Thursday, May 30, 2013

To Smart Growth, Sustainable Development, Downtown Arena Ball Parks and the Politicians Who Love Them: Just Say No

Today's post is written jointly to all residents of cities out there who are thinking of embracing "smart growth" and/or burdening yourselves with the debt of a downtown arena stadium to spur economic development as well as to anyone in El Paso who is considering voting for Steve Ortega for Mayor in the June 15th run off election.  I have just one word of advice for both of you--don't.

El Paso has spent the last couple of years trying to figure out how to redefine itself.  Our rabidly "progressive" city council passed a new landscape ordinance which requires more greenspaces and less parking as a part of a plan to beautify our city.  Our newly adopted master plan calls for smart growth and a redeveloped downtown where multi-storied, mixed use buildings comprised of retail on the bottom and apartments on the upper levels will line narrow streets.  We are spending $27 million on upgrading our notoriously badly run bus system--Sun Metro.   And the crowning jewel of this new, green us is a brand new Triple A ballpark stadium which we are building on the site of our former city hall.  We imploded the latter building, which was only about 30 years old, on April 14, and moved our city offices, so that we could build a new arena stadium for a minor league baseball team which is moving to El Paso.  Combined costs for moving the city offices, imploding city hall and building the arena ball park were initially estimated at between $85 and $100 million.  After two years of meetings and investment in a public relations firm, we even have a new city motto--"El Paso: It's All Good."

The problem, of course, is that it's not all good.  Our redevelopment comes at the cost of nearly half a billion dollars.  According to a news story by KVIA-TV's Matthew Smith,  our city will not break even on the stadium expense for 250 years.  That is at the current cost of $50 million, but this past Tuesday the team owners came back to city council requesting an additional $10 million for "upgrades" to the stadium that were not part of the original plan.  The official groundbreaking ceremony for the stadium happened today, although construction began a couple of weeks ago, and already we are short on the budget for this boondoggle. The project manager says that if the additional funds are not appropriated--which presently they are not, since city council refused to allocate the extra money--voters will not get the ballpark they were promised.

As it happens, the voters did not get any say on this project in the first place.  If they had, I am quite certain that there would be no stadium under construction and city hall would still be standing.  City council made the decision to build the stadium without waiting for an election because they said that this was too great an opportunity to pass up.  Voters did vote on nearly half a billion dollars in quality of life improvement bonds and a new hotel tax, but these ballot issues were sold to us with the explanation that the stadium was a "done deal".  El Pasoans could not be trusted to understand the benefits of the stadium well enough to be allowed a vote on it, so we could vote only on whether we as a city would pay for the costs with higher property taxes or whether visitors would pay for it with higher fees.

Since the contractors are already asking for more money, I am wondering whether anyone on city council considered the cost of upkeep, maintenance or repairs on this project.  While the city won't recover it's initial expenditures for 250 years, it appears that the stadium will probably be needing some upkeep within the next twenty years which appears to be about the average life expectancy of a stadium.

Consider Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, which, in 1989, built a $25 million 10,000 seat baseball stadium, the largest baseball stadium in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  In 2008, Pennsylvania asked taxpayers for $35 million to upgrade the stadium.  Those funds were to be matched by the redevelopment program grants for a presumed expenditure of $70 million dollars.  By 2011, the stadium was requesting an additional $40 million in renovations. 

Who is going to pay the costs of the upgrades and repairs for our stadium?  One of the team owners, Paul Foster, openly balked at the suggestion that he and his partners and the city should split the cost of the additional $10 million that the contractors are already requesting.  Who is going to foot the bill for the remaining expenses?  As deputy city accounting manager Bill Studer told Matthew Smith in that KVIA-TV interview last fall, "They [minor league downtown sports arenas] all lose money from a strictly accounting thing."

