Give Credit to Credit Unions

Give Credit to Credit Unions

ENGLISH insurance labelHere’s a short article about the financial health of Credit Unions – which are small, locally owned and managed by members, not for profit Financial Institutions.  Mollie Bell (quoted in the article) and I worked together at CUNA Mutual group which supports the Credit Union Movement.  It is my opinion that all of us should shift our financial dealings from Banks to Credit Unions. Do you agree?  What would happen if people moved away from Banks and towards Credit Unions?

The Banks would probably become even more aggressive in their ongoing efforts to undermine Credit Unions. Their lobby is huge and powerful, and it has been causing legislative pressure against Credit Unions for decades.  But Credit Unions would benefit from  awareness on the part of consumer that they represent a fundamentally different option.  Even a relatively small number of new customers can represent significant growth for these small, local entities, and local communities benefit from local control of financial systems.

Selling OutWhy doesn’t shifting from Banks to Credit Unions get more attention? Is it because corporate interests own too many pieces of our soul – shifting our thinking and decisions away from our own best interest? What can we do in response?

One area of focus is to buy local.  Purchasing local products, including financial products, is a way to make a major contribution to sustainable local economies.

The virtue I drew through which to look at this topic was Peacefulness. Inner calm, tranquility, a sense of harmony with all creation. In reflecting on how that applies here, I realize that participating in a for profit financial institution increases the antagonism and animosity that goes along with our competitive profit-driven age. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a communist – I believe in ownership and that everyone should benefit from their labors. Everyone should profit from applying themselves diligently to whatever craft or trade they have chosen.

peacefulness_by_vitavalian-d7r74n1But Credit Unions help us see that cooperative models are useful and powerful in counteracting the unsustainable aggregation of wealth exemplified by mega banks and “Too Big to Fail” institutions. We can go on the warpath against them, or perhaps simply moving our business to a Credit Union is enough to reverse the trend.  It is certainly a peaceful way to contribute to a change in the dynamic between the extremely wealthy and those who struggle to achieve a stable middle-class income.

Dancing to the Doomsday Clock

Dancing to the Doomsday Clock

Doomsday ClockToday I read that the Doomsday Clock has moved forward two minutes.

Yet the transcript of President Obama’s State of the Union address from earlier this week was effusively positive.  He declared “The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.” and that “we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth.” He warns against being “fearful and reactive” and “dragged into costly conflicts”.

Is the glass half full or half empty?  And regardless of your perspective being full-of-hope or fearful, what decisions should we be making / what actions should we be taking with regard to the challenges we face?

As I do every blog, I’m going to now pull a Virtues Card to provide a lens by which to frame my own response to these questions.  In case you wondered, I’m not lobbing myself softballs with this approach as indicated by today’s pick – Idealism. “Idealism is having a vision of what is possible and wanting to make a difference. It is caring passionately about what is meaningful in life. Idealists see things as they could be and have faith in the power of change.”

glass half full emptyThis leans in the direction of the President vs. Doomsday Clock watchers confirming my perspective. Despite very real reasons to agree with the folks who moved the clock forward viewing the glass as half full is the right choice. That perspective points us in the right direction. But wait.  The card quote continues…

“We put our principles into practice. We don’t just accept the way things are.” and it concludes “Idealists do something to make things better. We make the ideal real.”

This is where I diverge sharply from the President’s narrative. What he calls “reactive” I call “necessary”. We can’t wish away the conflicts. If we are freer than any other nation on earth to write our own future, we must reverse the course he has chosen internationally, which is to withdraw and let the bullies and the bad actors have their way in large areas of the world. We must stop them raping and pillaging our fellow global citizens.

He, for example, believes we acted appropriately by essentially not acting when Russia annexed part of Ukraine.  But we promised Ukraine that we would protect them in exchange for giving up their nuclear weapons. Shame, shame, shame on us for abandoning them in their hour of need. This is just one example of where my view on the volume in the glass of America’s current President on international matters is decidedly shy of half-full.

