A Chosen Bullet: Workbook Edition
  • Inequality & Class Warfare: The Microsoft, Apple and Facebook Effect

    A lot is being made, and will continue to be made with next year’s presidential election looming, about income inequality in the United States. Fingers are being pointed in all directions with the usual lack of accountability and responsibility being shouldered by anybody. The media, for the most part, has been lazy and uninformative. While they tell us how income inequality has skyrocketed in the last thirty years, they offer few explanations as to how we got there (beyond talking points and sound bites from politicians) or any solutions on where to go from here (again, other than more talking points). So I’ll take a stab at offering up my opinion and analysis for the historic inequality in our nation as well as some suggestions on what we can do about it.

    First off, the United States had a 25-year run after World War II when we were the manufacturer, builder and supplier to the rest of the world. While the rest of the industrialized world was left in ruins by WWII and forced to rebuild, the economic engine of the U.S. hummed along at record speeds. So dismiss out of hand when you hear talk about what tax rates were on the wealthiest Americans and companies in the 1950s and 1960s because there was no global competition and no fear of stifling growth. Further, manufacturing jobs were plentiful as it was said that you could drop out of high school in the morning, have lunch and walk across town in the afternoon to get a factory job where you could make a lifelong living.

    By the 1970s, the rest of the world with its newly built infrastructure had caught up to the U.S. with its aging infrastructure and times rapidly began to change. Our manufacturing base – chiefly the automotive and steel industries –eroded to the point of near extinction or began to leave the country to try to remain competitive with the first birth pains of the global economy being felt. And then arrived the young and very, very bright minds of Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates and Paul Allen. Jobs and Wozniak with Apple along with Gates and Wozniak with Microsoft would transform the world in a shorter period of time like anything history had ever seen.

    The biggest transformation was that we moved extremely quickly, beginning in the 1980s, away from a manufacturing-based economy to a technology / information-based economy. The result was significantly higher paying, yet fewer jobs, that required a higher level of education. Hence the erosion of the middle class that was built on our manufacturing-based economy had begun. You now were able to spread information in a shorter period of time. Those entrepreneurial minds with the insight to use this information and the wisdom, vision as well as the work ethic to implement it were able to capitalize on the technology age to amass fortunes.

    It’s important to understand this transformation when we hear about “exploding” income inequality because the tech-based economy coincided with the rapid spread of information. This “Global Economy” became a place where young 20-something-year-olds like Gates, Allen, Jobs, Wozniak and later Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Jerry Yang (Yahoo), Larry Page & Sergey Brin (Google) and legions of others – became multi-billionaires almost overnight. Again, we had never seen this, ever, in the history of the world. So yes, there’s been an explosion of income-inequality. But we need to cut through the misinformed messages we get from the media and politicians while not allowing our country to be ripped apart at the seams by a manufactured “class war” meant to polarize and demonize for political gains. There’s only 3,000,000 heads of household in this country with a net worth of a more than $1 million. Suffice it to say, most have gotten there by hard work, effort, a high-level of intelligence and innovation with a scant few getting there by corrupt means.

    For anybody familiar with my previous work, you’ll know that I see the sports world as a microcosm for life. In this regard, we’ve also seen an explosion of the value of sports franchises and the salaries of athletes in the last 30 years. This isn’t the result of the rich sticking it to the poor, in my opinion, or some trumped up class warfare. It’s the result of the global village and the access to money now out there that wasn’t there 40 years ago when a team and its players were supported largely by their local economy. Again, starting in the 1970s and blowing up with the global impact of Michael Jordan in the 1990s, the spread of information through technology to a worldwide audience has resulted in the ballooning of player salaries – all of which contribute to the “income inquality” drum that those play who benefit from dividing and conquering the American populace.

    Finally, are there steps that can be taken to bridge this gap between the “haves and have nots”? Can those with the resources be better stewards in helping others and giving back to their communities? I believe so and will discuss a common sense approach which calls for a biblical approach to accountability, responsibility, thrift, and stewardship on BOTH Wall Street and Main Street in next month’s blog.

    October 27th Posted in: Current Issues with 1 Comment

  • FCA Ministry Update: The Stimulation of Small Groups

    By: Bill Renje

    I had the privilege recently to give my testimony to a very attentive and responsive FCA Club at Sickles High School. What was unique about this club was that they break into small groups (seven groups comprised of seven to eight students in each group) which has the effect of involving each student as they get engaged in the discussion.

    After my testimony, the small groups discussed the following questions that club sponsor Melissa Arroyo had me prepare:
    1. Are their consequences to our decisions and how long can those consequences last?
    2. Are you likely to become and act like your friends?
    3. What type of spiritual foundation do you have?
    4. Explain how sin is gradual?
    5. Why is it important to develop and keep a positive attitude?

    Club sponsor Melissa Arroyo said the following after the huddle, “I was so grateful for Bill’s testimony.  During the last few years we have seen a real downhill in youngster’s attitudes towards drug, alcohol, and immorality, even in the ‘Christian’ kids.  Peer pressure has always been a factor since I can remember, but there is a real battle for these students’ souls in this day and age.  I could tell that his testimony had a real impact in the group.  You could have heard a pin drop it was so quiet while he was sharing his testimony.  

    Our prayer is that Bill’s testimony would help them think before following the crowd and making wrong choices, while recognizing that God is greater than any situation they are facing.  In their small groups students were able to share some of their struggles with one another.  Our hope is that they will develop relationships so they can be accountable to one another.”  