But these costs are inconsequential compared to the benefits of a downtown stadium--right?  Wrong.  Stadiums lose money from a strictly non-accounting thing too.  According to a study conducted last year by Colgate University, only 8 of 55 downtown stadiums constructed with at least 25% public funds are currently fostering economic development.  A February 2, 2012 article on titled, "As Superbowl Shows, Build Stadiums for Love and not Money" candidly addresses this issue.  According to Bloomberg, "Public funding for sports stadiums has been found in dozens of studies over several decades, to fall short of the promised benefits and to cost taxpayers more than expected."  Bloomberg cites a study by Harvard associate professor of urban planning Judith Grant Long, who found that the cost of public funding for stadiums typically runs 40% higher than initially promised.  These stadiums are the gift that keeps giving--taxpayers continue to pay for the stadiums decades after they are no longer in use.  Further, stadiums do not bring economic development to most regions; they just move entertainment dollars around the city.  Bloomberg cites a study by Jordan Rappaport and Chad Wilkerson of the Federal Reserve bank of Kansas City which says that even when bringing in a professional sports team the number of jobs created "is almost certainly less than 1000 and likely to be much closer to zero."  Other studies cited in the same article indicate that bringing in sport teams kills some jobs and reduces wages.  The higher taxes needed to fund stadium projects--such as our hotel tax--can have the net effect of dissuading would-be visitors, and the types of jobs the stadium produces are low wage seasonal jobs.   Bloomberg's conclusion: "public funding for new sports stadiums should be up to voters to decide.  Cities should make sure the public has access to independent evaluations of the costs and benefits of building a stadium--not just the inflated 'economic-impact studies' done at the behest of team owners and publicized in the media."

The stadium, combined with the Smart Growth projects downtown and the huge debt that our city is amassing in bonds, will have the net effect of draining revenues from other areas of the city and leaving our city with a profound shortfall.  At present, no one is considering this downside to all of our new spending. Instead, our current mayor won an award as one of the world's top five mayors for embracing smart growth and sustainability.   The New York Times featured our city in an article this week about how we are embracing the future by getting rid of our city hall and building a downtown arena stadium.  I wonder how many of those in our city who read this week's story also know that The New York Times in 2011 wrote stories about how the young "creative class" that we want so badly to bring to El Paso was moving into downtown Detroit to revitalize its downtown.  And yet, in spite of a massive federal bailout of the auto industry, a downtown stadium, and renewal efforts sponsored by Dan Gilbert, founder of Quicken loans, on May 13th Detroit announced that it has a $167 million cash shortfall and that it cannot pay its bills.  If Detroit is forced to file bankruptcy, it will become the largest city in the United States ever to do so.  First place in that category belongs right now to Stockton, California which was forced to file bankruptcy last year after a 15 year spending spree that included building a downtown arena stadium and a new city hall.  Stockton's city hall cost $35 million and sported a $197,000 monthly payment.  When Stockton defaulted and could no longer pay, Washington Mutual foreclosed on the building housing the city government.  One important difference between Stockton, California and El Paso, Texas--according to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2011 Stockton's median income was just over $55,121 annually while El Paso's median income was just over $39,000. 

New York Times columnist economist Paul Krugman insists that our country does not have a debt problem--in spite of the fact that the U.S. is almost $17 trillion in debt.  He says that we are in fine shape fiscally and should actually be spending more money on infrastructure as our gift to the next generation rather than getting our house in order.  No wonder the New York Times is glowing about El Paso's expenditures. 

The controversy over the Triple A stadium has accomplished something else--it has eclipsed concerns that the citizenry might have about sustainable development and smart growth.   The city's new master plan moves to encompass more and more of our city into "smart zones" where property can be taken by eminent domain for the greater good and where land rationing and unreasonable zoning restrictions drive up the costs of housing for everyone, and yet that story is not being covered.  We are too busy looking at the stadium.

Right now, El Paso is having a Field of Dreams experience as city council, the owners of the Triple A baseball team that is moving here, and progressives around the nation whisper in unison, "if you build it, they will come."  But Field of Dreams was just a movie--a Hollywood fantasy in which transforming a cornfield into a baseball diamond changed the lives of the people in a community.  In real life, massive debt does matter, for a nation and for a city.  As our taxes continue to rise, services continue to drop and our city does not experience the economic boom that has been promised, we are going to deeply regret the day we allowed our city to go down in flames.  If we don't get our house in order now, in a few decades we may again find ourselves in national headlines for a new, more humiliating distinction, as we take the number one spot for the largest city in the nation to declare bankruptcy. 

Right now we cannot stop the ball park--it is already under construction--but we can refuse to allocate one more dime for it.  We can stop the expansion of "smart growth" by demanding that the city planning office stop rezoning areas of our city.  We can vote in a pro-business mayor and insist that all of our representatives immediately stop throwing away our hard earned dollars and return to fiscally sensible policies.  We can demand a balanced budget and insist that we don't spend what we don't have.  And if we are successful then I propose a new city motto--"El Paso, Texas, Where Solvency is Cool".  That won't get us an article in The New York Times, but it will sure feel great when we are paying our taxes and looking at the city budget.

