Monday, April 28, 2008

It Occurs to Me ...

“He who covers his sins shall not prosper; but those who confess and forsake them shall have mercy.” Proverbs 28:13

It occurs to me as I awake and start lining out my day that I pay little attention to the Lord and His way for my day. Instead I make my coffee, get the newspaper and see what happened in the world, check the online news services for updated information, and then decide what I need to be doing today especially since I’m preparing to sell my home and relocate for my first full-time pastorate. Though it is difficult to classify what I do as I line out my day as “sinful”, failing to give the Lord His due as I prepare to start my day certainly has the potential to keep that door open.

Being spiritually ambivalent is dangerous because there is no gray area when it comes to our allegiance to the Lord just as Jesus told His disciples that “he who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.” (Matthew 12:30) I think maybe it is as simple as this: if we do not align ourselves with Him first thing each day we risk facing each day alone. We may not be actively involved in evil, but we may also miss something good.

To merely exist until death is not the way of a disciple of Christ. We have a charge to keep and a task to go about in whatever way is conducive to our particular gifts. It is to our advantage and certainly to His glory that we be mindful of this as the core of our existence and do our work and go about our day just as if we had invited Him to walk with us. Imagine a world behaving as if the Prince of Peace were watching!

Saturday, April 26, 2008


Acts 17:22-31
1 Peter 3:13-22
John 14:15-21

If we were to paint a portrait of our faith - not what we think it should be nor what we think it is but rather how it really is - what might it look like? What sorts of colors and hews and shapes and abstracts would be involved in order to proclaim a faith by which we declare ourselves redeemed or saved or preserved or whatever other word we may choose to describe that faith and what it really means to us – or whether it really means anything at all?

Would it look like a Picasso with the weird faces that don’t really look like faces? Might it look like an abstract that in most ways may resemble only what could be more accurately described as a paint spill? Would it be a colorful clown that might amuse some but might also remind others of “Pennywise”, the spooky clown featured in the Stephen King novel and movie It? Or perhaps it might look something like a landscape, a serene waterfall cascading down from a snow-capped mountain backdrop feeding a creek that courses its way through a meadow with soft rolling hills featuring nature at its finest and purest?

To be sure, art is abstract. Art is the attempt to tell a story or express emotions set to colors or music or drawings or even poetic words and phrases. I am not particularly artsy though I love classical music. Some poetry has profound expressions that I sometimes enjoy even if I don’t always understand what the poet is truly trying to say. And as far as paintings go, I look at the picture itself and see only whether it pleases my senses or my sense of style or decoration, neither of which I really have anyway. I only want to determine whether it will match the environment in which I will choose to apply it. In this sense, I couldn’t care less what the artist was trying to say. I need only to know whether it suits me and my own purpose … or whether I even need it at all.

I often wonder how it is that religion and faith fit into our lives and whether these are abstract notions that we find difficult to define, or if they are both something very real, very tangible to which we are affiliated and which we heartily embrace not for our own sakes but for the sake of something much greater and larger than self. How we approach and evaluate our faith may have everything to do with whether we can put it down on paper or canvas or whether we can set it to music beyond picking a favorite hymn. It might also be that we would fall far short of Peter’s encouragement to “be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands of you an accounting for the hope that is in you …” (1 Peter 3:15) Are we able to express this in words or music or a painting that will match the decorum of our soul, or is our faith as abstract and difficult to define as art itself?

Try to consider for a moment what St. Paul is encountering in Athens. Imagine him walking around and taking in the sights and the temples and the statues and the monuments when suddenly he finds the one marked, “To an unknown god”. It is apparent by what is written in Acts that Paul is fully prepared to give a good defense, but he does not tell the story by demanding adherence to a particular doctrine or practice. Instead he chooses to paint a picture by telling a story, and he starts from pretty much the beginning in order to establish a relevant background. It would be the difference between painting a full portrait of our faith or simply taking a snapshot with a Polaroid. Which is going to offer a fuller expression?

Notice also how he not only expresses his own sense of hope but also hands to the Athenians a hope they can possibly embrace for themselves when he states that the earth was inhabited by God’s own creation “so that they would search for God … and find Him.” Paul then adds a little of the words of Athenian poets who expressed that “we, too, are His offspring.” (Acts 17:27-28) It would appear, then, that a story is beginning to take shape without demanding anything of the Athenians except an open ear and an open heart. He appeals to their intellect, most certainly, but he also gives them a perspective from which they can define faith’s foundation. The words he offers to them are not without some meaning and some context within their own society and way of thinking, and he attempts to force nothing upon them that they are not ready for.

