New Year’s Day – 2019


Who stands firm?  Only the one whose ultimate standard is not his reason, his principles, conscience, freedom, or virtue; only the one who is prepared to sacrifice all of these when, in faith and in relationship to God alone, he is called to obedient and responsible action.  Such a person is the responsible one, whose life is to be nothing but a response to God’s question and call.  – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Back in 2015 I published a book on ethics, you can check it out [here].  My previous book had been on finance so in the summary I wrote for the book jacket I said;

Here, I go beyond questions of personal finance and economics and dare to ask an utterly different question: “What is the will of God?”  Meekoethics is not an attempt at finding a definitive answer.  Rather it is an honest exploration of the questions behind the question and a call to all Christ-followers to sit in submission to the answers they find, get comfortable with discomfort and let God be God. 

The Marlboro Man – who wouldn’t want to be that guy?

Giving control over to God is exceedingly difficult.  We live in a society that prizes individuality and champions the rugged individualist.  For decades the epidemy of manhood was the Marlboro Man, the strong loner who rode his horse, smoked his cigarettes and presumably didn’t give a care about what you thought of him. 

Today the ads may have changed, we no longer prize cigarette smoking as a sign of individuality, but the message remains the same.  Follow your own path, be your own person and the world will respect you for it.  But is that really who we are meant to be?

I’m an introvert but I’m also very social, that’s what the S in ISFJ stands for.  Being a social introvert requires a level of submission to a greater sense of community than most people are willing to attempt.  It is through social interaction that I can observe and listen for the will of God. 

Ultimately it is by listening for and hearing God’s call in my life that I remain focused on the things that truly matter.  Aligning yourself to God’s call often requires releasing things that we hold close, aspects of our personality and worldview that we have developed over years of personal reflection and practice. 

It also means releasing things that we once thought where part of God’s will for us.  That’s the hard part.  Maybe it was God’s will for us to think and behave a certain way, for a time, but no more.  The only way we are going to know that is by listening to God, through social interaction and community, and being willing to let go of things that are no longer working. 

It’s January 1, 2019 and people all over the world are making New Year’s Resolutions.  We are resolving to do new things, stop doing old things and become all around better people.  Most of us will fail in a matter of days, falling back into old habits and old patterns. 

Why?  I’m not qualified to answer that, but I believe that part of it is the fact that we lack proper motivation and accountability.    Before you make a New Year’s Resolution, ask yourself why, what do you hope to get out of this change in behaviour?  Next, pray and make sure that your desire for change is in line with God’s will for your life.  Finally, look for confirmation and an accountability partner, someone who can confirm the voice of God and walk the path with you helping to you stay motivated.    

 Happy New Year – Time to heed the call.

Whom Do We Follow?


I think most people can agree that in 2018 we’re living in unique and uncharted history.

That might sound silly, all history is unique and uncharted while we are living it, but that’s not the point.

The point is that in 2018 things are very different than they have ever been before and the choices we make today can and will have lasting effects on our future.  It’s as if we are standing at a crossroads of history.  Fifty or a hundred years from now people may look back on these moments and say that the era in which we are now living was a major turning point.

History is a funny thing.  It turns all the time.  But this time somehow feels different to me and as I look back over some of the major sociopolitical events of my lifetime I see an accelerating trend that appears irreversible and that is scaring the hell out of me.

Sociologist and historians have begun to refer to our current cultural moment as the turning point from Christendom, in which most people identified, at least nominally, as members of the Christian religion to a new “Post-Christian” period.  For the first time in over 1500 years polls are showing that people who identify as Christian have fallen to less than 50% in most western countries.  And those who identify as having no religion all are the fastest growing segment of society.

What this means for our society is not yet known.  For clues we can look back to the pre-Christian period, that time before the Church became the dominant sociopolitical force but that will only give us a few clues, looking backwards can’t accurately predict the future.

In the pre-Christian period for example the sanctity of life was not a given.  As a result, unwanted babies were simply thrown in the trash, people were bought and sold as nothing more than units of labor, conscripted into armies and treated like “canon fodder” to advance the ambitions of a despotic leader.  Human rights were practically non-existent.

