you ought, you will have no time that hangs upon your hands. Every business will afford some employment sufficient for every day and every hour. That wherein you are placed, if you follow it in earnest, will leave you no leisure for silly, unprofitable diversions. You have always something better to do, something that will profit you, more or less. And "whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might." Do it as soon as possible: No delay! No putting off from day to day, or from hour to hour! Never leave anything till to-morrow, which you can do to-day. And do it as well as possible. Do not sleep or yawn over it: Put your whole strength to the work. Spare no pains. Let nothing be done by halves, or in a slight and careless manner. Let nothing in your business be left undone if it can be done by labor or patience.

WITH COMMON SENSE AND CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT. 

8. Gain all you can, by common sense, by using in your business all the understanding which God has given you. It is amazing to observe, how few do this; how men run on in the same dull track with their forefathers. But whatever they do who know not God, this is no rule for you. It is a shame for a Christian not to improve upon them, in whatever he takes in hand. You should be continually learning, from the experience of others, or from your own experience, reading, and reflection, to do everything you have to do better today than you did yesterday. And see that you practice whatever you learn, that you may make the best of all that is in your hands.