    October 25th Posted in: Fellowship of Christian Athletes with No Comments

  • FCA Ministry Update: Shining The Light

    By: Bill Renje

    I had been on staff for only a few days, so I didn’t know what to expect when I showed up at my first club sign-up day in early September. As I set up the FCA booth, among other club booths, outside of the lunchroom of a local high school, I wondered how many students would actually sign-up – six, eight, twelve? I remember when two girls approached the booth to check out the literature and the Tim Tebow autographed helmet on display when they asked me: “What is The Fellowship of Christian Athletes?”

    “It’s a club that helps students like you find God’s purpose for your life through athletics,” I responded. “Sounds great”, they said while penning their information on the sign-up sheet.

    From there, other students gathered and continued to mull around the table before and after the three lunch hours. Some were previous members and looked forward to another year of FCA. Others, like the two students above, knew nothing of FCA prior to approaching the booth. All told, over 120 students signed up that day with over 1,500 signing up over a two-week span at various club sign-up days attended by staff and board members of FCA Tampa Bay.

    But my lasting memory was a week later at another school’s sign-up day. A young freshman student meandered around the table, somewhat awkwardly, telling story after story. As his stories grew from having an 85 mph fastball to his dad once being a back-up QB in the NFL who since changed his name from a name the student couldn’t remember to (as he picked up a magazine with Cardinals Adam Wainwright on the cover) saying that he knew Wainwright who coached him before a “surprise tryout” landed Wainwright on the Cards, it became clear the young man was lost and had created an alter-ego void of reality to cope with whatever pain life had wrought him. At one point, Area Director Steve Young got up from behind the table, walked around and put his arm around the young man telling him, “Son, God loves you just the way you are. You don’t need to pretend to be something you are not because He loves and cares for you.”

    As the bell rang, the façade around the student’s face melted away and you could see a genuine glow of emotion fill his being as it probably had been quite some time since anyone did anything other than laugh at him, let alone take an interest in him. Ultimately, the young man will be ministered to through his school’s FCA Club and huddle leader while having the opportunity to receive the greatest gift all – a deep-abiding, eternal relationship with Jesus Christ. And that’s why I’m looking forward to the upcoming year – to have an opportunity to help students find and achieve the potential that the Lord has given each of them.

    October 5th Posted in: Fellowship of Christian Athletes with No Comments

  • Stealing Your Family’s Time

    There’s an insidious evil that’s crept into American homes in recent years, yet few of us even realize it. This evil is an addiction that’s threatening to undermine the fabric of the family and community. It’s not the traditional addictions of alcohol, drugs, pornography and gambling; rather a much more subtle, 21st Century vice – the addiction is technology.

    In the last decade, the technology has come at us with all the subtlety of an inferno: Dial-up, Broadband, Wireless, Desk tops, lap tops, Cell phones, Smart phones, IPhones, IPads, ITouches, Facebook, Twitter, Wii, Play Station, Nintendo DS and on and on and on. So much so that it reminds me of the frenzied pace of the lyrics from Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire. And like with any fire when harnessed correctly, technology can greatly benefit mankind which it has done. But also, fire, when not properly harnessed, can burn down your home, your neighborhood and your community.

    My belief is that the growth and explosion of technology has come at us so fast that, as a society, we have not developed the proper parameters in which to harness this fire. Whereas a few short years ago, when cell phones became the norm we developed “cell phone etiquette” – i.e. you don’t answer your cell phone when having a face to face conversation with someone else, you turn cell phone off in a meeting, etc. But when we quickly transitioned from cell phone conversations to text messages and receiving emails on your phone, “cell phone etiquette” went by the wayside. Because texting and email is much more subtle and less distracting than talking on the phone, people seem to have no inhibition to text or check / respond to email when in the presence of others in a social setting. Raise your hand if you’ve been in the middle of the conversation recently with somebody who began texting or emailing somebody else or picked up their phone to scroll through their email or texts during your conversation?!?

    I recently sat in my living room with four other adults who in simultaneous order were reading Facebook, playing a video game, texting and sending an email. But when I knew we, as a society, had a problem was when I visited a friend and saw three kids – ages 7, 7 and 5 – sitting next to each other on a couch. Each never looked up from their Nintendo DS, let alone acknowledged their friend next to them for over an hour! After these two scenarios as well as watching multitudes of people who went from walking around talking to people next to them a decade ago, to being oblivious to those around them with their phone glued to their ear five years ago, to forgetting how to have a face-to-face or phone conversation while texting away or reading Facebook or Twitter nowadays, I realized we have a larger societal issue. As such, we as adults have been poor role models for our kids who are growing up with no idea how to have a face to face discussion which is vital for solid personal, marital and professional relationships. A phone call is always better than an email / text and a face to face discussion is always better than a phone call.

    So where do we go from here? The number one place is begin developing good social habits is in our homes. One suggestion is to have “tech free” time zones in your family. I learned when my oldest son was four that playing video games was always going to be preferable to playing outside or doing constructive activities (crafts, etc.) around the house. So we now have “tech free” Saturday in our home while limiting computer time (which means game time) and video games like his favorite – Angry Birds – to an hour a day and always after chores and responsibilities have been done. Although easy to do so, we as parents need to avoid falling into habits of lazy parenting and monitor our kids technology intake.

    From a personal and marital standpoint, I recommend doing an inventory of how much time you spend with social media vs. how much quality time with your spouse, friends and most importantly spiritual growth. Facebook and the internet are wonderful tools. But take it from somebody who probably spent two hours a day on Facebook, browsing sport and news sites and now spends maybe 15-20 minutes a day while replacing the wasted time with prayer, closeness with my wife and kids; I’m much more fulfilled in the important areas of my life now that the junk food diet of technology has become a permanent part of my daily routine.

    October 5th Posted in: Christian Living with 1 Comment