11 August 2011


source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Population_Pyramid_of_Russia_2009.PNG
I spent two nights in a row on airplanes, finally unfolding myself in Moscow last Saturday and flopping my disoriented self into my Elektrostal bed that evening. Had I not promised to be the door-opener at Friends meeting on Sunday, I would probably have been in bed still on Monday morning--cats permitting.

At any rate, things seemed a lot clearer after Monday morning coffee. I walked over to the New Humanities Institute and noticed that Institute's backyard was surrounded by a high fence. Walking around the building, I was able to see what the fence concealed: a brand new foundation for the Institute's new annex. Wow, I leave for a month and a half and look what happens!

I'm truly impressed and encouraged that this daring project has begun. The college-level population is in a slump; birth rates in the corresponding years of the early 1990's were low, and our Institute enrollment has declined. (See the population pyramid at right, which reflects many aspects of Russia's 20th-century Calvary walk.) But in more recent years the birth rate has been increasing. With the Institute's expanded offerings (art and design, and the new tourism faculty) and its programs for children and high school students, it needs to build for the future--despite all the uncertainty of today's world.

A bit of that uncertainty was captured by this brief post, "More Market Indigestion," on the Chicago Reader's Web site:
Well, great. I dump my million shares of Procter & Gamble this morning after they lose $1.71 a share on Wednesday—and today P&G is up $1.94! The Dow rises 423!

I dropped out of the market yesterday after the New York Times advised me that investors were worried about debt problems in Europe. But today, guess what? There was "easing of concerns over Europe’s finances."
Europe's stock markets plunge again, but Wall Street goes up. Commentators comment on market participants' stampeding behavior, while fueling it themselves with their breathless delivery of instant analysis. "A large majority of Americans say the United States is on the wrong track and nearly half believe the worst is yet to come, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday."

Norway's horrible one-person murder spree of last month is followed by Britain's riots. On very different scales, both cases betray evidence of pathological alienation. Standard and Poor's downgrades its rating of the USA's ability to avoid default, causing ripples of anxiety and indignation and an unseemly scramble among politicians to exploit the crisis for election gains. (Causing more alienation?) And just as we get a bit of encouragement on the USA's unemployment front, the American post office announces plans to reduce its workforce by 120,000.

Government officials strain credibility in explaining why we Americans are in Afghanistan when our main security threat is our own solvency--and, in the meantime, we suffer our worst combat losses in the entire campaign.

I would love to think this is a strategic moment for evangelists. In all this anxiety, there seems to be a vacuum of faith. I don't mean an absence of religious language--there's a lot of it in use, too often in the service of savaging one's political opponents. (With some hesitation, I offer this example, which cuts both ways!) I mean the kind of faith that:
  • locates our present and our future in God's own economy
  • values us for our preciousness in God's eyes, not by worldly standards
  • assembles and motivates the Body of Christ to cherish and support each other no matter what happens
  • shows the world that being in a community of believers really can overcome alienation.
So much of the world's discourse, the world's politics, seems based on the constant search to identify, denounce, and destroy enemies. (Or pretending to do so to gain votes. And given the power of religious language, that's just as bad.) In the Lamb's War, we don't search for enemies, we search for prisoners--and do everything we can collectively to free them.

Friday PS: Is the USA guilty of economic "hooliganism"? Michele Berdy, Moscow Times's guide to English-Russian communication, considers correct usages of this term.

Some links from the past week:

Do you have to be in a perfect church to know "the kind of faith" that I mentioned above? Read this: "On the 'One True Church'."

"The Economy of Holiness."

"Why Mums Go to Iceland [this Iceland!] and not to Britain Yearly Meeting." For context, here's the PDF-format epistle from the just-concluded yearly meeting sessions, and a press release.

My heroine of calm economic commentary posts these helpful comments and links.

To my frustration, the New York Times paywall seems to be ... paying off. Seth Mnookin, "The Kingdom and the Paywall."

As the political season in Russia heats up, I'm going to point back to one of my own comments on Western observers.

"Appeals Court Overturns Anti-War Demonstrators' Convictions."

Is this the "weirdest video ever"?

"Stand By Me." This video was shown at (and provided the theme for) the Friends Women banquet at Northwest Yearly Meeting's recent sessions. With over 60 million hits on various sites, you've probably already seen it, but it seemed to fit with the vision of a church that cherishes and supports the community.

Stand By Me | Playing For Change | Song Around The World from Concord Music Group on Vimeo.

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