Stepping Stones

Stepping Stones

For leaders to inspire with idealism they must lead in the direction they want people to move. Withdrawing into our own echo-chamber and patting ourselves on the back about our idealism is not the real thing. Idealism not only envisions rosy outcomes, it requires making touch choices, and having the courage and commitment to follow through on them.

Virtues – Attributes of God

Virtues – Attributes of God

This blog is a response to recent opposition from within the context of Religion to my support of The Virtues Project.  The reason given was that The Virtues Project tells the lie that people don’t need God to attain virtues. To those active in The Virtues Project, this is absurd, so let’s set the record straight.

The Virtues Project was started by Bahai’s, members of the small, but growing global Religion of which I am a part.  The Founders describe its origin as follows: “Tapping into Dan’s years of research in the world’s sacred traditions, they had an “Aha! Moment”. They discovered that virtues are at the heart of meaning in every culture and belief system, from indigenous oral traditions to the world’s Sacred texts.”

Virtues - Attributes of GodThe Family Virtues Guide published by the founders of The Virtues Project in 1997 is even more direct.  The preface explains that The Virtues Project does “not promote the practices or beliefs of any particular faith”. Yet it equally clearly asserts that “Virtues are described as the qualities of the soul and the attributes of God. They are the means by which we can reflect the image and likeness of the creator.”

So what to do about attacks against a noble effort to assist humanity in the nurturing of the nascent virtues within us all, our heritage as Children of God?  To assist in gathering my thoughts, I pulled a random virtue card for inspiration, and it was Purity’s turn. I’ll quote from the card:

“Purity is living in a state of physical and spiritual health… We free ourselves day by day from unwanted influences… We replace negativity with virtuous practices… Purity gives us a clear conscience and a peaceful soul.” It offers “I act from pure intentions” as an affirmation.

IThe virtue of Purity am  convinced of the purity of intent in the founders and the bulk of those participating in The Virtues Project.  For those who put a relationship with God first and foremost, fully recognizing God as the source of all virtues, there is no doubt that The Virtues Project enables others to draw nearer to God.

This is true regardless of what the distance is at which we find ourselves from God at any given moment.  Which is why leading with virtues is a powerful way to lead people to God. More powerful, I might add, than forcing our conception of God upon others.

I’ll end this Blog with the quote at the end of the card.

“I am thankful fore the gift of Purity.  It gives me a fresh start.”

 

 

 

Islamic State Has No Dignity

Islamic State Has No Dignity

Flag_of_the_Islamic_State_of_Iraq_and_the_LevantI just read a most fascinating article by Nadim Shehadi which answers a question that comes to my Western mind with regard to the Islamic State (ISIS, or ISIL).  The article states “Islamic State has been described as a virtual entity, its visibility a product of a sophisticated media strategy designed to make it seem like the fount of all evil.” My immediate reaction to this is “Why?”  Why choose a path of such obvious offense?  The article answers this, using history and regional legal practice.

But it doesn’t for one second diminish the horror of what is occurring, nor, for those who see beyond and behind today’s headlines, does it do anything to diminish the ominous nature of the gathering global thunderclouds.  A global polarization is occurring, one that is so dramatic it threatens to reverse the polarity of the planet, turning everything upside down.  At its center is the tiny nation of Israel.

Israel is the primary focal point of an intolerant fundamentalist hatred that has come to permeate much of the Islamic World.  Supporters of Israel, such as the United States, are caught in the dragnet.  Labels like “The Great Satan” are applied not only for supporting Israel, but also for representing a different civilization, a different way of life. Support for Israel is a topic for other blogs, as is the soulless materialism and hypocrisy of the West, all catalysts of Islamic antipathy.  But while two wrongs do not make a right, there are degrees of wrong.  Just as there are degrees of, dare I say the word… Evil!

Seeing Evil for what it is

See evil for what it is.

