There is a disagreement in Christianity if the world can be helped at system level, and if yes, if a Christian is allowed to do so.

First position: it’s forbidden

Some people hold the opinion that the world cannot be really helped at the system level. Because man is, in essence, really bad. And even if it would be possible to implement a just social system that stays stable in spite of man’s sin nature, this would just confirm mankind to live out this nature, that is, drive him more away from God.

Helping, in this view, is nothing more than acting out of love and compassion towards individual people. Without the motivation (or allowance) to see the causes of the problem at the system level and to help there. Because helping the individual that was wrecked by the system offers the possibility to explain the Gospel as ones motivation to an attentive individual. Whereas this is not possible when helping at system level, and if succeeding there, the system would not even create attentive individuals by wrecking them.

People with this view offer the Gospel as the solution to the sad state of the world, and understand it to be this message: man is totally depraved, but God is prepared to forgive anybody who seeks forgiveness in Christ Jesus. This message offers no hope of improvement at system level for the remaining time on earth (there will never be so much Christians that they influence the system). This message also offers no hope of improvement by immediate, miraculous help by God (this might happen, but is an exception meant to show God’s presence). This message offers hope of improvement for the time after death.

Second position: it’s demanded

Other Christians are motivated by Christian compassion and benevolence to help people in misery. Then they think about how to help best with the few resources they have, and they see some kind of help at the system as the best solution for this. Because, it might be so much more effective to prevent calamities (like AIDS infections) than to cure them. These Christians see their service at system level as a part of their service for God, and as an adequate expression of being “light of the world”, and even as a way to make people think about God and the Gospel.

Third position: help by bottom-up replacement

The above two positions are, in my current view, expressions of different concepts of God. In the first position, God’s love is no real, benevolent love, but a hard, uncompassionate attitude that just wants people to “get saved” (though pure theory until heaven) and is not interested in their suffering from unnecessary calamities. The conception of God in the second position is close to mine, but I must admit that some logic on how to help the world is better in the first position.

Because, this is true through history: any system-level help for the world has been prone to decay and won’t help in the long term. From the Christian perspective, this is because it deals with symptoms but does not change persons. The only way to change persons would be if these persons start to believe; so the only system-level help is transforming the world into a church of believers. According to Jesus’ last words on earth. We will probably not succeed fully, but partially.

So, here is my attempt of a third position:

I think that the church is the help at system level, by being the new system to replace the old. It is intended to implement God’s idea of living, which is true help on system level. People can profit from the new system by being in its proximity, but to really get helped, they need to take part by believing in Christ. The church is the visible part of God’s kingdom, the area where government has to be done in reversed pyramid scheme, the area where changing people meet and which therefore enables a social system that would not work with still “totally depraved” people.

So if you want to contribute at system level: build God’s kingdom, in all areas of life. The essential part is no never conceal the necessity to change in heart – else the new system will fail in eternity, but also in this world, as it currently does in Western societies based on Christian values but lacking Christians. To let church properly take its role as “the new social system”, church would include more of its members’ lifes than is current practice in highly civilized societies: living together, helping each other, working together, even being an autarchic cell.

The interesting, and non-convential thing about church is: it is a bottom-up change, a grassroots movement. While all other help on system level wants to achieve that through a top-down change, controlled by a central instance, but forced upon unchanged and rejective people. (So, never try to make church a centrally organized system. Church is a local and autonomous group, joined by faith to other groups in the worldwide church, not by organizational links.)

It is hard to see why people always think that the help at system level has to be to down, and by force. The effects are not only short-lived (as can be seen in history), it is also very hard to invent a working top-down system, and to manage it. I lately read an highly interesting discussion about economic systems (“Utopien des Weltinnenraums und seiner Umwelt“; German). If you read it, read also through all the comments. Though cool to read, the discussion also shows that there is a great cluelessness about how to create a just and stable economic system in a top-down approach. Compared to top-down methodology, large systems in nature use a “complex system approach”: entities only interact with their local environment in a meaningful way, and globally meaningful behavior emerges from that. The human body, for example, seems to work in many aspects that way, including the brain. That’s far different from a top-down strictly hierarchical design like a computer or an army.

Another reason for the bottom-up approach is: even if anybody had any idea how to help top-down, it could not be implemented, as there would be mighty people opposed to it. So the only way is to start at the local level. And the only help possible there is a community of changed people, as autarchic as possible to be isolated from the surrounding system’s deterioration.

In the Christian view, a community of changed people is a church of people who accepted the Gospel. With un-changed people, these communities would quickly deteriorate into authoritarian structure that grow like cancer and if successful, replace the current system with another instance of the same, authoritarian system. Now the church will never include more than just a few percent of humankind, but the good news is that, as a local system, people in church are better off even if there’s only one local church in the world. This system does not need global scale to help; it scales from 2 persons to infinity.

