Category: Global issues

The Echo Chamber of Religion Leads To Extremism

The strange case of Warren Jeffs, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ leader, ended today in Jeffs’s conviction for child rape.

We wonder how it is possible in the 21st century for hundreds of men and women to be deluded by Jeffs’ bizarre, perverted religious expression.  Jeffs and the FLDS are the extreme result of religion unmoderated by common decency and the wisdom of the greater culture.

Put differently, isolated individuals tend to believe what their leaders tell them.  Cut off from media and outside contact with non-FLDS acquaintances, the FLDS compound reinforced daily that the word of Warren Jeffs was the word of God.

The nation was riveted to news coverage when authorities raided the FLDS “Yearning For Zion” compound near Eldorado, Texas, in April, 2008.  The isolated FLDS women and girls drew comments for the homemade, plain-style dresses they wore.  But, the real oddity was that this break-away sect of the Mormon Church had refused to give up the practice of polygamy and child marriage.  Jeffs was their leader, and his word was regarded as divine by his followers.

The clincher in the case was an audio tape found in Jeffs’s possession when he was arrested as a fugitive. The tape reveals sexual encounters with three underage girls, which Jeffs characterized as “heavenly comfort” sessions .  The  earthly reality was that a jury found Jeffs guilty of sexual assault on these poor girls, ages 12-15 years.  The conviction carries a potential life sentence.

Of course, this is the activity of a cult, we tell ourselves.  But looking more closely, it isn’t hard to find examples of those who live in their own echo chambers, listening only to their own voices.  There are many sad examples of those who cut themselves off from the corrective conversation that engagement with others provides. And, examples come from both the right and the left of the religious spectrum.

When Barack Obama was campaigning for the presidency, he found himself embarrassed by the sermons of his pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.  Wright’s fiery pulpit presence and his condemnation of America was understood by his parishioners within the context of his own church sanctuary.  But the sermon in which Wright called on God to “damn America” did not play well in the wider culture.   No explanation of the context, or the tradition of the church, or any other disclaimers mitigated the uproar over Wright’s sermon.  Obama eventually disavowed Wright, distancing himself from a pastor who was understood by his constituency but who was not ready for national media coverage.

Media experts tell us the internet enables us as never before to listen to media personalities who reinforce our own positions.  This “silo effect” insulates those who only watch Fox News or Keith Olbermann, for example,  from legitimate challenges to their ideology.

The same effect is present in the religious community.  The most strident opponents of other religions are usually those who listen only to their own voice.  Rev. Terry Jones, the vitriolic anti-Muslim pastor from Florida, represents the same extreme dressed up in evangelical garb.  Of course, Jones’s ministry is more like that of another cult figure, Tony Alamo, who also isolated his followers, compelling them to work long hours for no pay in order to enrich himself.

But the tendency to one-sidedness tempts all of us.  In his new book, Elusive Peace: How Modern Diplomatic Strategies Could Better Resolve World Conflicts, Douglas Noll, a lawyer-turned-peacemaker and international mediator, cites one of the primary reasons international peacemaking fails — opposing parties will not listen to each other’s stories.  Noll also adds “group identity,” with its “us-versus-them” mentality, to his list of peace impediments.  In other words, the failure to listen to each other, and to value one another as human beings prevents the resolution of many conflicts.

When religious leaders whip their constituents into a frenzy with exclusivist claims that “we have the truth and no one else does,” they do a grave disservice to the common good.  When we listen only to ourselves and those like us, we cut ourselves off from our brothers and sisters who might feel and think differently than we do.

To those who object that we must hold up the banner of truth, and keep ourselves apart from “others,” Jesus had a story to tell.

It was about a Jew who set out on a journey, got beaten up, robbed, and left for dead.  Those like him, devout religious leaders, passed him by.  But a man from Samaria, whose religious beliefs were anathema to the Jews, and who were engaged in a centuries-old feud with Jews, stopped to help the Jewish man.  He gave first aid, carried the man to the safety of an inn, paid for his lodging, and left money for the victim’s recovery.  In a rhetorical end to the story,  Jesus asked, “Who was neighbor to the man who was beaten?”  The obvious answer was someone unlike him in faith and practice, someone despised  and reviled by the victim’s people, someone who should have had nothing to do with the victim.