Jesus says that the fruit of our love for Him will manifest itself in our obedience to His commandments. If we were to attempt to draw a portrait of this image, what would it look like? Which “commandment” would we choose to portray? It tends to be that we likely have a more negative connotation of what “commandment” may look like, and the image conveyed would probably more resemble a Man of War dressed for battle. “Commandment” is typically associated with “you better not or else” rather than expressing the hope, the foundation, and the opportunities for ministry that abound in its proper context. Before we can paint this portrait to express our own understanding of what it is and what it may look like, we must first be able to embrace it for what it really is.

I never cared much for “or else” theology although I will be the first to submit that there are expectations and moral standards required of us no less so than what the Lord expected and demanded of the Israelites because the purpose of these “commandments” reaches far beyond self. They are our witness, our sure faith, our certain hope that there is something far Greater than what we can hope to attain or to achieve for and by ourselves.

It is, dear friends, the portrait of our faith that identifies a satisfied hunger and a quenched thirst to those so desperately searching for genuine meaning to an otherwise bleak and purposeless existence. It is the portrait that tells the whole story …. IF we are prepared to embrace it ourselves.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Right and the Wrong

I cannot help but to wonder exactly what the real issue is behind the legal raid at the FLDS compound in west Texas that has led to the removal of over 400 children who will presumably be placed in foster care pending a thorough investigation of what was really happening inside this enclosed community of polygamous Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints (FLDS). It should be noted here that these do not have official ties to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the LDS having stopped the practice of polygamy many moons ago.

To be sure, the law was granted an excuse to raid the compound by an anonymous, alleged 16-year-old girl who made a phone call and insisted that she had been forced to marry a 50-year-old man and bear his children. In our greater society, this is just plain wrong not only because of her age but because we just do not believe in “shotgun weddings” or arranged marriages. It is not our way because women are human beings, not possessions to be bartered or sold. Still, this alleged child-bride has yet to be identified, so we don’t really know who made the call or what actually took place. Given this seemingly insignificant detail, however, we must consider that any disgruntled person could have made that call for any number of reasons. Anonymity has its place but when one is accused of legal transgressions, one must surely have a right to face one’s accusers.

What did the law find upon its raid of the FLDS compound? Judging by the media reports they found a community that looks after itself, cares for one another, shares resources, and educates its happy, healthy children. The only real proof of abuse currently rests exclusively on an as yet unidentified caller. No doubt they will find, or have already found, child brides but what are we really seeing? It is a culture that seems foreign to us because it is different and chooses to segregate itself from American culture (however this may be defined), but there are inconsistencies which should be apparent if we would be willing to look a little more closely and determine whether or not these people are being treated fairly. As it is right now, more than 400 innocent children have been traumatized, but who will have done the real harm: the lifestyle from which the children have been forcibly removed, or American society at large that does not understand such a culture?

In this country the most vocal pro-abortion forces insist, and Arkansas’ own Senator Blanche Lincoln has supported such measures, that girls under the legal age of 18 have a “right” to an abortion if they so choose. Senator Lincoln recently supported a measure that would have allowed any legal-aged adult to transport a minor across state lines – without parental consent - for the purpose of obtaining an abortion, never seeming to consider that the legal adult could well have been the doomed child’s father working to cover up his indiscretion or molestation. In this context, then, if a minor child can make such a life-altering decision on her own and choose her own transport and not be required to notify her parents, why does this same law only recognize her as a “child” who cannot enter into legally binding contracts, including marriage, as she may freely choose?

There is another point to consider in a nation in which it is said that half of all marriages end in divorce. Presumably those who have endured these multiple divorces have remarried. Surely we all know some who have remarried three, four, five times and more only having been legally separated from the previous marriages but having been “sentenced” to alimony payments to the former wives. These men (predominately so) are still held legally responsible by law for the maintenance of these wives, so there is still a legal definition that maintains a tie between the two. In the eyes of the Church, generally speaking, one makes a commitment to God when “the two shall become one flesh” and remain married until death, inseparable by what “God has joined together”.

What have these FLDS done that is so wrong? Aside from ALLEGEDLY forcing – or allowing – minor children to wed, they at least seem to be a little more stable in their relationships than at least half of all married Americans now. The vast majority of these FLDS seem perfectly content with how they live, and there are no allegations I am aware of that they kidnap unwilling participants or brain wash anyone. That their children grow up within such a society in which these seemingly strange practices exist does not make for a need to disturb these communities unless, of course, it can be proved that any form of “slavery” (ie, unwilling participation) actually took place.