I use Virtues to filter my thoughts now and for this blog I randomly selected Dignity.  The card I pulled calls Dignity “a sense of worthiness and respect.  It comes from remembering who we truly are and our purpose for being.”  Dignity requires us to stand up for what is right and true, for the good of ourselves and those who are behaving in ways that destroy Dignity.

I’ll leave you with the request to read the article that inspired this one and reflect on how an inherent deception, the desire to “establish” legitimacy by covert, and vicious means, is anything but dignified.  Millions are impressed, and inflamed with adoration and emulation for an entity that establishes itself by mounting a propaganda campaign that appeals to the most base and destructive urges of friend and foe alike.  This is destined to cause irreparable damage.

We’ve seen this movie before. We cannot follow the example of Neville Chamberlain.

We, as a species, must oppose Evil.  We, as a species, must find a means to stop it.

Not in reaction.  Not in anger.  But with Dignity.

Before the havoc it wreaks can grow to unstoppable proportions.

 

 

The Virtues Project

The Virtues Project

Last weekend my wife and I attended a two-day Virtues Workshop conducted by Valerie Hess and Terry Rahn of Virtues Village.

Terry Rahn

Terry Rahn

Valerie Hess

Valerie Hess

These two ladies are both Master Facilitators in the Virtues Project, a global grass roots effort.  I’ve been impressed with how effectively The Virtues Project challenges soulless materialism and secularism.  These weeds have sprung forth from the toxic soil of corrupt religion, leaving us modern folks who seek a higher path stuck between a rock and a hard place.  You may wish to check out  my prior blog on Virtues for more on the challenges facing society.  Today I’d like to briefly share what my family is doing to engage with and support the Virtues Project.

The Virtues Project provides what we believe to be the best solution to the conundrum described above.  Today’s families need a clear strategy on inoculating against the infections which run rampant in our societies.  Not only is it impossible to implement a quarantine, isolationism creates its own problems.  The Virtues Project provides not only protection, but a means through which we may safely, and with peace of mind, integrate our families into the broader culture.

Franssons Fall 2014 standingHere’s what we’re doing.  We’re hosting an Essential Family Virtues Program in our home again this year.  The workshop has empowered us to accompany the 10 participating families more effectively.  We are also stepping up our focus in other areas of our life on a daily basis.

This morning at breakfast we randomly selected Virtues Cards for each of us in the family.  Zoe grabbed Modesty, Caleb Truthfulness, Angela Thankfulness, and I pulled Excellence.  Each of us read the affirmation on our card out loud and agreed to help each other apply our our selected virtue today, while acknowledging the benefits we will accrue as individuals and as a family.  By nurturing these nascent qualities, we cause the seeds within us to sprout, grow, and bear fruit.  We’ve posted these cards on our fridge.  Now each time we reach for nutrition for our bodies we’ll also be reminded that we must nurture our souls.

And in each blog going forward, I’ll be incorporating a virtue, to provide the focus of excellence I committed to today.  I hope you will join us in the amazing process of planting these high quality seeds into your own soil wherever you live, to start the process of reversing the toxicity that has crept into our local lives.

Please comment, or send an email to Virtues@SOOPLLC.com to share, connect and engage further. The_Virtues_Project_banner_image

 

Miss Hitler 2014 is Ugly

Miss Hitler 2014 is Ugly

Miss Hitler 2014 is the new Nazi ChicBrilliant – just brilliant. US Capitalism pioneered the art of selling by positioning seductive women to move products. Russia reaches a new low with the Miss Hitler 2014 beauty pageant. Figuratively warming up the cold ghost of Hitler this way is sure to encourage those fascinated with sources of darkness, as well as win over other foolish people.

While I’m generally optimistic on the direction of Humanity there are far too many to whom “enlightenment” means tolerance, free speech, and an approach so “non-judgmental” that it excludes setting standards of decency and justice and applying them universally. In short – the prevalence of such confusion is a result of pervasive double-standards and false equivalencies.  For too long we have allowed our love affair with moral ambiguity to confuse those who should know better and encourage those who like it that way.

