Bible Studies
Written by Jim Jordal   
Thursday, 14 March 2013


By Jim Jordal

"Only a crisis—actual or perceived--produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable."

The late conservative economist Milton Friedman, 1912-2006

As devastating as it was, hurricane Sandy was also an opportunity in disguise. This is not to dismiss the terrible suffering of families and businesses as a result of the storm, but only to say that according to many students of adverse situations it is crisis itself that motivates needed change. In the absence of crisis the status quo is seldom questioned or seriously modified because those with entrenched favored positions resist needed change.

In almost every facet of human experience great change arises mainly out of great crisis. That’s why chemical dependency interventions aim at creating enough personal crises so that the dependent person will finally recognize their need and accept help. The same with any condition threatening to our survival---the doctor has to tell us that we will die if we don’t change; and even then only some of us will accept the needed changes. The same in business as the threatened catastrophe of loss of market share or even possible bankruptcy creates willingness to change where none previously existed. And the same in nations that must face revolution, economic collapse, or even war before they become willing to assess their behavior and accept necessary change.

Think of the Great Depression of the early 1930s. With 25 percent of workers unemployed, peaceable protests by armies of suffering citizens and businesses closing across the land this was a political, economic and social crisis of unprecedented proportions. The response to this crisis was the "revolutionary" New Deal lead by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Massive change began with literally scores of new government agencies and programs in support of almost every stricken structure or institution of society. And many of these profound changes lasted until relatively recently when conservative politicians and courts struck them down. So great change followed great crisis.

But we seem to have learned little from our suffering. As the Stock Market crashed in October 1929, President Hoover’s policies consisted of balancing the federal budget and ignoring existing avenues of stimulation like fiscal and monetary policy. He fell back on what he knew and trusted with the result that the Depression deepened until Franklin Roosevelt came along with the New Deal. Even today we hear that the answer for America’s 23 million unemployed is for them to work harder under decreasing government aid and fewer restorative programs. That’s the old way. It didn’t work then, and it won’t work now.

But the model does not seem to work so well when we deal with global warming and its now-proven causes. Natural disaster after disaster strikes us and still we do not learn. Why not? Possibly because we have too much to lose as our entire profligate way of life is threatened.

Awful as it was, Sandy represents an opportunity for us to not only renew destroyed cities and neighborhoods, but to once again look fearlessly into the eye of the storm, so to speak, to determine what caused it and what our response is to be. We could rebuild with ecologically friendly structures set up beyond the reach of storms. We could design more hurricane-proof structures. And we could agree to restrict our rampant consumption practices so as to lessen carbon dioxide creation.

But I fear it won’t happen because to do it right would take more money and more time, both of which will be in short supply as closed businesses demand to be reopened and politicians once again claim that we can’t afford it because it will add to the national debt. So we continue on with crisis after crisis presenting great opportunity that will generally be ignored. Perhaps that’s the human condition, but I hope not.


God also has something to say about this. As the prophet Hosea said concerning his people: "I [God] have written for him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing (Hosea 8:12). God is telling his people that they have ignored righteousness, justice and mercy and will therefore be taken into captivity until they return to his ways. Hopefully, crisis in the form of economic and political repression will cause us to awaken to God’s truth. It now seems politically impossible that we should turn away from our egregious evils to God’s way of righteousness and justice. But crisis can turn the "politically impossible into the politically inevitable," as Friedman said.