El Paso deserved better than what we are getting.  Your city, wherever it is located, does too.  So when the snake oil salesmen come to your town promising downtown redevelopment involving "green" housing, smart growth and sustainable development anchored by an arena stadium or some other massively expensive entertainment venue paid for by public funds, do yourselves a favor.  Just say no.

Alexandra Swann is the author of No Regrets: How Homeschooling Earned me a Master's Degree at Age Sixteen and several other books. Her novel, The Planner, about an out of control, environmentally-driven federal government implementing Agenda 21, is available on Kindle and in paperback. For more information, visit her website at

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The REAL Hunger Games--Food Rationing Coming to a Dinner Table Near You Courtesy of the U.N.

Update:  June 5th is World Environment Day and the UN is asking people worldwide to pledge to reduce their "foodprint". 

The mega bestselling trilogy, The Hunger Games, is set in a post-apocalyptic world where food is rationed and seconds are served up to the region whose champion can emerge as the games' victor.  The books and now movies have been a huge success--partially because in America we have no real concept of what food rationing means.  The last time we had rationing was during World War II when every American was encouraged to grow a "Victory Garden" and sugar was in short supply.  But if global climate change enthusiasts and the leftists in our country have their way, we will soon be back to victory gardens and food rationing as a permanent fixture of our society.

To understand where the newest push for government control is coming from, it is essential to understand that the main premise of environmentalists and the entire climate change movement, which has been encapsulated in Agenda 21, is that the primary danger to the world is the affluence of the West, and particularly the United States.  THE PROBLEM: We produce too much, we consume too much and we have too much. Our wealth is something that other countries aspire to emulate, but it is unsustainable.  THE SOLUTION:  Exchange the free market systems and freedom that created Western/American prosperity in the first place for a Central Planning system where are all resources are owned by the government and rationed to the populace.  This will intentionally destroy American wealth and reduce us to the level of poor third world countries, thereby achieving the levels of social equality that Agenda 21 demands. Maurice Strong, the chair of the UN Earth Summit in 1992, expressed this goal in his opening remarks:

"The same processes of economic growth which have produced such unprecedented levels of wealth and power for the rich minority and hopes of a better life for everyone have also given rise to the risks and imbalances that now threaten the future of rich and poor alike. This growth model, and the patterns of production and consumption which have accompanied it, is not sustainable for the rich; nor can it be replicated by the poor. To continue along this pathway could lead to the end of our civilization."

Sixteen years later, Presidential candidate Barack Obama restated this goal in the language of the people in a stump speech in Roseburg, Oregon delivered May 17, 2008:

"We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes at 72 degrees at all times whether we're living in the desert or we're living in the Tundra, and just expect that every other country is going to say, 'Oh, okay, you guys keep using 25% of the world's energy even though you only account for 3% of the world's population.'" (Emphasis added)

The past four and half years have seen huge strides in the advancement of the global environmentalist agenda.  Through the proliferation of Smart Growth communities which ration land usage and make housing more expensive, coupled with the Dodd Frank bill which cuts off access to home mortgage loans for 60% of Americans, the government is remaking us into a nation of renters who will spend our lives in tiny urban apartments. Through subsidies of public transportation combined with energy policies that raise the prices of both automobiles and gasoline, the government is going to force as many of us as possible to give up our cars.  The next stage--rationing our food and telling us what we can eat, is right around the corner.

Ever since President Obama took office, the first lady has been harping on the nation that we need to be eating healthier diets.  We saw pictures of her White House garden where she supposedly grows vegetables for her family.  Many thought that her new role as food police was just her "project".  Then Mayor Michael Bloomberg began restricting the use of salt in restaurants in New York and limiting the size of soft drinks.  He tells us that the government has a responsibility to protect its citizens' health by dictating what we eat.  So what's really going on?  Why, with all of the problems we are facing as a nation, is the state and federal government so interested in what we eat?

