Sunday, April 26, 2009

Is it the Economy Turning Dr Jekyll into Mr Hyde?

They are calling them, "Familycides". According to the press, it seems there has been an increase of them lately. The typical script goes: a man kills his wife and children, then kills himself. Neighbors, colleagues or family members discover the grisly scene and the authorities try and unravel the mess while the newswires feed the tragedy to the world.

Underlying an overwhelming majority of these familycides are serious financial issues. Usually a mountain of debt and often there is a hint of financial impropriety somewhere in the background.

We expect suicides to go up during economicly challenged times. In 1932, the height, or depth, of the 'great depression' suicides dramatically spiked. I remember at least one suicide that resulted from the Enron scandal a few years back. And just this past week, a leading financial officer of Freddie Mac, the troubled mortgage company, took his own life.

But now, we have these extremists, who not only kill themselves in a moment of shame and distress, but take those they love with them. How could anyone sink that far down the pit of depravity?

The media would spin this into a demonstration that we 'are in the worst financial downturn since the Great Depression'. I say, "Poppycock!"

First, we are NOT in the worst financial downturn since the Great Depression. So far, it's not even the worst in my lifetime. I remember some pretty bad times in the 70s and 80s, when interest rates and unemployment rates were considerably higher than today. When we leave emotions and hype out of the mix and put our present situation into historic perspective, we see an entirely different story.

One of the differences now is the amount of debt held both individually and corporately. Never in our past have so many owed so much to so many more. America and the world have leveraged ourselves to the breaking point. As the old parable reminds us, when a house is built on a foundation of sand, it will never withstand the strain of stormy weather, regardless of how lovely it might be. And for many families, businesses and nations, our financial houses are built on just such sandy places.

Back to our premise, for just a moment; it is not the economy that is turning peaceful family men into mass murderers. In Robert Louis Stevenson's novel, it was a potion that brought the evil, decadent Edward Hyde out of meek Dr. Jekyll, but the potion was just the catalyst. Henry Jekyll knew, or at least suspected, that he (we all) had a dark side. What surprised him was the immensity and strength of evil inside.

In the same way, financial crashes are not the root of familycides, or even suicides, but are merely the potions consumed that allow an inner dark side to emerge.

I would argue that the way to fix our economy is quite simple. Not very easy, but quite simple. We do it the same way we fix our personal economies, we spend less than we earn. We live within our means. There will be pain, embarrassment and frustration involved, but that's how we get there. I say no institution is too big to fail. In fact, for us to regain sound footing, some instutions MUST fail.... or reorganize and live again.

But we'll address that another day. Today, let's examine a solution to the rampage of murder and suicide that fills our daily news reports. First, not all of them are financially related. Many have to do with broken relationships. But all have one common denominator: despair!

Often there is anger, depression, fear and panic. Then hopelessness takes over and Mr Hyde is loosed. He inevitably leaves devastation in his wake.

The individuals who perform these dasdardly acts, have one piece correct, in a twisted sort of way. The only way to eliminate Edward Hyde, is to kill him. But that doesn't mean Dr. Jekyll must perish as well. And it certainly doesn't mean that the entire Jekyll household must be exterminated.

The Bible calls our Mr Hyde, "the old man". And he truly does live in all of us. When left to our own devices we are all capable of great corruption. Fortunately most don't take things to the ultimate extreme that family killers and mass murderers do. But we all have ugliness inside. The Bible reminds us that the "old man" must be put to death. He cannot be controlled, tamed or domesticated. He must be destroyed.

We do that by handing over the keys of our lives to Jesus of Nazareth and letting Him drive. It's called, 'repentance.' Repentance sounds like some kind of a demand, but it's really an invitation; Jesus said it this way, "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest."

An economic turnaround will not repair the darkness inside us. But Jesus can. Just like we need to build our finances on new foundations, we need to rebuild our lives on a new foundation. It won't always be easy. And the stormy weather will still come, but just like in the old parable, a house built on the rock, will STAND.

My heart aches for the millions in fear and despair right now. I know the answer. I've experienced it. It works. HE works. I encourge you to read the Gospel of Luke in the New Testament. If you don't have a New Testament, go online to and read it there. Talk about becoming DEBT FREE! It's even better than IOU NO MORE.