Some ideas how to make one local church to the local system which provides help to the world at system level, and thus helps people before their earthly death:

  • The central idea is to use possessions (in the sense of resources one has but does not need for oneself) for the good of all. This is enacted by education in changed people. But it cannot be enacted in unchanged people, so that it results there in all the problems that the misuse of possession brings: being able to exploit others, being able to aggregate even more possessions to even better exploit others. Now in the sense of the idea presented here, richness would still be allowed, as it’s unjust to level out all differences that resul
    t from different productivity of persons, but effective education would guarantee voluntary levelling out. This value is even part of the German constitution: “Property is an obligation. Its use shall at the same time serve the benefit of all.” (GermanGrundgesetz art. 14 section 2; original in German).
  • Have a system based on voluntary action, and education of all members towards that, rather than any formal system of wealth distribution.
  • Have a system of giving and generosity rather than a system of taking and getting ones legal right. This is after the example of the donations to the first church in Jerusalem, which we can read about in Acts.
  • As long as people work in their jobs (the church being no economically autarchic unit, and there is no strict need for it to be this): educate people to understand that money is a means to help others, not primarily meant for private luxury.
  • Create voluntary “pools” of money to distribute to members (and others) in need, by the example found in early Acts. To prevent lazyness, this must be combined with the permanent education of people that they must work for their own needs as good as possible. The secret of this system is that this education will work because people basically accepted the authority of God, whereas it does not work outside church for lazy people, and therefore dooms liberalism.
  • Spend really much time together, also working together etc.. Employ modern IT to coordinate, if necessary.
  • Have food autarchy (in cities, by guerilla gardening).
  • Have simple medical help within church, like physiotherapy.
  • Only if organizationally necessary, have a clear understanding who is inside the church (within the autarchic solidarity group) and who is without (receiving voluntary donations and benefits, but only if left over after distribution in church is done).
  • Prepare being mobile, i.e. for quickly leaving the current country to live in another, also in autarchy right from the start. This might be necessary if the surrounding system gets really bad (civil war, immiserization etc.).
  • If possible (and not being an utopia), have a subgroup develop into a “power community”, which will be the “special forces” service unit that serves both the community and the surrounding society in special needs.

Found a cool quote in the comment section of a blog that will motivate me for some time to stay self-employed. Though it’s no box of chocolates either. Here it goes:

Employment is slavery! In the really important years of my life I do not want to let others tell me when to get out of bed, how long to work in his house, how long I’m allowed to go on vacattion (if at all). That is slavery beyond doubt! You just have to compare it with the possible self-determined life that you could have if you would be no slave.
You guys, wake up for a moment and rattle at your chains and don’t discuss if there are any.
[comment 37229 on, original in German, emphasis per original]

If you work for money, you also work for war. Let’s calculate how long.

As you cannot decide for what your country will use the taxes you pay, and as money is a quantity, individual money paid does not retain its “individuality”. Meaning you pay a part of all your country’s expenses. And as for example Germany has a 10% defense budget, 10% of your taxes or approx 5% of your gross income resp. work time are used for war machinery. Which means 13 minutes each day, given you have a normal 8 hours/day job on 200 days each year.

Why is it that there is so few real (authentic and helpful) community in our Western societies? At least in Germany? At least in the part of Germany that I know?

Community, just as climate and faith, is no material entity, but rather a statistical figure, or if you want, an informational entity. That is, we must beware of category errors, so as to mix up these categories of entities in language. Therefore, let us not think that community “is there” if some preconditions are met, instead it “can be measured” wherever it is made up, and the “preconditions” are the positive influence factors.

But in our current state of society, there are many negative influence factors (to be detailed out). So that, due to lack of knowledge and as a “least common denominator” in society, practical community in groups larger than two is normally confined to sitting down, eating, and talking superficial stuff.

When talking against small talk here, I don’t want to not surpass the fact that, at times, the content of small talk is only the meaningless vehicle to implement important non-verbal communication, like showing interest in another person, showing love, but also (and more common) showmanship and self-display etc.. In these situations, you can forget about the content, but what is important is the mode of communication: respecting or not respecting the communication partner(s), letting them talk or cutting in, the intention of the jokes employed etc..

Why was Jesus born in a manger? ‘Cause of all the merciless religious crazy people who’d not let his mother in a house, ’cause she was pregnant bot not married. Hey c’m’ on, if it’s your home town, you know some people there, and can ask them if they have a room if you’re in a real distress. Everybody has at least one room left. But religious hypocrites don’t have one, if it’s for a pregnant unmarried woman. No sinners in the house, please. So, welcome to the real world, Jesus. Your first experience was to be kicked out by religious crazy people … . Sad, but true.

Here’s a thought that regularly came to me when talking with tax consultants, lawyers, gamers and teachers (with permission for one country’s school system), to name some.