Conversation with others who are not like us, religiously or culturally, tempers our own tendency to isolation-induced arrogance.  Interfaith dialogue, racial reconciliation, tolerant conversations, and engaging with a diverse culture helps us see our common humanity, and serves the common good.

Does the President Need a Prophet?

Isaiah the prophet

Normally, I don’t write about politics because it’s a sure way to alienate at least half of your readers.  But I just read Wendell Griffen’s article titled, Obama Protects the Powerful Over the Poor.

Griffen contends that President Obama needs a prophetic voice in his circle of advisers, one who will speak for the poor and the disenfranchised in our society.  He critiques Obama’s calculated preference for the banks over homeowners, the powerful over the poor, and political expediency over the moral courage.

Does the President need a prophet?  Do pastors need a prophet to call us back to concern for society’s marginalized, especially in this economy?  I thought the article deserved a mention here, and I hope you’ll take time to read it.  Rev. Griffen’s sermons are also posted on EthicsDaily.com, and he’s a powerful preacher with a unique insight.

If you don’t know Wendell Griffen, he was the first African-American appointed to the Arkansas Court of Appeals. Currently, Rev. Griffen is pastor of the New Millenium Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, and CEO of Griffen Strategic Consulting.

I had the opportunity to spend an hour in conversation with Rev. Griffen last year.  We talked about reconciliation and how to help communities come together by building what he calls “cultural competency.”  Through Griffen Strategic Consulting, Griffen’s unique approach to racial reconciliation helps communities and corporations recognize the differences in diverse populations, but also finds common ground for cooperation and understanding.

A New Nominating Process

On another political note, if you’re tired of politics as usual, you might be interested in a non-partisan movement to select a presidential and vice-presidential candidate via the internet.  AmericansElect.org is the first open presidential nominating process using the internet to tap into the growing disconnect between the two dominant political parties and regular folks.  You may or may not be interested, but I find what they are trying to do a refreshing approach versus the two year-long primary process that has already begun.  Visit the site because I think this is glimpse of the future of the American political process.

The Return of $4 Gas and Other Woes

It is obvious that gas prices are rising quickly again.  In 2007-8, I wrote several posts on the prospects of gasoline hitting $4-$5  per gallon – you can read those posts here, here, and here.  We were well on the way to those numbers in the United States, and then the bottom fell out of the economy on a global scale.  Gas prices fell quickly back to under $2 per gallon.

Now the trend is in the opposite direction again.  There is no gas shortage — we actually export gas and other petroleum products to other countries.  We have a surplus of gas in the United States, and yet gas prices are rising again.  I am not an economist or an energy expert, so I’ll skip the explanations for all of this, but the truth is, gas is going up again.

While I thought the impact on churches three years ago was going to be significant, I now believe the impact on churches may be catastrophic.  Here’s why I think this time the situation is worse.  In 2007-8, as gas prices rose driven by the futures market, the US and global economies were growing and stable.  The subprime mortgage securities crisis had not yet hit, despite rumblings from some investors and economists.  Employment was high, unemployment was low, jobs were being created, and the prospects for the future looked bright.  So what if gas hit $4, we’d just suck it up and keep going in our SUVs.

Of course, things were much worse than anyone imagined.  To prevent a global depression, Wall Street had to be bailed out, along with the world’s largest banks and financial insurers like AIG.  Add to that 2 of 3 US auto manufacturers, and you have  a recipe for difficult days financially.

What does this have to do with churches?  The rise of fuel prices will drive increases in the costs of other consumer goods and services.  With unemployment at 8.8% — although some economists estimate the “real” unemployment rate at close to 15% — more Americans are out of work, not counting the ones who are under-employed, or employed on a part-time basis.

There is no doubt the federal government is going to reduce spending beginning now, which will lead to the termination of many government programs, and further unemployment.  Fewer services will be provided by government in the near future, including (if Paul Ryan has his way) major overhauls of Medicare (medical care for the elderly), and Medicaid (medical care for the poor).  The Federal Reserve is also making noises about raising interest rates due to fears of inflation fueled by rising prices.

