I could beat around the bush and try to put it in nice flowery terms, but that would take too long and would get boring, so at the risk of sounding fanatical, I'll get right to the point. Our selfish, hedonistic, entertainment driven, "image based" society is centered around fantasy and make believe. Every area of our lives has been touched and tainted by this subtle form of idolatry. It cannot be long before we pay the price of living for appearances instead of substance.
One mostly ignored commandment God gave us was not to make images and bow down to them, and another was not to covet what you don't have, the Bible says that too is idolatry. God always has our best interests in mind when He gives us a command or speaks to us about our behavior, but humans, being what we are, we have done just what He told us not to. We live in a fantasy world of imagery and covetousness, denying reality, lusting and living for what we do not have. I'm not talking about psychotic people here, I'm talking mainstream culture. It is time we all become "fanatical" about the truth and what is real instead of living for cheap substitutes.
Marriages without friendship and intimacy, parents who seldom see or speak to their children. neighbors who seldom speak more than a greeting, we are a lonely people, starving for relationships.
facebook, MySpace and other Virtual communities are growing like weeds. Why? I think it is because we know that we need each other, God created us to fellowship and we are starving for more. But there are certain limitations and dangers about internet or pen pal relationships. One of the biggest is that the person only sees your best side, or worst, depending on what you want them to see. There is not as much opportunity to see the real you (or the real them) without the accidental day to day happenings; the in person, face to face interaction. You can only get that by spending lots of time together, working together, talking, experiencing life together, scraping against each other and smoothing out each other's rough edges.
Another problem is that you can only help a virtual friend but so much without being there, and we all need help sometimes. Also, consider wisely before you treat your facebook status or your blog as a confidant (close friend) or a journal. Beware of your privacy, you may not want to tell the world what should be kept a private matter. We are to confess our sins to God and "one to another", not "one to a dozen (or a thousand)", Remember these media do not always reveal the real person, and sometimes many people see what you're writing that may not respond the way you intended.
The internet does not replace real friends and accountability, it is a good supplement, it can help you communicate and stay in touch, but by itself, it's not enough.
A big problem and a major reason for the shortage of real relationships is that we are willing to trade the real thing for entertainment and sometimes even education. We waste our precious and limited time watching TV and movies. Even though the internet and universities are full of good information (as well as a lot of very bad) we also need to be careful not to spend all our time learning. Learning is good, but its purpose is to help us live well. There is a limit to how much we NEED to know, and there is a time to apply what we've learned and enjoy today. 2Ti 3-7
Instead of living life, loving, sharing and making a difference in our world, we are content to watch actors portraying it on A TV screen or learning about it on the internet or in a classroom. Real life is a lot more high definition than your Blue Ray and more interactive than the best web site! Quit watching life and go live it!
Create real memories with real people in real life. Do you think you are going to remember what you wrote in that website 50 years from now? Get out of the rat race and sit for a spell with that special someone, or that neighbor you've been meaning to visit. Help them finish that project and work together on it with them. You won't regret it. Go make some real memories.
There is a weight bearing down on our economy and I believe it is related to this topic. Just as we default to focusing on images of relationships, rather than expending the effort to improve the real ones, our economy has shifted towards a greater number of jobs that involve images of working! Or more accurately, shadows of production. This topic is not an encouragement or a request that you change how you make a living. It is written as an observation, and perhaps partly explains some of the idolatrous undercurrents that may have shaped our economy.
We may be in danger as a society of having "too many chiefs and not enough Indians". Chiefs in this case being those who make a living without personally producing a product or providing a physical service. Modern society is a complicated animal, but food, clothing, housing, medical care, transportation, governance, protection, etc., etc are still the basic needs we have in order to live and thrive. In our corporate, bureaucratic world many people make a living without producing real goods and services. I have read that it may be as high as 60-80%, depending on how you classify services jobs. Of course a certain amount of management is needed to accomplish the production, but our economy has created more and more jobs that are not directly related to management or production, and it appears that they are over taxing the fruit of the producers. For example financiers on Wall Street, middle management, some white collar jobs in banking, insurance, lawyers, excessive government, the list goes on. All the downsizing of the last decade or two is a natural and required response to this top heavy condition, but will it be enough?