Over the last 1500 years however the Church has played a big role in the slow progression away from these attitudes.  The Church wasn’t perfect but Christian monasteries were the first to take in unwanted children giving them a chance at life, William Wilborforce, a devoted Christian politician, championed the abolishment of human slavery and the Red Cross was founded to help and protect wounded soldiers left to die on the battlefield.

One only needs to look to societies where Christianity has failed to penetrate to see what our future could be.  Abortion, human trafficking and even the failure to adequately care for war veterans were once the exclusive purview of nations heavily influenced by Buddhist, Hindu or Muslim theology.  But as the influence of Christianity wanes these debates are becoming more and more mainstream.

The abortion debate is alive and well as are discussions of Euthanasia and welfare programs.  The poorest members of society continue be victimized by those with wealth and power.  Human trafficking resulting in sexual slavery and indentured servitude is happening right under our noses in every city and province of Canada while arguments regarding how best to educate our children about things like sexuality and the funding for social programs to assist the poorest among us continue to be hijacked by far-right discussions of personal responsibility.  All of this results in the restriction rather than expansion of human rights.

What is the true Jesus follower to do?

First, we must remember that Jesus was no friend of the ruling class.  When Christians align with political power the result is almost always an ugly, misshapen form of oppression.

Jesus was called a friend of sinners, relentlessly pursuing the downtrodden.  What an irony that today his followers are seen in the opposite light!  How can people love God, whom they can’t see if those of us who claim to represent him don’t respond to outsiders with love? David Kinnaman; unChristian; What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity and Why it Matters

It sickens me that Christians can in one breath proclaim the love of Christ and salvation for everyone while voting in politicians who gut social programs, close boarders and deny access to health care on the basis of some misaligned morality and “traditional” values.  There is a huge disconnect and when people really study the teachings of Jesus the untruth of what many of His followers teach becomes glaringly obvious.  The sad fact is that most self-proclaimed Christians refuse to see it or try to explain it away by saying that Jesus didn’t really mean that to apply to us, just to his first century followers.  That quite frankly is heresy.

When people live life the way Jesus intended the result is undeniably counter cultural.

There is nothing more powerful than the Christian life lived out in obedience; there is nothing worse than a flat, self-righteous form of faith that parades around in Christian clothes. David Kinnaman; unChristian; What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity and Why it Matters

Christians who endeavor to embrace Jesus stand out.  They are perpetrators and ambassadors of an entirely new way of living.  The way of Jesus is not the way of politics or religion but the way of discipleship on a completely different plain.

Jesus declares not that he has come to reform religion but that he’s here to END religion and to replace it with himself. – Timothy Keller; King’s Cross

Followers of Jesus are not perfect.  We get it wrong a lot, probably more often than we care to admit.  But our heart is aligned with Jesus, completely and totally.  No pretence, no caveats and no compromise.  We work together in community to study the scriptures and learn from one another to bet better versions of ourselves and better followers of Him each day.

We are not followers of a book, or a set of rules, we are followers of a person.

If your religion does not look like Jesus, it’s heresy, plain and simple.

 

 

Kicking Away the Ladder


(A Lament for Charlottesville, NAFTA and the proper use of Tiki Torches)

It is a very common clever device that when anyone has attained the summit of greatness, he kicks away the ladder by which he has climbed up, in order to deprive others of the means of climbing up after him.  – Friedrich List; The National System of Political Economy

Georg Friedrich List was a German born economist who developed what is known today as the National System of Innovation.  He was a forefather of the German historical school of economics and many of his ideas formed the bases of the European Economic Community, the predecessor of today’s European Union.  His seminal work on the subject of economics and international trade, “The National System of Political Economy” is a three volume set originally published in 1841 which rivals the works of Adam Smith and Karl Marx in terms of lasting influence in the minds of economists the world over.  Sadly List’s ideas were so controversial at the time that he was arrested and exiled to the United States.  He died shortly after the final publication of The National System and never had the opportunity to defend or expand upon his theories.

List’s work focused on a doctrine of national and international management of trade, global collaboration, and supportive interconnectedness.  In sort, Friedrich List was one of the first proponents of comparative advantage and globalization.  The fact that most of his work was completed while living in the United States and the United Kingdom is in no small part responsible for the rise of western domination in international trade over the last century and a half.