Miss Hitler 2014 Beauty ContestThis is nothing new.  Prior to WWII many in Europe were party to what Hitler was accomplishing.  I’m proud that the first book published by Something or other Publishing was an expose of previously unknown history in this regard, called Genocide Revealed.  This volume discusses the role of Miklos Horthy, the first antisemitic ruler of Europe, who instead of being prosecuted is considered a hero in his native Hungary.

Why is it that antisemitism is globally fashionable again, 70 short years since arguably the worst genocide in the history of the planet was perpetrated against the Jews?  Many participants call it anti-Zionism, as though that is a relevant distinction.

Personally, I see little difference between hating the homeland the Jews created in response to the Holocaust and the attitudes that caused it.

 

 

1 Percent Now Own 50 Percent

1 Percent Now Own 50 Percent

The Occupy movement emphasizes the enormous gulf between owners – typified by the so-called 1% – and those who are struggling to make a living as wage-slaves or worse. The headline chart for this blog highlights that we’re approaching Great Depression levels of wealth inequality, in which 1% of Americans own 30% of its wealth.  But an article published Tuesday states that globally things are much worse.  50% of the world’s wealth is owned by 1%, which got me thinking.

Emma Lazarus The New ColossusUS style capitalism is no villain. Principles of pragmatic egalitarianism are the foundation of this country, and its success is due to the fact that their implementation has led to shared success on a scale previously thought impossible. Emma Lazarus’ Sonnet The New Colossuswhich graces the Statue of Liberty, sums this up nicely.

The successful creation of a middle class of millions of people generally wealthier than many kings of old drives a sustained global prosperity the likes of which the world has never seen. This is but one reason I’ve resisted a basic premise of the Occupy Movement.  To claim the right to share that which someone else owns is a recipe for unmitigated disaster.  Human misery will spread like a virulent disease when such thinking takes hold.  Nor is there, even with these horrible wealth distribution ratios, a need to radically implement policies based on such wrongheaded “humanitarianism”.

The path to prosperity will never come from trying to occupy that which you do not own.  Rather it will come from taking ownership (in the full sense of that word) of that which we already possess.  Given the democratic institutions which exist, and the tools that enable human ingenuity to work its magic, when people take ownership of their situation they can revitalize our nations, including this one.  Ownership means tapping into the spirit which pioneered and grew new models of human activity, benefiting the masses in ways previously thought unthinkable.

Take Full OwnershipEarlier this year I was honored to present on the topic of The Human Heart of Business to a distinguished audience at a series of conferences in India.  In those conferences I addressed what I believe to be both the problems and the solutions to the conundrum of wealth distribution.  India is in many ways a pioneer in the idea of corporations taking full social responsibility.  It was an inspiring 5 days, in a country that suffers under wealth inequality that is staggering to the Western mind.  And yet the average Indian is hopeful and optimistic that things can be improved.  And they are improving rapidly.

We can make a shift towards a more equitable distribution of wealth without jumping on a wealth re-distribution bandwagon.  And yet I believe we must get very serious about this, very quickly.  If we don’t begin to turn the ship on this and other major problems confronting mankind, we’ll be hitting a global iceberg soon – and we’ll experience the kind of global revolution that will make the French Revolution look like a cakewalk in comparison.

There are many models being put forward globally today in which corporations are extending the idea of who the stakeholders are, to which they owe responsibility to “maximize shareholder value”.  There are many places where you can apply yourself to making a difference.  One tiny example is this group I found on LinkedIn which has the audacious intent of Building Better Societies.

What examples have you found?