Because of the higher earning potential of college graduates it would appear the intelligent, practical thing to do is to go to college in order to be able to earn more money. So naturally most everyone who can do so goes to college. It seems to be the best way to look out for number one and number one's family. The Bible cautions us about being conformed to the world, there are many dangers we cannot foresee that effect us as individuals and a society, and if we were truly wise, ALL of our decisions would be based on God's advice in the owners manual, the Bible. But, since as a whole, mankind has not and does not follow that advice, life is hard on planet Earth.
There's no reason to debate whether things should be this way or that, they are what they are, I am simply proposing that our society may not be able to continue to flourish on the labor of a few. I am not saying it is immoral to be in white collar fields. A certain amount of these "non-productive" jobs are necessary, and Biblically supported. But consider that in reality, society subsists from the labor of those that produce real food, products and services. Corporate America is awful top heavy, you can say "it's working, look, we're so prosperous", but we may be riding on the coat tails of past generations that lived frugally and worked hard for a living. Maybe we can outsource the "sweat of the brow" to other nations because it is cheaper; and we may continue to survive for a while, living off of their labor, but along with other international problems that causes, it also leaves a large segment of blue collar America unemployed, or shifts them to service industries to serve the white collar extravagances, but those service jobs don't pay as much as the industrial, more skilled blue collar jobs, and will likely not support them. Besides, we then have the production jobs, held by the few, supporting not only the white collar jobs, but also the service jobs that serve the white collar consumers. We may be about to find out that the extravagance of a huge leisure class will not last forever!
The Bible tells us to work with our hands and provide for ourselves, our families and others in need. Thanks in part to mechanization some of us don't have to work as hard with our hands as we used to. Industrialization if used properly makes life better for everybody, if used improperly it makes life better for only a few. I know some folks get carried away with this line of thinking and suggest total equality, I'm not suggesting communism in any way, man is too greedy for that to work. It is the availability of great reward that makes ambitious men attempt and achieve great things, and that in turn benefits many, but nonetheless there are still 2 basic ways we make a living, those who produce and those who make money off of the producers. The problem occurs when they get out of balance.
The Bible also warns of the calamity that awaits those who withhold the wages from the laborers in the field. The disparity between the super rich white collar executives and the laborer's wage along with the mass volume of normal white collar jobs is sucking the money from the producers (the laborer's in the field) and causing more people to leave production for higher paying white collar jobs. Consequently education expenses increase while people try to climb the ladder through education, so less and less workers are actually producing goods. Blue collar workers leave the work force and pay more white collar workers in the education system to teach them to make more money, but all this is creating an economy where few want to produce real goods and services! What a mess. Though it may not be the goal, much of business education seems to have the effect that you are learning how to make a living off of other people's labor. Therefore even these teachers cease to produce useful "products" or skilled producers and instead they turn out more economic parasites (sorry for such a strong word, but it fits). Of course this does not apply to the technical and math/science fields where they are learning and teaching to produce.
It all keeps piling up and from a common sense perspective it looks like the scale is already tipped and unstable. If America's workforce gets any more top-heavy the scale and everything will all come crashing down. I think it is possible that the blue collar workers of the world who actually produce a product or provide services can only support a limited number of those who make money from their labor. Sooner of later this has to hit the fan.
As are all economists' models, this is a bit of a theory based on my observations and understanding of the Bible and our economy. It is meant as food for thought, though I must admit, although I just now put it in writing for the sake of this "get real" article, the thoughts in it have subconsciously influenced my career path and the career guidance I have given my children. I did Google the concepts to see if I was coming from outer space, but to my surprise, I found various economists believe identical or similar concepts, and some of them, I am sure arrived at their conclusions without any Biblical influences. Perhaps it is the truth? Time will tell.