There are two sorts of skills: those useful in a certain culture, and those universally useful. Of course that’s a rather rough model, as every skill has varying parts of both.

Acquiring cultural skills is to learn the rules man made up for navigating and operating in a certain society. To me, such haphazardly defined rules have no worth and no justification. It’s a waste of time to become an expert in them (while it’s surely necessary to learn the basic rules, as it’s an interface to ones current society).

Personally, I never had the motivation to acquire one of the above mentioned skills, and also not to learn a rare language, become an expert in doing my German income statement for the tax, learn to play a complex game and the like. Simply because these are not useful in a global context. That’s my personal globalization, so to speak. I’d rather want to become an expert in English, cross-cultural understanding, social skills, computing, technology, mechanical construction and the like, as these are globally relevant and will help me when traveling and living in different places of this world.

I just read the Vierte Berliner Rede (4th Berlin speech) of the German Federal President Horst Köhler. It answered some of my questions regarding global economic foundations and principles of function, but only some. I’ll elaborate here on some stuff that I got inspired to when reading that speech.

Köhler said that all industrial nations where national debt increased in times of increasing welfare are nations where all the people lived beyond their means. He called national debt a draft on the future: something that has to be paid back by future generations. (And I would add: either by state bankruptcy with its negative bye-effects on economy, by inflation or by indeed paying the debts.) Köhler gave a cool and simple explanation of what national debt means. But to me, at least one question remains:

Calling national debt a draft on the future hides the fact that this money got distributed as salaries in the whole nation. The naive judgment would be that people profited from national debt by either getting the stuff the state bought (streets, schools, unemployment benefit, …) and / or salary for working for the state.

A basic creed of our economic system is: the needs of man are infinite, but the means to fulfill them are finite. That should be rather: the greed of man is infinite, and the means to fulfill his greed are finite. But the needs of man are finite, and the means to fulfill his needs are infinite. How that? Because the world is full of ever-renewing resources like fresh water, wood, energy from the sun etc.. These resources are enough to give a mankind of limited size what it needs, for all eternity long (i.e. at least 5 billion years, as our sun will last as long).

Need is a wish that’s justified, while greed is a wish that is not objectively justified. Wanting water, food, protection, social community, a nice workplace and health is justified, as this is what human nature needs. Nature can afford all this for us all, and even adds bonus on top of that. As nature is made by a God who gives freely and richly to all. But wanting to be mightier than all other people, or to own a luxury ship, or to jet around the world all life long is greed: it’s motivated by a defective mind in the sense that it lacks something very basic (some say, God) that it tries to cover up by materialism. In terms of need, greed can be recognized by the fact that somebody owns something that he cannot peruse: a billionaire can never use his ship to the extent that a travel business can use theirs. The sad thing here is: potential welfare is lost here, as it’s lost wherever a resource is not used to its full potential, that is, wherever something is bought that is not needed. That way, greed takes the resources that other people on the planet need (and causes poverty), and that future generations need (as in the case of oil, coal etc.). Put another way round, greed can be recognized by the fact that nature could not provide this stuff to all people. Luxury is not necessarily greed, as I said above that nature adds a bonus. But wanting excessive luxury, on the cost of the current and future generations, is greed.

Now, back to the national debts and the financial crisis. The problem is that both the state and individuals were able to utilize the money system to fulfill their greed. That’s possible because of credits (as a general option, or, because of way too much volume for credits). A credit means that money can go where it does not fulfill people’s needs, just because it fulfills the business owners’ and / or money owners’ greed by means of the rate of return. With every share of an automotive business, shareholder accepted over-production just because they got their rate of return.

Put another way round, credits increase the speed of economy. Without credits (or with credits only for very special cases), the speed would be way slower: companies would have to be in business for decades and save money before they can build their own building. But every company that is in business while having debts did increase the speed of economy beyond what’s sound and healthy. Unhealthy speed means “freedom without personal responsibility” (to use Köhler’s words), and this is enabled by credits. Now, we need to ask, if money is just a means of value exchange, who did give the credits to companies, and that way enabled them to build up an unhealthy economy that fulfills our greed (but not even our needs, e.g. our social needs, because we work way too much). The answer: in industrial nations, the value comes from the millions of small and big investors, of people like you and me, who deposit their money at a bank, in shares or in a fund, to gain from the rate of return. These people allowed others the freedom to use their money without any responsibility, i.e. they gave the might that’s associated with money away, which led others to concentrate that might by means of credits!

So, basically, the economy’s crisis is the fault of a greedy public. People wanted a rate of return just for their money, without being personally responsible for what’s done with the money. They were too lazy to move its ass for a rate of return. Ok, many have worked for the money they saved (ironically, in a company that probably lives on credits itself). But the next step would have been to found an own zero-debt business that ethically tries to fulfill the need of people, and refuses to fulfill greed.