In today’s political and economic climate List’s observations regarding protectionism and oppression can be viewed as very timely and prophetic.  Just this past week, behind closed doors in Washington, the United States, Canada and Mexico began the first of several rounds of negotiations aimed at re-writing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  No doubt many of List’s ideas will be front and centre throughout the process, even if many of the negotiators aren’t even conscious of them.

The very people and systems that have used things like tariffs and subsidies to increase trade, and were once in favour of immigration to bolster the workforce and create wealth now actively oppose all attempts of others to use those same devices to achieve the same things.  That, in a nutshell is the current state of international relations and trade, especially in the west were populist sentiment and neo-conservative economic thought prevails.  America was built on immigration, subsidies and cheap labour, now they want to prevent Mexico and punish Canada for doing the same kinds of things in order to protect their own dominance on the world stage.

But that’s not all.

Economics isn’t just about money.  It’s about politics and inter-human relationships as well.  Earlier this week I watched in horror as white men marched through the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia with Tiki Torches chanting “White Lives Matter” and calling for a return to white privilege and the establishment of a so called white homeland.  Nothing is more repulsive than privileged men complaining about a loss of privilege in the most heavily skewed white male privileged society the world as ever known.   If only these men really understood what it meant to be persecuted for the color of your skin, religion, level of education or economic status?

At the end of the day all violence is in some way about economics and a loss of privilege.  Even a miniscule loss of privilege is still a loss of economic influence in a rapidly changing world.    But change is necessary and hanging on to privilege while people scratch and claw their way up the economic ladder is simply impossible.  The only way to do it is to deny the basic humanity in those below you on that ladder.

And that’s what it comes down to; Humanity.   That is humanity defined in terms of benevolence, not just a collective description of the human race.

In 1948 the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  At the time it was a progressive document that envisioned a world very similar to the one proclaimed by the founding fathers in the United States Declaration of Independence.  Among the 30 points adopted by the UN are such stalwarts of humanity as;

Article 1 – We are all born Free and Equal.

Article 7 – We are all equal before the law.

Article 12 – The right to privacy.

Article 20 – The right to public assembly.

Article 21 – The right to democracy.

Article 22 – The right to social security.

Article 26 – The right to education.

Article 30 – No one can take away your human rights.

http://www.youthforhumanrights.org/what-are-human-rights/universal-declaration-of-human-rights/articles-1-15.html

Within the laws of western democracy and any country that is signatory to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, racist rallies like the one that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 13th are an aberration that cannot be tolerated!  Nor can any attempt to restrict trade or curtail immigration.

Freidrich List warned against the potential for both the current contentious NAFTA negotiations and the riots in Charlottesville over 175 years ago.  He could see that at the end of the day, people are selfish and we need institutions like NAFTA and the UN to remind us of our shared humanity.

My prayers are with the victims of racial violence in all its forms and with the men and women tasked with re-negotiating NAFTA.  May we all, first and foremost, remember our shared humanity at times like these.

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

He can be reached at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Saturday Night Live vs Donald Trump


When Humor Isn’t Meant to be Funny

alecbaldwintrumpEver since Alec Baldwin created his Saturday Night Live caricature of Donald Trump and even a bit before that, the late night comedy shows have had a field day making satire out of the political landscape. Of course late night comedy has always gotten laughs through satirical commentary so why should things be any different now? I vaguely remember Dana Carvey’s caricatures of George Bush in the early 90s which rumor has it President Bush himself made it a point to watch so that he could take a moment to laugh at himself.

There is something honestly refreshing about our ability to look at serious issues with a bit of humour. It’s healthy too. Dr. Avner Ziv, chair of the educational sciences department at Tel Aviv University has written extensively on the psychology of humor as an aid to education. His 1984 book “Personality and a Sense of Humor” is his most cited scholarly work on the subject and contains a large section on the purpose of humor in public discourse.

