Economic Breakdown

Sep 22nd, 2008 • Category: Rev. Charles Stephens, Minister Emeritus


Last week’s economic news was a bit overwhelming.  I had gotten used to the low grade slide on the stock market, the lack of loan possibility, the bad business reports from companies, the increase of foreclosures and the increasing rates of unemployment. But last week was something else. First it was Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, then Lehman Brothers, and our large neighbor Merrill Lynch was bought up at a bargain basement sale and then AIG went from private hands to a governmental agency.  Now there is talk of over 700 billion dollars to buy up bad loans.


It may turn out to be the only thing to do, but as someone said this week, it does seem like when it comes to corporations our present government believes in a policy of privatizing profits and socializing losses.


There are major cultural shifts taking place, like the tectonic plates slowly shifting below the earths surface these cultural shifts will eventually cause earthquakes.  The world we have known and thought we understood is changing.  We as a society are, I hope, waking up to the fact that the bed we are sleeping on is on fire. 


Even if we don’t like what we see, we are better able to understand and meet the changes and impending challenges that we are facing when we gain a larger perspective on what is happening. 



I have been impressed with the research about Cultural Creatives done by  Dr. Paul Ray, a sociologist, and his wife Dr. Sherry Ruth Anderson, a research psychologist, who coined the term 9 years ago when they published a book by that name.  



Cultural Creatives are a sub culture of people who have become flexible and creative in respect to cultural change.  They are hopeful people reacting creatively to change.  They are people at the cutting edge, able to lead us through the various cultural changes we face.  They are people willing to help shape a new kind of culture that is emerging here in the U.S. and around the world. 



I firmly believe that we as congregation and Unitarian Universalists in general tend toward being Cultural Creatives.


Paul Ray says that one of the truly unfortunately facts about Cultural Creatives is that they/we  lack any awareness of ourselves as a large creative and powerful sub culture.   We assume we consist of a few lone individuals.   Research however indicates that we are not only not alone but there are 60 Million Cultural Creatives within the U.S.  With that knowledge, maybe we will be more willing to speak up more frankly in public settings.   With that knowledge, maybe we will be more willing to act more directly in helping to shape a new way of life.


Our faith community is one of the places where cultural creativity can and is taking place communally.  We know that we are at a time in history where how open we are to what we are experiencing today will have a critical impact on our journey into the future.  As Cultural Creatives we can either anticipate global change and its impact on our local communities and respond in caring and compassionate ways, or we can blindly move forward in a hurry like the captain of the Titanic.   We don’t want to find out too late that we were moving so fast that turning away from the cultural icebergs took too long.


Paul Ray likens our situation to that of those who were about to enter on a great sea journey, much like emigrants leaving their home shores with little to carry and knowing that their personal history and that of their parents is not going to be replicated.  We are like the Hebrew people who followed Moses out of slavery and out of the land of Egypt into the desert.   


On such a journey, it is important to remember what Harriet Tubman, who sang songs about the Israelites leaving their slavery in Egypt as she guided American slaves along the Underground Railroad to freedom.  She said “I would have freed more people, if they’d known they were slaves.”  


Our challenge is to be open to the changes that are taking place all around us.  Our challenge is not to loose our heads and hearts to fear but rather to use our creativity to help preserve life, maintain hope and never forget compassion as together we move forward into the future.


Rev. Charles J. Stephens