Last year at the Rio + 20 Summit, the current Secretary-General of the U.N. launched the U.N.'s Zero Hunger Challenge. The Zero Hunger Challenge is one of the Ban Ki-Moon's top priorities, and on the surface a campaign to end worldwide hunger sounds very noble. But like everything else that the U.N. has proposed for the last twenty years, the Zero Hunger Challenge is not really about ending hunger; it's about controlling food and forcing the industrial nations of the world to adopt a system of "sustainable agriculture".  Two of the goals give this away--eliminating over consumption and food waste.  The EPA website features a page showing that Americans waste 35 million pounds of food each year.  So how do we eliminate food waste?  Cut back the amount produced and ration the amount of food available.

The problem with the obesity campaign is that for the most part it has not been well received.  Even uber liberal Bill Maher has said that he has a problem with the government regulating how much we eat and drink.  So now, the climate change people are trying a different tactic--after telling us for years that one in three American children is obese, they are now telling us that one in five American children is hungry.

That is the theme of a documentary A Place at the Table which was released in March of 2013.  A Place at the Table takes statistics that nearly 20% of Americans are living in households with "food insecurity" and distorts them to imply that 1 in 5 children are malnourished or hungry as a result.  This theme is being echoed in a current ConAgra Food campaign which shows little children carrying folding chairs to a long table where a good meal is waiting for them.  The voiceover for this ad tells us that one in five children does not know where their next meal is coming from, but we can help by purchasing foods from the ConAgra family of foods, and they will donate funds to end hunger in America.  This propaganda even made its way into this season's Dancing with the Stars as the band who performed the song in the ConAgra commercial sang the song they wrote for the ConAgra campaign on the show and then repeated the same statistic.

If you listen carefully, the ConAgra campaign never says that 1 in 5 children is hungry--although that is strongly implied.  The reason for this is that the statistics are coming from the USDA's definition of families as "food insecure".  According to the statistics about 20% of U.S. households is food insecure--meaning that they are struggling to provide food at some point during the year. 

So...1 in 5 American kids is hungry--right?  Wrong! In one of the most deliberately misleading attempts to deceive the American public into destroying itself ever to be imposed on us, the Administration and the U.N. are distorting and misrepresenting the facts about hunger in America.  Food insecurity does not necessarily have anything to do with actual hunger at all because the USDA has two categories of food insecurity.  The first category of food insecurity is food insecurity with no reduction in caloric intake or reports of missed meals. Because this category is so broad, The Texas Food Bank Network has a definition of food insecurity on their website. "Food insecurity is the most broadly-used measure of food deprivation in the United States.  The USDA defines food insecurity as meaning 'consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year.'"  The site goes on to define what food insecurity does NOT mean, "it is not correct to state that specific individuals in a food insecure household (such as children) definitely experience outright hunger or specific coping mechanisms.  Rather than describing these individuals as food insecure they should be described as 'living in a food insecure home' is not correct to assert that every food insecure household is experiencing food insecurity 'right now', will experience hunger 'tonight' or 'does not know where its next meal is coming from.'"

So how many children are actually going hungry?  The USDA has a separate category to classify families where the children have reportedly experienced hunger--food insecurity with hunger or a reduction in caloric intake. That percentage is not 20%; it's just over 1% or about 374,000 US families.

Look, even one hungry child in America is one too many, but 1% of children who are experiencing hunger is a much more manageable number that we could undoubtedly handle with the current safety nets in place.  The other 19% are not actually going hungry--they are just eating less nutritious high calorie foods that cost less than those foods the USDA recommends as part of a balanced diet. Parents may be feeding them sugary or salty, high calorie foods. This is how the government and the left leaning media reconcile the problem of childhood obesity with the problem of childhood hunger--in the world of global environmentalist double speak, hunger and obesity are actually the same thing.

In the trailer for A Place at the Table the narrator, actor Jeff Bridges, tells us that the problem with food insecurity is not that there is no food available but that the right food is not available to families who need it,  and he challenges us to finally make the tough choices to end this problem.  What are those choices?

Environmentalists hate the U.S. system of agriculture because while they admit that it produces a lot of food, they complain that this "high output" system of agriculture which feeds our whole nation is bad for the earth and unsustainable.  Cornell University has summarized this "problem" for us in their study on food mapping, food sheds and sustainable agriculture, "Our agricultural system currently provides a cheap and abundant supply of food.  However, agriculture also causes negative impacts on the environment, rural economies and human health."  We have too much, we produce too much, we consume too much, and apparently we waste too much.