All of this will have the following impact on churches:

  1. Church members will have less discretionary income and will contribute less to charities, including churches.
  2. As gas prices rise, most of us will curtail our driving habits which includes multiple trips to church in separate family vehicles.
  3. More Americans will lose services that are now publicly available.  There will be increased need for churches to do more to feed, house, care for, and assist the elderly, the sick, and the poor.
  4. Church budgets will suffer from the double impact of falling contributions and rising needs.

What point am I trying to make?  Get ready.  Begin now to prioritize your church budget.  Decide what your church is really going to be about.  Prepare mock budgets based on different scenarios which emphasize different ministry priorities.

I believe that we will see single cause churches, much like we have single cause non-profits.  There will be churches that focus on senior adults, or single parent families, or families with special needs children.  Why?  Because smaller churches especially will be unable to “be all things to all people.”

We are on the front end of this economic realignment.  Churches, I believe, have an obligation theologically to make the tough choices to minister to the most vulnerable in society, even if the popular political position is the opposite.  We will soon face those choices, and because we are approaching another presidential election cycle, do not expect solutions from either major political party until at least 2013.  What do you think?  Will rising gas prices and other factors impact churches? Why or why not?

Blood on his hands

Terry Jones has blood on his hands today.

Terry Jones has blood on his hands today.  Jones is pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, where the Quran was burned after being “tried” by Jones and his church in a mock court.  The Quran was found “guilty” and, after being soaked in kerosene, was burned.  News of the event trickled out in the media, and went little noticed by the Western press.

But it did not go unnoticed in the Muslim world.  Today an Afghan mob, angered by news of the burning of the Quran at Jones’s church, attacked a United Nations office in Afghanistan today killing as many as 20 UN workers, and setting fire to buildings in the UN compound.

Terry Jones was warned this would happen when he held the world’s attention last year as he threatened to burn the Quran on 9/11.  Jones sowed the wind and the world is reaping the whirlwind.

But, of course, Jones is unapologetic.  The LA Times reported, “In an email statement released Friday, Jones did not say why he changed his mind yet again. He condemned the violence in Afghanistan, calling it “a very tragic and criminal action,” and called on the U.S. government and United Nations to “call these people to justice.”

Jones, of course, takes no responsibility for these deaths, and for the unrest his actions have provoked.

A Threat To Religious Liberty for Some is a Threat To All

Religious liberty is at risk in the United States today.   Rep. Peter King (R-NY), chair of the House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on Thursday to explore the issue of the radicalization of Muslims here in the United States.  While this might appear to be a legitimate national security concern, Rep. King’s history and previous statements raise serious questions about his intent.

Civil rights groups, religious leaders, and other minority religious communities have expressed concerns about these hearings.  A prominent Baptist ethicist, Dr. David Gushee, wrote an op-ed piece in USA Today this week, voicing concern that “hearings on Muslims could harm us all.”  Gushee contends that King’s hearings “threaten the perceived legitimacy of any practice of Islam in the United States, therefore risking one of our most fundamental liberties — freedom of religion.”

Why do Gushee and others see a threat to religious liberty here?  Congressional hearings have two purposes.  First, televised hearings draw media attention to issues of interest to Congress and to the American public.  The McCarthy anti-Communist hearings of the 1950s, and the Watergate hearings of the 1970s are two of the best examples.  Televised hearings create a political opportunity to make a public point.  But, secondly, congressional hearings often precede legislation aimed at solving the problem spotlighted by the hearings.

Continue reading “A Threat To Religious Liberty for Some is a Threat To All”

10 Books That Changed My Life and Ministry

A fellow pastor emailed me with some kind words, and a suggestion — blog about the 10 books that changed my life and ministry.  What a great idea, and here goes, Clay!  Of course, the Bible goes without saying, but I said it anyway to avoid unnecessary comments on its absence from this list.  And, I’m not including books that influenced me as a kid, like Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Captains Courageous, and Call of the Wild.  These are all post-MDiv discoveries which provided fundamental transformation in aspects of my theology and ministry practice.  Okay, here’s my list in no particular order —

1.  The Celtic Way of Evangelism by George Hunter.  This book changed how I look at the whole process of evangelization.  The memorable phrase in Hunter’s book for me was that Celtic Christians encouraged people to belong before they believed.  In other words, they incorporated strangers into the community with hospitality and many gradually came to accept the Gospel.  Hunter’s book piqued my interest in reading more about Celtic Christianity, but there is no doubt this book changed my ministry.