What FLDS, Scientology, the Masons, and the Amish and any other closed society or culture has done or does practice and has contributed to American society’s greater misunderstanding is to remain so closed that outsiders cannot get a peek inside to better understand the culture and practices which exist. In the case of those who practice polygamy, it is understandable that they separate themselves from society at large because they are involved in what is deemed to be an illegal practice in this country.

Aside from this, however, and especially in a country in which our “rights” have ultimately become the “gods” we worship, how can we penalize such practices that seem to do no real harm while seeming to celebrate multiple marriages and divorces, child custody battles in which the children are forced to participate and pick sides, and continuing battles over maintenance payments and generally bad blood? I will bet that there has been more harm done to children having been forced to endure bad marriages, selfish parents, and ugly divorce and custody battles than to children who share a home with common wives and one husband.

I do not necessarily condone polygamy. Indeed, the last thing I need in my life is another wife who is smarter than I but if I were financially able to support another wife and successfully divide my emotions and affections in such a way, what would be the real harm done if the home is relatively stable and everyone well cared for? For those Bible-believing Christians the answer might be simple, but even we Christians do not necessarily agree on every little thing so such a standard of measure would be unfair if unrealistic.

I am not sure what the answer is in such cases and I am left with little other recourse than to hope that professionals will be able to ascertain that the children are being cared for responsibly and that the wives are not enslaved in any manner against their own stated will. Will even a legal charge of polygamy against the adults make much difference? Not likely very simply because the faith of the FLDS will help them to endure. If the government of Texas and/or the United States deems subsequent marriages beyond the original to be null and void, it will not likely affect the previously existing household since the vows they took presumably transcend the authority of the government of man.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Which Way?

Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16
1 Peter 2:2-10
John 14:1-14

A recent Internet discussion on theology reminded me of a couple of things. First I was reminded that no matter how anyone tries to tell us that we are somehow better connected because of the Internet, we are in my opinion somewhat less connected than before because we can typically hide behind the Internet when we want to play dirty or call names while remaining safely anonymous; a personal, human element is missing. Secondly, I was reminded that no matter how much we may consider ourselves “united” or “of one mind”, we are nevertheless a pack of individuals each with a capacity to understand according to our own individual experiences, intellect, and interpretations as well as by where we each happen to be on our own faith journey. Whether any one of us can ultimately claim to be “right”, especially as theology goes, is, in my own opinion, somewhat arrogant; hence the divisiveness of the Church itself.

The Internet challenge was a question pertaining to some of the rather graphic moments as recorded in Joshua, Numbers, and in other OT books as to whether the Lord Himself actually ordained the slaughter of innocent women and children as Israel was preparing to occupy The Promised Land. These are very good books, but they do not paint a very pretty picture of “the people of the Lord” and it makes reconciliation between OT and NT difficult if not impossible for some because this “loving” NT God somehow seems to have a less-than-loving OT past. Especially for those who read and interpret the Bible literally, it can be difficult to reconcile these two images. So if Jesus has presented Himself as the personification of the Lord God and we accept it as written, how do we get comfortable with the OT image of “the mighty smiter”?

Throughout His recorded ministry, Jesus displays the full range of emotions but anger only seems to show itself at the Temple as in Luke 19:45 when He “drives out” the money changers and those who were buying and selling commercially thus making worship in the Temple difficult if not impossible for those with limited means. Yet those who put their hands on Jesus to arrest Him, torture Him, humiliate Him, and ultimately kill Him seemed to walk away scot-free. The OT God was ready to do away with the entire nation of Israel and start over with Moses and his family after the Golden Calf made its appearance due to the fear, impatience, and lack of faith of the “people of God” who had, incidentally, only recently been released from 400 years of harsh slavery. It seemed only to be by the prayerful intervention of Moses that stayed this harsh judgment.

We cannot deny that Israel had it coming, yet the Lord relented by the word of a mere mortal man. Did He relent only because they were Hebrews or only because it was Moses asking? Either way, there seems to be some heavy favoritism considering that those who were slaughtered in Israel’s path prior to their occupation were not Hebrew.