The solution is to get rid of high output farming, and the fertilizers and pesticides that it requires, and move to a system of small, sustainable farms.  These farms are to produce the food that is needed locally for each area so that we can stop the current transportation of food--the average vegetable travels 1500 miles from field to market--that leads to greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption.  This new push is reflected in the "buy local" food campaigns that are popping up everywhere now.  The Cornell Study on food sheds studied the possibility of growing all the food needed for upstate New York with the food coming from within 30 miles of population centers. The food sheds would be tied to population models, so in order for the food shed concept to work, mobility to and from cities would have to be greatly controlled and restricted or the food planners would not be able to accurately predict how much they needed.  Rosa Koire talks about some of the potential restrictions on freedom that this might pose in her book Behind the Green Mask: UN Agenda 21.  One area that Koire does not cover--travel.  If food is rationed per person based on the population, a resident of one of these cities would not be able to even entertain out of town guests!

Implementation of the food shed concept requires a plan for individual food rationing.   This system of rationing is called a "food print"-the amount "needed to feed an average person in New York with a balanced diet from local land and crop resources with sustainable management practices." Cornell's model included 63 g of meat and dairy per day--about 1/3 of current average consumption of meat and eggs.  By setting a maximum caloric intake for each individual per day and regulating the proportion of vegetables to meat and dairy, the experts at Cornell have calculated that they can feed most of upstate New York with resources within 30 miles.  Unfortunately, researchers concluded that they cannot use these systems to feed any of the major population centers--including New York City.

Cornell's model is generous because it does include some meat and dairy.  Many of the environmentalist proponents of sustainable agriculture and the accompanying food rationing want us on strictly vegetarian diets because livestock  require large amounts of water and consume large amounts of vegetation--both of which make them an inefficient food source.  According to the UN, 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock production.  By moving Americans to a "same calorie" vegetarian diet, we could reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 6%.

What the UN, the environmental /climate change lobby and the White House are not telling us is that the modern "high output" systems of farming are the reason that we are able to avoid famine and starvation.  My mother comes from the mid-West and grew up around farmers.  Farmers used to experience years where they lost a lot of their crops and finally the farms would fail.  When people depend on local farmers for food and the crop fails, the "food shed" has no way to sustain itself.  A rationed food system where the local population is forced to rely for its primary sustenance on whatever is grown within thirty miles would not lead to happy, well-fed people eating a healthful balanced diet--it will lead to people fighting and killing each other for every scrap of food available during times of scarcity. What the U.N. is proposing, and the Administration is promoting, is that we give up a system proven to produce a supply of cheap, plentiful food for everyone for a system that historically has proven to produce famine and starvation. 

In the Zero Hunger Campaign and its promotion through the White House, the entertainment industry and the media, we see a repeat of a cycle that is becoming all too depressingly familiar. First, the government creates a problem--high unemployment and high dependency on government programs through anti-business policies which make it hard for Americans to find jobs.  Restrictive energy policies increase the price of food.  Then the government comes in with a ready-made solution to the problem they just created--more government control over still another sector of our society. All "sustainability" initiatives are about controlling consumption and producing rationing, scarcity, poverty, misery and need.  Many Americans are suffering serious financial problems which have led to the growth of the first category of "food insecurity"--people who are strapped for cash and trying to make ends meet.  This is not due to our system of food production.  It is due to excessive government regulation that kills jobs and makes it tougher for people to find work that pays well.  It is due to rising energy costs resulting from energy policies that raise the prices of transportation and energy usage.  Nobody is denying that families in the U.S. are suffering financially.  But the answer is not more regulation and greater central planning which will lead to more poverty and more suffering.  The answer is energy policies that reduce costs so that the price of energy goes down, which will show up in the cost of those vegetables that travel 1500 miles.  The answer is business-friendly policies that encourage growth so that the underemployed and those relying heavily on government assistance can find work and provide better for their families. 

Next year we have a major opportunity to stop some of this madness.  Many seats are up for re-election in Congress and the Senate.  Find out where your candidates fall on the issues of the UN, sustainability, smart growth, smart code, climate change and all of the other monikers that Central Planners hide behind.  Don't just rely on specific party affiliation to tell you who you should vote for--advocates of Agenda 21 and climate change operate in both parties.  Read candidate interviews and policy statements to find out where they stand, and vote these globalists out of office while we still can.  If we don't, we may find ourselves living out some version of The Hunger Games in our own lifetimes.