2. Jesus Christ For Today’s World by Jurgen Moltmann.  This was the first book I read by Jurgen Moltmann, and tears came to my eyes reading this phrase: “The Bible is the book of remembered hopes.”  What a wonderful description and Moltmann moved me then, and still does several volumes later.  One of his latest books, Son of Righteousness, ARISE, is spectacular.  Moltmann’s conversion story captures the hope of the Gospel, and his theology of hope is the result.

3. The World’s Religions by Huston Smith.  This is one of those classic texts that should be in every library, minister or not.  Smith’s reputation and sympathetic treatment of the world’s great religions is unsurpassed.  I have new appreciations for other faith expressions.  When read along with Veli-Matti Karkkainen’s An Introduction to the Theology of Religions, one can appreciate how Christian theologians through the ages have dealt with the issue of world religions.  Get the illustrated edition of Smith’s book if you can because the graphics add much to the telling of these ancient stories.

4. Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh.  If you have not read Thich Nhat Hanh, please do so.  Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, a Zen master, a peace activist nominated by Martin Luther King for the Nobel Peace Prize, and a gentle soul.  His books are short, often repetitive, but his writing has a calm and reassuring affect.  Nhat Hanh also talks a great deal about practice, primarily the practice of mindfulness.  I have used his breathing technique many times to “calm body and mind” as he teaches.  One of the renown Buddhist scholars and teachers today, Thich Nhat Hanh is perhaps second only to the Dalai Lama in worldwide influence.

5. Dissident Discipleship by David Augsburger.  I read this book for a class I took from David Augsburger, but I was captivated by his Mennonite witness and his multi-faceted approach to discipleship.  Augsburger writes about “tripolar spirituality” which includes God, self, and others as foundational to following Jesus.  If you don’t know David Augsburger, this is the book to start with.

6. Night by Elie Wiesel.  The Holocaust is an inexplicable horror and Wiesel writes his first-person account of his experience in Nazi concentration camps.  The tone is understated for the tragedy speaks for itself.  Wiesel presents the question of evil and suffering in graphic detail and comes away with no answers, only memories.  A classic that should be read by anyone concerned with evil, suffering, and the presence of God in its midst.

7. Covenant of Peace by Willard Swartley.  Swartley’s subtitle for this book is “The Missing Peace in New Testament Theology and Ethics.”  His contention is that peace has been neglected, and that God’s shalom is the heart of our theology.  Written from a Mennonite appreciation for peace as a practice, this book convinced me that peace with God, man, and creation is what God is ultimately up to.  Swartley makes his case compellingly, and he changed my perspective on peace.  If you like John Howard Yoder, you’ll love Swartley.

8. ______________ by N. T. Wright.  Okay, I’m cheating here, but N. T. Wright has been a tremendous influence on me.  His books on Jesus, Paul, the Bible, and eschatology (Surprised by Hope) are amazing. Wright gave me a new perspective on the “new perspectives” on Jesus and Paul, and with it a firm connection to the contexts in which Jesus and Paul ministered.  I believe Wright calls his approach “biblical realism” or “historical realism” or something like that which I have not taken the time to look up and footnote.  Whether you agree with Wright or not (John Piper does not), Wright is a force to be reckoned with in theological insight.

9.  Gandhi: An Autobiography by M. K. Gandhi.  I have a Buddhist, so why not a Hindu on my list?  Of course, Gandhi transcends categories, both cultural and religious.  Martin Luther King took his nonviolent approach to civil rights from Gandhi.  Gandhi changed the British empire, liberated his people, and left his mark on the world by demonstrating that nonviolent resistance in love is an irresistible force.  See the movie, read the book, Gandhi’s life is one you must know.

10. The Friends of God by Meister Eckhart and company.  Of course, this is not a real book, but I have been more influenced by Meister Eckhart and the gottes freunde in the 14th century than I can attribute to one book.  I’m reading Dorothee Soelle’s book, The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance, and she quotes extensively from Eckhart.  Of course, Eckhart and the friends of God were mystics in that German sort of way that gets your head spinning when you read their stuff.  But they were, and continue to be, a tremendous influence in the arena of the immediate experience of God.