It should go without saying, but it doesn't. Our economy cannot long bear the weight of the huge government and personal debt that has amassed in this nation. Obviously DOING WITHOUT big houses and non-essentials until you can afford them is a virtue lost in the past. Personal and government responsibility DEMANDS that we stop borrowing, stop spending what we do not have and reduce our lifestyles to the bare necessities. Though you can vote, you alone cannot stop the government spending, but you can change your financial habits. Borrowing for everything is not real ownership. The bank then owns it and you. Do without- and save for it.
Real sex is sex as God designed it, not the impatient and selfish perversions we have created to feed our pleasure loving, never-satisfied lusts. Sex was obviously designed to bond man and wife to each other through ecstatic intimacy, helping to calm the storms of life around them and making the two people become one- A team to raise the offspring and fruit of their love. Statistics prove that God's plan as commanded in the Bible of waiting until marriage for sex and co-habitation, being faithful in a heterosexual, monogamous life long committed marriage is the most stable, joyous and fulfilling way to live long and prosper in the raising of your children- the next generation of Earth inhabitants. And research proves this lifestyle also produces the best environment for personal health and happiness.
The problems we have in the marriages and families of our culture are due to the disregarding of God's plan and principles for sex and marriage. We talk about this more elsewhere on the site, but first we need to deal with the heart, or else talk about real sex will not accomplish anything.
There is something in the male soul that not only wants to provide, but protect. I believe this is why boys and men are drawn to violent entertainment whether its playing cops and robbers as kids or watching action movies later. But there comes a time (as a teenager) where you need to put away childish things and become a man, to deal in reality. Entertainment is fantasy, and let's face it, the sociological and moral perspective of most movies and TV shows are anything but healthy.
Unfortunately violence is sometimes needed to stop evil, but enjoying it as entertainment is insane. We watch graphic brutal murders for entertainment on TV, movies and video games and yet many are afraid to own a gun to defend their homes and family. Maybe the movie watching time would be better spent learning gun safety, handling, and self-defense. Even tactical training against real intruders and terrorists would be far better time spent than watching Hollywood's violent drivel. Then, if need be, you could protect your family and country in real life, instead of wasting your life watching someone do so on TV! Plus the reality of the real weapon and the responsibility of it becomes ingrained rather than the "fun" of blowing people away in video games!
I know this is a political hot topic, but it is related to our aforementioned obsession with violent entertainment. Clint Eastwood isn't going to protect your home, you have to. Hollywood and their politicians live in the fantasy belief that outlawing guns will stop criminals from owning them. That's true only of the ones that get caught, and that often happens only after they've already used the guns in the crime. It is already illegal to use firearms in a crime and its illegal for felons to even be near them. Criminals by definition don't care if they break the law. The reality is that many crimes are thwarted by citizens who are also armed and can stop the crime in its commission long before the police arrive.
Real Character is not what people see, but who you are in private when nobody's looking. This is closely related to having a real religion because if we are created beings, then the God who created us has a plan for our lives that will shape our character and it is that spiritual relationship with God that makes us who we are.
You can spend counterfeit money, it looks real enough to most people and you can get by with using it for a time. You may not even know it's counterfeit, and the people you deal with may not know it's counterfeit. Because you didn't fabricate the money (the lie), you think it is real; after all, so and so said it was real (true) and so and so used it too. You get the point, believing counterfeit money is real does not make it real.
The real question is, in the economy of eternity who says what is real or not? Just as the government that made it gets to say that their money is real, the Creator that made us gets to say what is real for us. It is not a matter of opinion.
If you continue to spend counterfeit money, sooner or later you will get caught, no matter how well crafted and real it seems to you it is still illegal. Likewise, sooner or later we will all get caught living the counterfeit lives that are not according to our Creator's laws and guiding principles. Sooner or later we will give an account to our Creator, who runs the ultimate government.
You don't have to believe the analogy about the money, if you don't want to. You don't have to believe that there is an authority to whom we will all one day give an account. But if it is true, your belief that it is not true will not stop that day of judgment from coming. There are lots of religions with lots of sets of rules, but how do we keep them? What happens when we break them? Which one is true or real?