Alexandra Swann is the author of No Regrets: How Homeschooling Earned me a Master's Degree at Age Sixteen and several other books. Her novel, The Planner, about an out of control, environmentally-driven federal government implementing Agenda 21, is available on Kindle and in paperback. For more information, visit her website at

Friday, May 10, 2013

They Have Found the Enemy and He is Us

Last Friday, Huffington Post featured an article under its "Green" section--Climate Study: Religious Belief in the Second Coming of Christ Could Slow Global Warming Action.   According to the article, 56% of Americans believe in the second coming of Jesus Christ, and this belief reduces the possibility of strongly believing that the government should take action on climate change by more than 12%.

Over the past twenty-one years, since the UN Earth Summit introduced Agenda 21 and first began a massive global push to rebuild our society into a new "green" utopia, the US has been enduring growing indoctrination that our way of life is bad, that we are using up the world's resources and that we need to consume less and live less well because by doing so, we will preserve the planet in better condition for future generations.

The Obama Administration has accelerated this push as much as possible.  I say as much as possible because although they have pushed the goals of Agenda 21 forward in every way that they were able to do so, the federal initiatives they hoped to pass, such as the Cap and Trade bill and Chris Dodd's Livable Communities Act, came under so much opposition that they could not be passed.  Instead, Agenda 21 is being implemented locally, one city at a time, as city after city greedily grabs federal funds to build roundabouts and invest in public transportation and build low income "Smart" housing in the downtown areas and to restore and renovate downtown at the expense of the suburbs.  On April 5th, I wrote about how the Obama Administration is cutting off funding for transportation projects that benefit the suburbs in favor of federal funding for environmentally-friendly sustainable housing projects.  Without a federal law mandating sustainable housing or "Smart Growth" the government has to resort to a carrot and stick approach.  While that has worked well in a lot of communities, such as El Paso, Texas, where we are currently investing $13 million in federal funds along with $14 million of state and local money to turn one of our main thoroughfares (North Mesa Street) into a Transportation Corridor for our notoriously inefficient city bus system,  in other areas the country is experiencing a growing backlash against Agenda 21, Smart Growth, sustainable living, and the inherent threats to private property, individual freedom and Constitutional rights that these represent.  Last June Alabama became the first state in the U.S. to pass a law outlawing implementation of Agenda 21 within its borders and banning membership of any of its cities or townships in ICLEI--the UN affiliated NGO charged with bringing Agenda 21 to local communities.  The state of Oklahoma is now in the process of passing its own legislation to outlaw participation in Agenda 21 and yesterday I saw that the legislature of Missouri is reviewing similar legislation.

We who believe in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ are not planet haters who want "dirty air and dirty water" as Sean Hannity so frequently says.  We don't litter garbage about with the attitude that our actions don't matter because the Lord is coming back soon and the earth will be burned up anyway.  Christians believe in stewardship and that includes stewardship of God's creation. But most of us who believe in the Second Coming do so because we have read the entire book of Revelations which also foretells a world government led by the Antichrist.  Whether we individually believe that the AntiChrist is an individual person or a world system or both, we know that it will bring genocide and destruction on a level never before experienced.  To believe in the Second Coming is to keep a watchful eye on world events at all times for signs that this world system may be coming to fruition.

During the Russian Revolution of 1917, while the students and intellectuals were celebrating Marxism and collectivism, the Russian peasants, the only religious block of people in the nation, were alarmed.  When the Communists ordered that the farms be collectivized, many of the peasants refused to do so because they believed that collectivism was a signal of the coming of the AntiChrist.  Because of their lack of cooperation, whole communities of them were imprisoned in their own houses and starved to death by the Communist government as a means of silencing the opposition.  Belief in the Second Coming and opposition to world systems that are at odds with the teachings of the Bible can and some times do have lethal consequences.

I was both interested and alarmed yesterday to read Erick Erickson's insightful Idols of Awesome and Shibboleths of Community in which he addresses "a crazy movement going on right now within young evangelical circles to shun the suburbs and engage in a 'new legalism' of radical faith."  Erickson's article makes some great points about unrealistic life expectations in the church, and I agree with a lot of them.  But I wonder at whether the "radical faith" movement is really about trying to be "awesome" as Erickson supposes, or whether it is about evangelical leaders trying to protect their position in a world moving toward globalism by preaching a vision that is pretty much in lock step with what Big Brother wants.