I also could have added Thomas Merton, the Dalai Lama, Taitetsu Unno (Buddhist), Marcus Borg (no, I do not agree with everything Borg says), Stanley Hauerwas, William Willimon, and Leonardo Boff.  Plus, Thomas More, Richard Foster, Piero Ferruci (The Power of Kindness) and Cynthia Bourgeault.  Plus, I am sure, many others whose books have affected my life and ministry by providing new information, insight, inspiration, and challenge.

What are the top 10 books that have changed your life and ministry?

A Small Church Causing Big Problems

Terry Jones, pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center, leads a congregation of 50 people in Gainesville, Florida.  Normally, churches with 50 members are not featured on CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, the NY Times, Washington Post, and every other media outlet in existence.  But, Terry and his flock, like Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church, have thrust themselves onto the world stage.  All because Pastor Terry, who wears a .40 caliber handgun on his hip, decided to burn Korans on September 11.

But, according to Der Spiegel, a popular German magazine and website, Pastor Terry was tossed out of his Cologne, Germany congregation a couple of years ago because of the atmosphere of “fear and terror.”  Also, he was accused of allegedly misappropriating funds, and failing to abide by German wage laws.  Terry Jones apparently made church members perform hours of free labor to benefit the church’s bottom-line.  We haven’t seen this trick since Tony Alamo made rhinestone denim jackets famous in Nashville where he sold them to country music stars for a fortune, but failed to pay his workers adequately, if at all.

But back to Terry Jones.  Jones embodies the very fundamentalism he seeks to destroy.  Except, of course, he thinks he’s right and Muslims are wrong (actually, Jones said they were more than wrong, they were of the devil).  In Terry Jones’ very small universe, of which he is the center, he is the arbiter and protector of truth, justice and the American way.  And, he insists he is going to burn Korans on Saturday.

What do we do with abusers of religion like Jones, who masquerade as Christians while saying “it’s time to hit back?”  (I think Jesus took “hitting back” off the list of things we as his followers get to do, but Jones seems to have skipped over the Sermon on the Mount in the race to his 15-minutes of fame.)  We speak out against him, and Fred Phelps, and Tony Alamo, and all of the other charlatans, megalomaniacs, and delusional leaders who gather a handful of people and call them a church.

Jones is not exemplifying Christian values, and is certainly not the model of Christian ministry.  And don’t bother to take me to task for “judging a brother.”  Two reasons:  1) he is not my brother in the faith but an impostor who gives us all a bad name; and, 2) I am not judging him because his actions are self-evident.  It takes no discernment, which is implied in judging,  to see through his ego-centered antics.  If you think I’m too harsh, re-read the New Testament letters of Paul when he talks about charlatans like Jones.  The tragedy is that he will put at-risk Americans and American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, and all the Middle East, and he will further inflame the animosity between religions by his actions.

On a more positive note, EthicsDaily.com has an excellent resource for starting a Christian-Muslim discussion.  The DVD is titled Different Books, Common Word, and the film tells the story of how Christians and Muslims in America work together for the common good.  This film was shown on ABC affiliates last year, and is a high-quality, helpful resource in focusing the conversation about religious pluralism on positive examples.

Normally, I write about small churches that are solving big problems.  Sadly today we have the example of a small church that is creating big problems.  Speak out against this abuse, and then be an example of peace to others, even others of different faiths.

A Must-read Conversation With Rick Warren

You need to read The Future of Evangelicalism:  A Conversation With Rick Warren over at The Pew Forum.  It’s long, and covers a lot of territory, but in it Rick talks about how megachurches do the small church thing (my words, not his).  Here’s a quick excerpt:

WARREN: For example, our church, while we have the big services on Sunday, we meet in homes during the week in small groups of six to eight people. We have over 4,500 small groups. They meet in every city in Southern California.

CROMARTIE: How many again?

WARREN: Four-thousand-five-hundred. They meet in every city in Southern California from Santa Monica to Carlsbad. It’s a hundred miles distance in our small groups. So on Sunday morning they’re coming to Saddleback or they’re going to Saddleback San Clemente or Saddleback Irvine or Saddleback Corona, but during the week they’re in small groups.