One might suggest that the slaughter was the result of man having gone mad or beyond what was necessary due to the heat and passion of battle and that such atrocities were merely recorded by man but not necessarily divinely ordained. Was this how it was really ordained to have been, or are we looking at the writings of someone attempting to justify the brutality that was committed in the name of their God? Lest we forget, we face an enemy today that makes the same claim against so-called “infidels”.

I sometimes wonder what we really expect from our faith journey or whether we even have expectations except to “go to heaven”. Peter encourages us to “grow in salvation” (1 Peter 2:2) which would imply a continuing dynamic and not necessarily nor exclusively a destination, but he doesn’t really spell out for us what this salvation may look like and what may come of it except that we become “God’s own people” (1 Peter 2:10).

Is this what we should desire? We might think so except for those who have a difficult time with the OT image of the Lord and what He seemed to have expected from His people. For those trying to reconcile the OT God with the NT God, however, this might be a tall order because “God’s own people” slaughtered those who stood between them and the Promised Land, seemingly by divine order. Is this what “salvation” looks like, to acquire what we ultimately desire even at someone else’s expense? After all, they were seeking to capture the Land the Lord promised to them. Should this be our desire; is this “the Way”, the “Truth”? What about the “Life” Jesus claims to be? We may have that life as long as someone else pays the price?

So when Jesus makes His divine claim of being “the way, the truth, and the life”, what sort of claim is being made? In the first place, this is not a stand-alone statement. There is a whole discourse that is transpiring, and the disciples don’t seem to be fully plugged in to what Jesus is trying to tell them. In fact, if there has been any divine image problem in the past (and I think by the confrontations Jesus had with the spiritual leaders throughout the Gospels, there must have been), Jesus is trying now to dispel the notions of a harsh, mean, vindictive God who is nothing more than an Enforcer. This is not to say that there are not lines we must not cross, but there is much more to the Holy Father and a good, sound image of Him than the Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees allowed.

The “way” that Jesus is referring to is the lead into the Ultimate Truth about the Lord God, and this “way” is the path to Eternal Life that is offered to us only through a merciful God who came to us IN PERSON because man had nearly completely fouled up His Divine Image. He is a God of judgment and justice and those who turn their backs on Him will eventually answer to Him whether they like it or not. Refusing to believe in a spiritual truth does not make it any less true.

The Truth, however, is not revealed to us so that we may win an argument with a non-Christian. Rather, the Truth is revealed to us so that we may faithfully represent that Truth. The Truth, dear friends, is the accurate portrayal of the Lord our God, and He is depending on us to be faithful to this Image so that the True Covenant of Life may continue to be offered to all … as it was always meant to be and will be forevermore.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Social (In)Security

It was not so long ago when President Bush decided to spend some of his “political capital” getting the Congress to engage in a conversation with him about how to shore up Social Security. Today, however, there are upwardly spiraling fuel prices putting the squeeze on transportation, there is a home mortgage crisis about which government leaders are debating to what extent – if any – the government should provide assistance, there is a continuing loss of jobs, and there is a severe credit crunch in this country which essentially means that it is not only the government living on borrowed money. And lest we forget, there is still a war on, a war that will not go away any time soon no matter how much we may wish it so.

When President Bush approached Social Security shortly after his reelection, the nation was told that the System would be flat broke in 40 years. In trying to head off this impending crisis, Mr. Bush made some pretty radical proposals including privatizing a certain portion of Social Security. The devil is in those details, of course, but it is not a point of matter in what I think this government and, indeed, this nation is going to have to do to take Social Security more seriously.

Of course every politician up for reelection will thump his or her chest and tell the nation’s elderly that they need not worry about “their” Social Security, “not while there is still breath in my lungs!”, they say. The promises are sure and true that “no matter what, YOUR Social Security will be safe.” What they don’t say is that in order to fund the sort of shortfalls predicted, there will have to be a massive increase in payroll tax withholding. There was a lot of wind blown, but not much else got done until the midterm elections started to roll around and then the discussion just sort of faded away.

Regardless of how one feels about the proposals President Bush put forth, the fact remains that the funding shortfall issue of Social Security is still hanging over our heads. Now our economy is headed toward recession (depending, of course, upon whom one is speaking to), and everyone with a financial problem is virtually standing on the steps of the Congress with his hand out demanding a government bail-out. And with elections just around the corner, it is a near certain bet that there will be some sort of consumer and/or corporate bail-out beyond the coming rebates in an effort to at least give the illusion that government is “doing something”. And there is still no discussion about how to shore up Social Security.