 

 

Sweden Recognizes a Palestinian State

Sweden Recognizes a Palestinian State

Sweden recognizes Palestinian StateFransson is a Swedish name and I’m proud of my Swedish Heritage.   I lived and went to school in Sweden as a child, and for years carried a Swedish Passport.  My love for the country and its people is great.  I’ve argued for decades about the superiority of Sweden’s “Middle Way”, in which they found fertile soil in the middle ground between polarized opposites.  Perhaps they are searching for their own true North, in announcing their recognition of a “Palestinian State”.  This time they’re leading in the wrong direction.

I am an ardent advocate for peace, but peace cannot come through double standards and false equivalencies.  I cannot imagine a clearer example of the dangerously confused double standard being applied in this case than Prime Minister Stefan Löfven’s statement about the decision: “The conflict between Israel and Palestine can only be solved with a two-state solution, negotiated in accordance with international law. A two-state solution requires mutual recognition and a will to peaceful co-existence. Sweden will therefore recognize the state of Palestine.”

If peace depends on mutual recognition and a will to peaceful co-existence, Sweden must first demand this from any Palestinian entity prior to recognizing them.  How could Löfven possibly miss the the tragically ironic error in his own pronouncement?  Wrong Way on PalestineSee my recent blog about handling the truth for a perspective on how we blind ourselves to the obvious.  Perhaps the source of Löfven’s “Truth Handling” is confidence in Sweden’s 20th century role as alluded to in my opening paragraph – Sweden’s history of leading by living the role of pragmatic intermediary.

Regardless of intent, I believe the acceptance of, and open practice of double standards and false equivalencies on the International stage is destined to make matters worse, leading to more, not less, war and bloodshed.  Swedes don’t like to think of themselves this way, but sometimes the truth hurts.

What do you think?

If you would like to share your thoughts and join in friendly open dialogue with people who may or may not believe as you do, but who are open to exploring topics of political importance, such as the issue of Israel and Palestine, please accept my invitation to join The People of the Sign on facebook.  The discussion might challenge your current perspectives, which is something I hope you look forward to.

The Virtue of Teaching Virtues

The Virtue of Teaching Virtues

Teaching Virtues to BabySeven years ago my wife and I were newlyweds living the dream in Southern California.  Then we discovered we were expecting.  Nothing changes your perspective quicker than the responsibility that comes with having created life.

We quickly decided to move to the Midwest.  Southern California may be perfect in many ways, but it wasn’t the right place for us to raise a family.  Despite all my travels, the American Heartland was a completely foreign environment to me, but one familiar to Angela, who was raised in it.  Which almost brings me to the point of this blog.

The world is entering a precarious time, in which religion is increasingly under attack in the West.  Materialism and Secularism have driven this trend for more than a hundred years, but it has rapidly accelerated in recent decades as many conclude that most of the worlds violence and negative tendencies emanate from religion.  This is highly debatable, since despotic rulers seeking to eradicate Religion have destroyed far more lives in the last 100 years than those doing so in the name of Religion.

Nonetheless, an emphasis on the material is like a powerful gravity source pulling at the Western mind.  This force counteracts the spiritual elements of society that traditionally raised our standards by teaching and instilling virtues into our children, and thus our civilization.  We see the effects in all of our institutions today, including business, government, schools and entertainment.Black Hole  What can families do to instill values and foster virtues in their own children, and also extend these into the community and society in general?

We stumbled upon the Global Virtues project through the Baha’i Faith, of which we are members.  This marvelous project has enabled us to create The Essential Family Virtues Program – Madison, which we run out of our home.  Perhaps the most powerful element of the Virtues Project is independence from any specific Religion or Ideology.  All of them claim to aspire to the same high ideals, and the Virtues represent a common language that allows all of them to communicate.

This year we’re focused on Truthfulness, Kindness, Forgiveness, Courage and Service, among others.  While teaching virtues together within our own families, we learn from and about each other at the same time.  This provides instant feedback on the power of the language of Virtues to transcend any perceived differences and create a community able to overcome the forces of materialism pulling us all towards its vortex.