And it is in that small group – when you get sick, you’re visited in the hospital. When you’re out of work, the people help you out. There is a real tight-knit community. There is a longing for belonging in our community, and large churches have figured out it’s not the crowd that attracts; it’s the stuff under the surface that attracts.”

Bingo!  I love that line….“it’s not the crowd that attracts; its the stuff under the surface that attracts.” Of course, Rick points out that the largest churches in the world are not in the US, but in Asia, Africa, and South America.  Read the entire interview.  It’s good stuff about issues of interest to us all, no matter what size church you serve.

A Better Sermon on Babel and Pentecost

I preached on Pentecost last Sunday as “Babel Revisited.”  In that sermon I repeated the conventional thinking that God punished mankind’s attempt to build a tower to reach to the heavens.  But listen to what Wendell Griffen says,

That interpretation of Genesis 11:1-9 is not fair to God.  Do we really think the Creator of the universe is threatened by a municipal construction project?    Are we dealing with a Being who is so insecure that a few people who put a city together and build a skyscraper get on His nerves?  If God is that petty, God should not be called good and gracious, but petty and tyrannical.

Instead of reading the passage to mean that cultural diversity is divine punishment, we should understand it to show how cultural diversity is part of the great redemptive purpose of God.  God is not threatened when people cooperate to construct cities and tall buildings.   One story buildings and rural settings are not entitled to divine favor.

What the passage truly shows is that God wants humans to be spread throughout the world and enjoy cultural diversity without being afraid.  If there is a condemnation in the passage—and I use the word if intentionally—it condemns the idea that cultural sameness is the way to salvation.  We are one people because we have a common Creator, not because we speak the same language or live in the same location.  Our oneness lies in who we are before God, not who we are physically related to by human ancestry and geography.  God loves our diversity.  God intentionally caused our diversity.  God is glorified by our diversity.

— from Babel and Pentecost by Wendell Griffen

I wish I had said that.  I will not think of Babel in the same way again.  Griffen’s interpretation gives even more meaning to the Pentecost event, as God’s means of bringing diversity together again to send us back out into the world with God’s message of hope and salvation.  Read the entire sermon here.

Judge Wendell Griffen is a former Arkansas appeals court judge; the first person of color to join a major Arkansas law firm; CEO of Griffen Strategic Consulting; pastor of New Millennium Church; professor of law at the University of Arkansas’s Bowen School of Law.

Think Churches Can Feed America’s Poor?

Churches are an important resource in caring for America’s poor, but the job is too big for churches alone. With all the talk about healthcare and the nation’s deficit, I’ve seen more  than one blog suggest that churches take over the responsibility for caring for the nation’s poor.  While that is a noble goal, moving all government “safety net” programs to churches is a numerical impossibility. Let’s just take one example — the food stamp program, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.  The Cato Institute, a conservative think-tank, puts the food stamp program budget at about $75-billion dollars.  But, let’s use a more conservative estimate from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.  They estimate that 36-million Americans (1-in-8) receive what most of us call food stamps, or nutrition assistance.  On average, each participant receives $133 per month, or about $1,596 per year. Okay, let’s do the math on those numbers: $1,596 x 36,000,000 = $57,426,000,000 or about $57.5 billion per year.  That’s less than Cato estimates, but will serve our purposes just fine. The total number of congregations in America is generally estimated between 350,00 to 400,000.  Let’s use  the higher guesstimate of 400,000 churches of all denominations in the United States.  The median size of these congregations is 90 in attendance each Sunday. Here’s where the numbers tell the story:  For churches to take over the feeding of America’s poor, each church in America would have to feed 90 people each.  That means that the average church would take on as many poor people as it currently has in attendance! But, even more difficult is the financial picture.  If each church allocated $133 per month to feed each of the 90 people, the total yearly cost would be $143,640 per church per year.  Most churches with 90 in attendance don’t have a total budget of $150K per year, much less a benevolence budget of that amount. Of course, this is only one program.  The SNAP program is run through the US Department of Agriculture, but other programs Continue reading “Think Churches Can Feed America’s Poor?”