Less serious and self-involved people have held that things might be changed by a less tedious approach – that is, by means of humor. Humor exposes ugly human phenomena (those that render the world almost unbearable) to mockery, in the hope of thereby eliminating them. Man makes a mockery of man. In his efforts at changing and improving mankind, man turns matters he thinks grave into absurdities. He does this sometimes with delicate casualness, sometimes with disrespect, and sometimes with ferocity. The laughter that derives from the perception of absurdity reforms the world. [Avner Ziv – Personality and a Sense of Humor]

For this type of humor to work it must be delivered as broadly as possible. Originally theatre was the means to deliver humorous political commentary today we have the late night comedy show.

thatresatireThe English playwright, Ben Jonson described comedy as an educational instrument its goal is not to make us laugh but to arouse in us a form of moral outrage that leads us to improvement. The French novelist Stendhal concluded that the main aim of comedy is to expose people to mockery. The person who is the object of ridicule may be able to accept a reasoned rebuke without making significant changes, “thanks for the input but that’s just your opinion”, they may say. But that same person may not bear to be laughed at. Just before he died Charlie Chaplin said in an interview that the function of comedy is to sharpen our sensitivities to the perversion of justice.

We are entering a time when politicians seem hyper sensitive to this type of humor. Why, in contrast to former president Bush does Donald Trump refer to Saturday Night Live as “over-rated”, “unfair” and “biased”? Why did a prominent Texas republican senator who once likened president Obama to a Nazi recently say that we need to show more respect to the new president?

Why indeed?

Mockery and satire are the final frontier of political debate. As government becomes more totalitarian descent must become more direct and mean spirited.

Comedy is generally received in a friendly spirit. Satire is not. Its victims fear it as a threat to their power and position. Thus in totalitarian countries satire directed against the ruling powers is banned, and any manifestation of satire earns harsh punishment. [Avner Ziv – Personality and a Sense of Humor]

freespeachWhile most western democracies are a long way from a curtailing freedom of speech it is clear that there is a large contingent of politicians and citizens across the political spectrum who either feel that their only recourse is mockery or that they are being unfairly attacked. As we stand on the threshold of the Trump administration we would all do well to remember that governments do themselves a disservice by prevent or complaining about humor against themselves. Laughter is a safety value for the release of tension and one that should point the ruling party toward what the masses are really thinking. When they ignore it, seek to oppress it or complain too loudly about it they do so at their own peril.

I’m not laughing at any of this political satire anymore. I don’t find it funny in that way, it is very serious and the reaction that Mr. Trump has had to it is downright horrifying. Satire is not meant to illicit laughs it is meant to spark debate in a society where reasoned discourse has been oppressed.  When president Trump consistently complains that his detractors are “over-rated” and “sad” he is doing nothing to advance his agenda or enhance his image, he is fanning the flame. By attempting to discredit his detractors in this way the feelings of hostility will likely continue to increase. As these feelings build up they will create a kind of “pressure cooker” which will explode in time. Without satire and the laughter it invokes this hostility might be demonstrated in far more violent ways.

During the Obama administration we saw the advent of the Occupy Movement, a largely peaceful protest directed at the banks and other large institutional elites. Obama met the concerns of the masses with reasoned discourse and eventually helped temper their fears through the democratic process. I fear that unless the politicians start listening to each other again and learn to laugh at the satirists rather than seek to oppress and discredit them, the next time won’t be so peaceful.

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. He has operated farming operations, a recording studio and a music manufacturing plant, has written 3 books on Economics and Christian Ethics and presented his ideas to business owners and ministry leaders from all over the world. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

Mr. Sheil is currently a Financial Security Advisor and Business Planning Specialist with one of Canada’s premier financial planning organizations.  He is passionate about helping entrepreneurs to live life to the fullest while Eliminating Debt, Building Wealth and Leaving a Legacy.  

He can be reached at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

Blessed Are Those Who Wield Soft Power


softpowerPolitical values like democracy and human rights can be powerful sources of attraction, but it is not enough just to proclaim them. Joseph S. Nye Jr; Soft Power, The Means to Success in World Politics

It is not my usual practice to write a review of a book that I have not yet finished. However; the events of the past several weeks and months leading up to the “peaceful” transition of power in the United States have compelled me to break with my self-imposed tradition.

