Even though I graduated with a degree in economics, I won’t pretend to know the ins and outs of our nation’s financial mess or, more importantly, how we might get out of it [EDIT: This American Life has a great episode, Another Frightening Show about the Economy, that helps explain things in ordinary human terms].  The list of scandals, bailouts and general madness never seems to end.  Reading this article begs the question, how did we end up like this?

Days after it got a federal bailout, American International Group Inc. spent $440,000 on a posh California retreat for its executives, complete with spa treatments, banquets and golf outings, according to lawmakers investigating the company’s meltdown

Sure, we’re offended (even outraged) by the current political climate of mudslinging and finger-pointing and by the greed and corruption underlying the financial disaster we’re facing, but how do we change?

The lyrics from the song Freeze Up by Operation Ivy (from waaaay back in ’89) sound strangely prescient in our current milieu:

just one political song, just one political song
to drop into the list that stretches years and years long
static and division is increasing like a storm
we are sheltered
we are forewarned
nothing can be changed except ourselves

I know that Op Ivy didn’t intend it, but I think there’s a radical Kingdom message there.  Transformation, for followers of Christ, is not just about self-improvement or being “nice little Christians.”  It means embodying a radically different set of values, especially during hard times — generosity instead of selfishness, which is probably our natural tendency during times of struggle; love instead of fear; friendship instead of separation.  Communities that embody and live out these values will stand in stark contrast to our current cultural morass, as prophetic indictments and as witnesses of hope and redemption.