Where is it written that one is entitled to quit one’s job at the age of 65 and expect the government to subsidize the retirement? Please understand that I am not addressing those who are forced to retire due to ill health; I believe that this alone was the intent of the original Social Security proposal – to keep the elderly who were no longer able to work from starving to death. Today the Social Security Administration sends out periodic statements detailing how long we’ve been working and paying into the system, how much we’ve paid in, and how much we can expect to draw upon reaching that magical moment called “retirement”. In this, the government itself has helped to contribute to the misguided notion that Social Security is some sort of personal “savings account” containing “our” money to which we are entitled. It is, I think, this sense of entitlement that is probably the single greatest factor that will contribute to the soon-to-be colossal tax increases that will be required to maintain the current levels of entitlement.

It is time to address Social Security straight on. No more magical formulas, no more deduct this, claim that, stand on your head and cough. Pure and simple, there are a couple of basic steps to be taken that I believe will put the system back on the right track, the first measure being to eliminate the earnings cap and make all earned income subject to Social Security withholding. The second measure – surely to cause some to temporarily lose their sight – is to establish a means test to qualify for Social Security. To be more plain, wealthy people should not be drawing Social Security. For them it amounts to nothing more than play money for the casinos or gas money for the travel home.

The second measure, of course, is nothing but a pipe dream because of the immense power of the AARP lobby. Elected officials are scared silly of the elderly, and there is a reason why Social Security is known as the “third rail of politics” – you touch it, you die. You’re career as a public official is over, but the public is no less served by such sacred cows when we refuse to acknowledge something is askew. It is also ironic that those with higher incomes are “entitled” (to use the term loosely) to higher Social Security benefits because of their level of income while they were working. Elderly widows who spent a lifetime taking care of home and hearth get the least – and these are the ones who desperately need it most especially if Social Security is their sole means of support.

The system is going to require radical changes, and elected officials are going to have to step up to the plate and stand up for what is right. But before members of Congress will get serious about Social Security, they will have to hear from us. No one is “entitled” to anything from the US government. Any program that exists had noble intentions and social purpose: to help those who cannot help themselves. We cry and rail about welfare benefits given to those who can do for themselves; why are we so noticeably silent about Social Security?

Friday, April 04, 2008

The Arrogance of Incumbency

The Arkansas General Assembly convenes every two years in odd numbered years for the legislative sessions. To be fair to the Legislature, it must certainly be a challenge to set spending priorities based on existing forecasts for the proceeding two years. And because so much work has to be crammed into a relatively short period of time, I am confident that the sessions involve long days and some nights. Because the Arkansas legislature only convenes every two years and for a relatively brief period, however, the people typically do not pay enough attention to what the legislature does. As a result, incumbency in this state enjoys an enormous re-election rate because the people recognize names and probably faces; we know very little about the issues especially come election time because by then the legislative session will have been long over.

How do I reach this conclusion? The staggering number of complaints from call-in TV and radio shows, letters to various editors, and general grumbling would indicate that a substantial segment of the population feels overwhelmed and more than a little overburdened by tax rates in the state. Yet each time the legislature gathers, a new tax or an increase in an existing tax is virtually imminent. These lawmakers are photographed slapping each other on the back, shaking hands, and high-fiving one another after a “successful” session in which these taxes have been increased, they are congratulated by the governor and still re-elected by the seemingly disenchanted people, the same people who complain incessantly about high taxes in a relatively low wage state.

In addition, the one who will serve as Speaker of the Arkansas House of Representatives has already been selected in 2008 for the coming 2009 legislative session. The problem with this is that this speaker-elect still must endure a re-election campaign in November. The legislature believes itself to have accomplished something substantial by having the speaker pre-selected with seemingly little thought given to the possibility that this speaker-elect could lose his re-election bid. So if this possibility actually exists, why waste the time?

I think it is because the House is pretty confident of what must surely be a better than 95% incumbency rate. Besides this inherent flaw in our system, what district in its right mind would cast aside such a prominent position for one of its own? Though Arkansas now has term limits for its state constitutional officers, it is nevertheless highly significant when a member of the legislature is elevated to such a position. There is no way anyone would even waste his or her time and resources to try and run against this particular incumbent knowing what everyone knows about Arkansas voters. This incumbent would have to burn down an orphanage to lose his seat in the legislature!

Incumbency indeed has its privileges, and Arkansas is no exception. I’m willing to bet that other states are no different, and it is sad to know that “we the people” have surrendered our right to self-governance to the few who care enough to even bother to run for public office, let alone to those few who can be bothered to vote.