Over the Christmas break I have been reading through Joseph Nye’s “Soft Power” which was originally published in 2004 at the end of the first term of President George W. Bush. I can’t help but notice a stern warning in these pages against the type of world we may be entering into in the next few weeks. We are standing a crossroads in history in which a populist leader threatens to lead his nation, and by extension the entire world, into a dark age of intolerance, unilateralism and regression the likes of which we have never seen before.

The policies of the Trump administration could set America’s social progress back 50 years and all but destroy their international reputation as an open, welcoming, tolerant and democratic society. As a result the world’s only military superpower could find itself losing key international policy debates in such economically significant and security related decisions as environmental protectionism, nuclear proliferation and terrorist financing to the interests of Russia, China, the European Union and non-state actors like ISIL and OPEC.

This simply cannot be allowed to happen.

flagworldThe term “Soft Power” was coined by Joseph Nye in 1990 in his book “Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power”. Mr. Nye is the former dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, the former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Affairs under President Bill Clinton and is currently a University Distinguished Service Professor at Harvard. His credentials in international affairs are beyond reproach. He actually developed the concept of Soft Power over a long carrier in academics and government which began in the late 1970s but only started using the term extensively after it first appeared in the aforementioned book.

He wrote:

When one country gets other countries to want what it wants this might be called co-optive or soft power in contrast with the hard or command power of ordering others to do what it wants.

Ever since its founding the United States has enjoyed a large proportion of what is now known as soft power. The ideals of democracy, liberty and justice that undergird the US Constitution have been beacons of hope for hundreds of millions of people world-wide for nearly 200 years. It is this soft power, more so than its military or economic might that has helped transform the world from a collection of feudal empires into a largely democratic and capitalist one. American soft power, the attractiveness of democracy and an open society, far more so than the threat of nuclear annihilation or economic isolation is what eventually ended the Cold War.

eagleBut the tide is changing and I fear that a Trump administration and other populist movements around the world are only going to serve to accelerate this change, diminish American influence and usher in an era of instability and violence similar to that which caused two World Wars during the first half of the last century.

The countries that are likely to be more attractive and gain soft power in the information age are those with multiple channels of communication that help to frame issues; whose dominant culture and ideas are closer to prevailing global norms (which now emphasize liberalism, pluralism, and autonomy); and whose credibility is enhanced by their domestic and international values and policies… To the extent that official policies at home and abroad are consistent with democracy, human rights, openness, and respect for the opinions of others, America will benefit from the trends of this global information age. But there is a danger that the United States may obscure the deeper message of its values through arrogance. – Joseph S. Nye Jr; Soft Power, The Means to Success in World Politics

Professor Nye wrote those words in 2004, at a time when America was going it alone in an unpopular war with Iraq. At that time when the world looked at America they saw a country that, while it may have started to betray some its founding values in the name of security against religious extremists it was at least consistent in its application of those values at home. Any damage caused to America’s soft power was limited to its politicians and foreign policy. Today I am afraid that the hypocrisy of the Iraq war pales in comparison to the hypocrisy apparent in Trump’s domestic policy. These policies have the potential to betray the very founding principles of “life, liberty and justice for all.”

Just as the Cold War was won through diplomacy and the effective wielding of soft power, I fear that the next war, cold or hot, will be lost through the ignorance, arrogance and cultural ineptitude of populist movements that have no regard for the soft power of liberalism and pluralism that has served progress so well for so long.

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. He has operated farming operations, a recording studio and a music manufacturing plant, has written 3 books on Economics and Christian Ethics and presented his ideas to business owners and ministry leaders from all over the world. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

Mr. Sheil is currently a Financial Security Advisor and Business Planning Specialist with one of Canada’s premier financial planning organizations.  He is passionate about helping entrepreneurs to live life to the fullest while Eliminating Debt, Building Wealth and Leaving a Legacy.  

He can be reached at themeekonomicsporject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Quote of the Day – 12/11/2016


For ever so long, each year millions of children painfully died on our planet. Second, and unlike just a century ago, now most of the horror can be readily prevented. But, third, a great deal of what’s so preventable isn’t prevented. Finally, for years to come, this sad situation will continue. So, it may be usefully fair to say that, in our era, at least, this is a perennially rotten world. – Peter Unger; Living High and Letting Die