Here we are in the season where people are nicer and trying to help and give more. I guess that’s a good thing, but too bad it can’t happen in other times of the year… What I’m about to say next is not to say that we shouldn’t give (we should!), but that we have a lot to learn from those “less fortunate” that we are intent on helping around this time.
So I have been thinking about wealth and greed. Maybe it’s all the talk of the financial crisis or maybe it’s just my pet peeves of little plastic key fobs that promise to save you tons of money and coupon cutting. I have heard a few things in sermons and classes in church and on Democracy Now that have kept me thinking about this.
I’m going to post a couple of things I’ve been writing. I apologize because they aren’t really finished and I don’t know if I’ll have time to put them in a more coherent form, but I thought I’d share anyway.
This is the version I heard Friday:
It appears to be much like the September version I found a transcript for, but with an added question by Amy about what did they, those in poverty, want to know from him (after asking what he learned about them). The question is at around 8:20
min in the show.
A rough quote:
“It may surprise you. They are not so interested in us. We overestimate ourselves. We believe they want to be like us. We believe they will overcome their problems when they look as much as possible as we look. Nonsense. “
His example from the Peace Corps:
He saw a woman in a village making 2 ponchos in a week, so they brought in another machine so she could make 20 in a week. They came back a few months later to see her increased production. They asked how she liked it and she said ok and when they asked how many she was making, she said two per week. They were shocked and wanted to know why and she said she didn’t need to make more than two and now she has more time to be with her friends and her kids.
We live in a society that would think this way was stupid and shortsighted. She would have been fired if she were working for us. Our culture tells us that making more money is the way to support your family (in a godly way) rather than spending actual time with them. We have it backwards. Everyone likes to say that we can do both, but we have really failed big on that and so I'm not really a believer in that anymore.
And here is another thing I heard that I have also thought a lot about at times, having visited the third world a few times myself:
“Solidarity of people. You know, respect for the others. Mutual aid. No greed. I mean, that is a value that is absent in poverty. And you would be inclined to think that there should be more there than elsewhere, you know, that greed should be of people who have nothing. No, quite the contrary. The more you have, the more greedy you become, you know. And all this crisis is the product of greed. Greed is the dominant value today in the world. And as long as that persists, well, we are done.”
Anyway, I struggle to understand what makes America what it is both for better and worse. The good is pretty easy. We’re free. We’re prosperous. The bad is more complicated. This could be due to our wealth as well. Poor countries and former socialist countries seem to do light years better than us (the Christian nation) in the very Christian traits of being content with what you have, not greedy, and taking care of everyone. Is capitalism to blame? Is the Christian nation not living it's Christianity? Or has Christianity been changed in America to fit our economic system?
Here's the part I actually started with and have had saved in here for awhile:
I don't claim to be an expert on financial matters at all. Let me just get that out there. If you are on one side or another- because fans of capitalism or whichever economic system are equally as rabid as political fans- you will probably think me a complete idiot. Maybe you're right. It's early and maybe I'm not even awake as I type this.
Sometimes I think we gloss over these things by saying that you can still be rich and be godly. That way, we don't have to address that there might be something fundamentally un-Christian about the way we Americans do everything and think. Oddly, I have heard that more in discussions of these topics during the economic downturn than at other times, but perhaps I've just been thinking more about it myself. I mean is the eye of the needle just a saying? That seems to be what we treat it as. Otherwise the Bible would be saying the rich can't enter heaven because camels can't go through a needle. Or, they could in Jesus' time since he was healing the sick and turning water to wine in those times... so the application would be after the time for the miraculous passes, the rich could still enter due to Jesus' death on the cross... There is just so much in the Bible about helping others, not desiring riches, giving til it hurts, etc. Of course that is balanced with working so that you can eat and taking care of your family lest you be worse than an infidel. But I don't think these things allow for us to so casually dismiss them so often to say that, but the rich can go to heaven and it's not wrong to want to get paid more, etc. It's a fine line.
Since I've had this in the draft folder, I've heard a bit on NPR about Quaker capitalism. Now, maybe this is something Christians can relate to better than socialism??
Note to self. Stop saying socialism. Say Quaker capitalism.