It initially surprised me how quickly others grasp the value of what we’re doing and express an interest to join us.  As we enter our second year we’re finding that lighting our candles together chases away a considerable amount of darkness.  Please send an email to Virtues@SOOPLLC.com if you’d like to discuss lighting a similar candle in your area, wherever you might find yourself.  The language of virtues is universal – no translator needed.

One candle can dispel the darkness

You Can’t Handle the Truth!

You Can’t Handle the Truth!

This statement immediately brings Jack Nicholson to mind, delivering that iconic line to Tom Cruise in “A Few Good Men“.  It’s one of those grand-slam Hollywood moments that audiences sink their heart into, identifying with one side of a highly emotionalized issue.  I lived in Europe when this came out, at the time the Soviet Union was collapsing.  I had spent considerable time behind the Iron Curtain, and saw things against the stark “black and white” “us vs. them”  backdrop of the era.

Not only that, at the time I was a full-time Minister with The Worldwide Church of God, founded by Herbert W. Armstrong to preach the True Gospel of the Kingdom of God for the first time in 1900 years.  We had The Truth, and we were serving up truth – hot off the press – as a warning to a world that couldn’t handle it.

As you might imagine, I had a strong affinity to the emotive power of Jack’s statement.  As I watch it now, more than 20 years later, the segment seems hollow, artificial, contrived, and dated.  Is this due to time moving on, or is it because I’ve so completely changed my perspectivesYou can't handle the truth! on reality?  Probably a bit of both.  And while the Trilogy I’m in the process of completing, which started with The People of the Sign, covers my metamorphosis in detail, let me share the soundbite here.

The biggest problem with how I used to think was this idea that anyone could “have the truth”.  You can’t have, own, possess, the truth.  The truth is “out there”.  You can only seek to discover bits of it – to find those parts of it which resonate with you.

Sadly, things which are not true also often resonate with people.

Discerning the difference is key.  And I’ve come to see that focusing on the purity of our own heart is the only way to ensure we resonate with the truth, vs. the lie.  This is why the second volume in the trilogy is called The Hardness of the Heart.

Thinking we can “have the truth” leads to us doing what Nicholson did in the movie, the thing he claimed others couldn’t do.  He believed in his own ability to “handle the truth”.  We should not be so arrogant as to believe we can “handle the truth”.

Pinocchio

The word handle has a number of definitions all of which have to do with manipulating, controlling, managing, and even trading or conducting commerce.  In other words, if you think you can “handle the truth” you are most likely spending much of your time spinning it to assert your interpretation on the universe, rather than letting the universe inform you.  And to profit in some way from your efforts.  And you are likely deceiving yourself in the process.

As I finalize the draft of The Rod of Iron the third and final volume in my trilogy – scheduled for release this Spring, I’m focused on peer review, on listening to my editor, and on remembering the lessons imparted to me during my time in India, struggling with what I call my decade in a dead end, during which the universe began in earnest to prove to me that I was wrong.  That I didn’t “have the truth” and that while I believed myself capable of “handling it” the truth was that letting go of my preconceived ideas was the path towards the light.

My readers understand that this doesn’t mean throwing out babies with bathwater.  It entails carefully and prayerfully examining any and all evidence, and being open to what the data is revealing.  My understanding that God reveals Himself through both His Word and His Creation was a critical component in my decision to stop “handling the truth”.  Once I stopped spinning it, the true orientation of particles, molecules, celestial bodies and stars, Jack Nicholson, Tom Cruise and HWA included, became more apparent.  Along with it, my own spin was able to be brought into better alignment with the truth.

If you’re ready to stop trying to handle the truth, and would like to join in open dialogue with people who may or may not believe as you do, but who are open to exploring Revelation together, whether it be the Word of God, or the kind the Universe provides, on a wide variety of topics, please accept my invitation to join The People of the Sign on facebook.

The discussions might make your head spin.  Which is something I hope you look forward to.What is your personal Spin?