Christianity Today published an article in March of this year written by Matthew Lee Anderson entitled, Here Come the Radicals detailing how David Platt, Francis Chan, Shane Claiborne and Kyle Idleman are teaching "radical faith" and dominating the Christian bestseller lists by encouraging young believers to reject American materialism and middle class comforts in exchange for communal life and life in the inner city. Platt's book, Radical, released in May of 2010, was on the New York Times best-seller list for two years. At his encouragement, his church in Brook Hills, Alabama raised more than $525,000 for Compassion International's child survival programs. His book, according to the CT article, takes the American church to task for the culture of "self-advancement, self-esteem and self-sufficiency," and upbraids us for our "individualism, materialism and universalism."  His book, and Shane Claiborne' s The Irresistible Revolution, also strike out against American nationalism.

Look, as a life-long Christian--I asked Jesus to come into my life when I was five--I understand the conflict between balancing the demands of modern life and the call of Jesus to "come follow me."  And I also acknowledge that God, on occasion, calls individual people to leave their lives and go do something extraordinary for Him.  Our church supports a young woman who felt called by the Lord to go to the Philippines and start a mid-wifery clinic when she was about twenty years old.  Now, ten years later, she is still there and is living out her faith in practical ways to help poor women with no access to medical care. 

The danger of the radical faith movement is that it basically preaches the same dogma being currently trumpeted by the mainstream media and by the current leftist government and the progressive globalist movement worldwide.   1. The American way of life is bad.  2. American Nationalism is bad.  3. The middle class is bad. 4. Suburbs are bad, and  people who choose to live in suburbs are selfish.  The "radical faith" movement just files the goals and teachings of "radical environmentalism"  under the heading "Gospel" and adds the hashtag #WWJD.  And if I don't accept those ideas, I am not just an unworthy citizen of the planet who is greedily consuming the world's resources; I am probably not a "real" Christian at all.  If we are not willing to embrace radical faith, perhaps we don't have any faith and our whole Christian life is a lie.

This brand of Christianity conveniently ignores some very important truths:

1. American nationalism and specifically the U.S. Constitution protect the freedoms of every citizen, particularly in the areas of religious liberty and speech, and therefore allow the uninhibited growth of Christianity.  In countries where there are no constitutional protections, life for Christians is dangerous. For examples of life without these protections, think North Korea where 70,000 Christians are estimated to be imprisoned because of their faith, or Iran where Pastor Saeed is serving an eight year prison sentence in Evan prison for his work with evangelism.  Yet, Iranian president Ahmadinejad was one of the speakers last year at the Rio 20 conference which was the 20th anniversary follow up to the 1992 Earth Summit which birthed Agenda 21 and he is active in the UN's efforts to remake America.

2. The American way of life and prosperity which the "radical faith" theologians decry makes it possible for one congregation in Alabama to raise over half a million dollars for Compassion International.  Because of freedom and prosperity, America has been able to export Christian ideals and missionaries and aid throughout the world--a feat which would not be possible in their austere utopia.

3. The globalist movement currently underway to destroy the American middle class, rid our society of private property and single family housing in the suburbs,and force Americans into miserable crowded conditions in the inner cities, will not produce the levels of prosperity needed to maintain the lifestyles of evangelical leaders who are making themselves rich on books peddling poverty as a virtue.

What the Church, and this country needs, is something really radical--pastors and people who stand up for Freedom and the Constitution and property rights as gifts from God rather than liabilities to be discarded so that we can have greater personal growth.  Real stewardship is protecting and preserving those rights and passing them on to the next generation along with our faith so that those who follow us can live and work and worship in freedom just as we have and so that they can have the opportunities that freedom affords to live their lives as they believe that God is calling them to do as individuals..  2 Corinthians 3:17, "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."  The pastors in this country who are willing to teach this message are the true revolutionaries.

Alexandra Swann is the author of No Regrets: How Homeschooling Earned me a Master's Degree at Age Sixteen and several other books. Her novel, The Planner, about an out of control, environmentally-driven federal government implementing Agenda 21, is available on Kindle and in paperback. For more information, visit her website at