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Posts Tagged ‘Stanislav Mishin’

A few days ago I received a forwarded email from a relative of mine. It was an email from an organization that was drawing attention to an editorial article in the Russian tabloid Pravda. This article, written by Stanislav Mishin, was entitled “American Capitalism Gone with a Whimper.” Its point was, frankly, rather alarmist and it was condemning the Obama administration’s policies and goals as Marxist and socialist. The subtext was something like, “America should listen to the Russian people who are, as one, warning the Americans to stop making socialist policy decisions. We’ve been through this and we know best, but the arrogant Americans think they can handle flirting with disaster.” That was the content of the email, but the way this forwarded piece of Russian tabloid writing was framed was more interesting to me. It was sent out by Timothy Plan, a financial institution based in Florida. It also had a note from Art Ally, President of The Timothy Plan. It reads, “Never in a million years would I have dreamed that we would have to go to an article in the Russian newspaper Pravda to get the truth about what is happening in America. It is a little long but well worth the read. Thanks to Don Wildmon, President, American Family Association.”

Then there was an attached note from Don Wildmon, President of the American Family Association. It reads: “For years I have refused to use words such as Marxism, socialism or similar words when describing our current situation. However, it is time to call a spade a spade, regardless of how those who oppose us label us. Rome is burning. The article below was written by Stanislav Mishin, a blogger and columnist for the Russian newspaper Pravda.” All of the above is the context. Now for the expression of my idea. I have been frustrated with the AFA for a while for a few reasons. Before I list them, I want to say that I respect the fact that they say they care about families. Families are good things and definitely worth striving for and even dying for. So I want to make sure that the criticism I have does not diminish the respect that I have for the cause of fortifying families.

That being said, I have two main criticisms of how the AFA has operated, and I say this as an evangelical Christian who is part of a local church and whose goal is to lead my family in a way that honors God. The first criticism is that I have noticed that the AFA sometimes blurs the truth (whether intentionally or unintentionally, I don’t know and can’t determine) or leaves facts out for their readers in order to generate the responses they want for the causes they support. The way they framed this Russian tabloid article is one small example of this. They (and Timothy Plan) framed it as a warning to America from Russia, but this is not the case at all. I wish the AFA would make more ardent attempts to be honest, and to frame issues as honestly, thoroughly, and objectively as possible. If they did this, I believe they would be a lot more successful in enacting real and lasting change. They must also stop working on a political strategy of using fear as their primary tool. It is reactive, which is never as effective as being proactive and creative, and it’s often downright untruthful. If they felt that they even needed to acknowledge this piece of tabloid editorial writing, they could have framed it as what it was: an editorial by a Russian writer. They could then pose the question to their readers, “Is this actually happening in the United States? Are Mishkin’s claims true?” This strategy invites a critical analysis of the ideas in the article, rather than the easier thing to do: a simple endorsement of an oversimplification and rationalism of the political agenda of a Russian writer with an apparently large chip on his shoulder.

The second criticism I have of AFA is even more elemental. I am confused how such an article like Mishkin’s is relevant at all to building stronger families. I believe that the agendas that the AFA chooses to struggle for are ultimately the wrong agendas. The vast majority of notices that I have seen from the AFA are political in nature, telling people of what Congress is doing or not doing, what new evil the courts are perpetrating, or decrying the Federal Communications Commission’s lack of enforcement of current decency laws.

I’m not arguing that there are times when political activism is necessary, but sitting in the middle of a secular culture crying because there are so many secular influences that can tear apart families is simply the wrong strategy. It will only breed frustration from the culture (“Who do they think they are, up on their high horse and condemning us?”), and the answer to keeping families strong is not to change the cultural climate through legislating it. Have we learned nothing from the oft-shameful history of the Church? From Prohibition? Why are we holding our culture to a standard that we, according to our own doctrinal statements, can never fulfill? Why impose a pharisaical rule on people who do not even believe in God? This is not protecting the family. This is declaring war on the culture, and lest anyone believe they are the same, they are divergent and even mutually exclusive.

Sure there may be a legal battle or two here or there, but the AFA should focus on some of the most significant threats to families and marriages, which in my opinion isn’t gay marriage or democratically-sponsored legislation. It is heterosexual divorce and the elements that cause it, like a lack of forgiveness, spousal abuse, and fathers not having the stones to be men and sacrificially care for and love their families. It is wives who care more about their image and their next fling than their kids. These things in heterosexual marriage are what I’d really love to see the AFA focus on. I would like to see them take a much more proactive stance through working with churches and other organizations to help train people how to be good parents. Instead of spending resources trying to get TV shows off the air because you don’t agree with the lifestyle that is portrayed (big shock since we live in a secular culture!), spend the resources training parents how to actually have family time without the TV on—Dads spending time with their kids in the evening—or encouraging parents to read books and learn what they believe and why so they can watch a show they may disagree with—with their children—and then have some good conversations about it with them.

The Timothy Plan is also an organization that I have some questions about. They say that they are offering “A biblical choice when it comes to investing. If you are concerned with the moral issues (abortion, pornography, anti-family entertainment, non-married lifestyles, alcohol, tobacco and gambling) that are destroying children and families you have come to the right place. The Timothy Plan® avoids investing in companies that are involved in practices contrary to Judeo-Christian principles. Our goal is to recapture traditional American values. We are America’s first pro-life, pro-family, biblically-based mutual fund group.”

My biggest question is how can you be FOR something by fundamentally defining yourself by what you DON’T do? TP asks its web page visitors if their personal finances would withstand a moral audit, and offers to do one for free. But the way they are defining moral is frighteningly similar to a political platform. I know this is shocking, but there are OTHER kinds of moral issues that are just as biblical, if not more so, than the ones listed above. When did eradicating tobacco use become a Christian cause? What about the much more important issue of paying workers fair wages? Fair wages is not mentioned in the moral statement of Timothy Plan to my knowledge, but it is very important to God. James writes a damning accusation of labor practices (think minimum wage issue or migrant worker/illegal immigrant labor practices) that went on in the first century: “You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the altars of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence.” I know this is really going to pain a lot of Christians who pride themselves on what they don’t do (see Jesus’ account of the prayer of the Pharisee in Luke 18), but a lot of Christians simply love to quote CS Lewis, for good reason, and they study his books, use his quotes in sermons, and are quite reverential of him. It might surprise some people that Jack Lewis was a chain-smoker and got together once a week with his friends (in the morning, no less!) to drink beer, have good conversation, and comment on each others’ writing. For those of you whose toes are curling right now at the though of dear old Lewis with a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other working on a draft of Chronicles of Narnia, perhaps it is time you rethought how you define yourself. Perhaps, Timothy Plan, it is time you explained to your investors what it means to be a Christian investor or a godly investor. It is not as simple as strict avoidance of traditional evils.

Hopefully you see the problem. As soon as we define ourselves as Christian investors by what we don’t do, we not only haven’t said much about ourselves except what we think is beneath us, but we have also painted ourselves into a corner. We haven’t said anything about what we are FOR—what our goals are. All we can do is keep chipping off pieces of our portfolio when we discover that this company did something we didn’t like once, or that company produced a product that some believe supported another religion. Where does this slippery slope stop?

I believe that we ought to be people of integrity, and I think part of having integrity is to think well. If those who are leading these movements refuse to submit their severely flawed rationales and policies to scrutiny, then they very well run the risk of falling into a ditch. We need Christians to be more relevant, not less, and that means that we must open our eyes and be obedient to scripture by living as lights, not expecting that our culture ought to be full of light already.

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