Thursday, April 03, 2008



Waiting in the watchful eye of eternity,
eager to hasten the day when the wait is no more,
there is a spring of hope which passes through the depths of the soul
seeking to convince me that the wait is everlasting
and that the end is no more.

Life is a mystery to be revealed in due time.
In its due season shall the secrets be made manifest
to those who spend life waiting, patiently waiting.

But to wait and with no end to be seen
there is the ever present mystery that clings
to the hope that is everlasting.
It is not to be seen with the eye,
for the mere eye of a man is but a window to the soul
that lives within.

There is a limit to the sight of man,
a limit that fails to appreciate the eternal nature
of the soul that resides within.
Yet there is to be revealed
an end that will never come,
an end that will never be
because life is eternal
and is waiting to be

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

For Whose Benefit?

The Congress has once again summoned the chiefs of some of the world’s largest and profitable energy companies, demanding to know why energy prices – especially oil – are so high and show signs of continuing to rise even higher. While I am as frustrated as the next consumer, perhaps even more so because of the expense of a job search, I am equally frustrated at the continuing congressional attempts to demonize the energy industry especially during an election year which, incidentally, I find highly suspect.

There is a lot of political grandstanding going on with office seekers as well as current office holders, opportunists all who fail to make the connection between high taxes, low investments in exploration, research and development, and high prices. I don’t pretend to be an economist and I am even less informed about the world oil market, but it seems to me that since American energy producers may find it financially prohibitive to actually spend money on exploration and R&D that this lack of expense may help to explain the record profits recorded by “big oil”. To be sure, it must certainly be cheaper to import oil to this country than it would be to seek it, develop it, refine it, and market it. We must also be mindful of the fact that a lack of US refining capacity and continually high demand does nothing more than to push prices even higher.

None of this helps to explain sudden spikes in world oil prices, of course. These prices are set and manipulated, it seems, according to OPEC as well as by what may be happening in the world particularly in events involving energy-producing nations such as Venezuela, Iran, and Iraq which are probably three of the most unstable and unreliable producers in the world, two of which have no lost love with the US. Markets seem to panic about the supply line each time, for instance, when Hugo Chavez gets on a soap box and rails against the United States.

US lawmakers need to get off their own soap boxes and come to realize that their place in the US economy is less “knight in shining armor” or “executioner” and more partner than anything else. Punitive measures enacted by the Congress in the past as vain efforts to “punish” energy producers have failed and will continue to fail because the market responds negatively to adverse actions both at home and abroad.

As I wrote in an earlier post regarding Arkansas and its special legislative session to raise the severance tax on natural gas production (and it is happening even as I write this), government must move beyond its seemingly natural, antagonistic relationship it seems to have with US industries. Businesses that provide needed products and services as well as jobs for American workers are not the enemy, but Congress seems to be bent out of shape when a particular industry turns a sound profit. Is the profit “obscene”? I suppose it is all relative, but the Congress must define its objective with its continued harassment of energy executives. Are they seeking lower prices? If so, how low would they demand that the prices go? To my cynical mind, they seek only free press for the folks back home.

Some in Congress have suggested that the president authorize the release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve because of this “emergency” we are currently faced with. The president has rightly refused for three reasons: 1) there is not likely enough in the Reserve that will affect the market one way or the other, 2) high prices do not constitute an “emergency”, and 3) supply is not the problem. Besides, it has been stated more than once by more than one industry executive and independent economist that US refining capacity is still limited; putting more oil in the refineries will not change this structural fact. Besides all this, it didn’t work when President Clinton tried it.

It is “demand” that is putting the squeeze on the world oil market, and it is antagonistic “white knight” economic and tax policies as well as demand that puts the squeeze on us here at home in the US. Can Congress fix all this? I’m not entirely comfortable with a bunch of lawyers positioning themselves for re-election making that decision for us at this time especially when they seem to have failed to define their objective. Do they seek to make energy more affordable? If so, for whom? Clearly any member of Congress can afford to pay a higher price than most of America because they have bigger pay checks. For other rich people, the price of a gallon of gasoline probably doesn’t even sting although to protect their own profit margins they will certainly cut back somewhere else, and that cut will likely cost some American worker his or her job. Is this “greed”, or does it just make good business sense?

Congress does not get it, but they do know how to get elected. To the American cynic, these congressional hearings amount to nothing more than taxpayer-financed re-election expenses. They will solve nothing as long as they believe themselves to be our “hero’s”.