Saturday, February 10, 2007

the haves and the have-nots

NPR has a series called "The Haves and Have-Nots". I sometimes hear from Christians that we will always have the poor among us, as Jesus said. So we can't change that and should not worry about doing so. I have blogger friends who on their blog have a banner that says "Help Make Poverty History" from "One.Org".

I have not yet heard the entire series on NPR. It's an interesting discussion. It's not a sin to be wealthy. What is a sin is the motivation to become wealthy for the love of money. Or hoarding one's wealth in a Scrooge kind of way.

What I find as entirely unacceptable is the notion that there is nothing in the American system, or in the global system that is inherently evil. That it's all about the heart. If people will just get right with God then they'll get up on their own two feet and over time will make more. There is truth there. But what is missing is the fact that all of these systems have people using them. People, who like all the rest of us, have heart trouble. People who are willing to leave others behind in their rush for more.

I know there are all kinds of wonderful arguments as to why the American free enterprise system is the best. Or why global marketing is going to bring much more wealth to third world and developing countries. And I tend to agree with the last point, at least.

When we see wealthy nations doing whatever it takes to guarantee their continued lifestyle and "way of life", while other peoples are left (with many excuses for that) behind, like in Darfur. I find this as just one of the scandals of living in a fallen world.

Being a good Samaritan begins at home. What about in our neighborhood? Among those we know? In our church? City? This is where we need to begin. As well as giving to those who help the poor, such as World Vision.

And I write off political candidates who call themselves "pro-life", yet say nothing about addressing this problem. (And who talk only about reversing Roe v Wade. But that's another subject.)

Just some of my preliminary, offhand thoughts that have been brewing for sometime. What do you think about it?


karen said...

Great post, Ted. I've missed the NPR seires this week (it's fundraising week in Oregon). But I have been having this dialogue with a lot of people lately. I call it giving away our power. I think when we negate our responsiblity and our ability to help others, then we are in effect giving away our power. Billions are spent by adverstisers every year telling us that we need more, more of this, more of that. There is a connection between war and the haves and the have nots. What did President Bush tell us to do after 9/11? Not to pray. Not to volunteer. He told us to go shopping.

Michael W. Kruse said...

Great post Ted. I will check out the series.

Even the much reviled and less than orthodox Christian Adam Smith maintained that "love your neighbor as yourself” was the starting point not the ending point for moral ethics toward others. Benevolence was a much higher virtue to him.

As you know, I am a big advocate of market economies. Yet, I can point out to you case after case where markets have failed to adequately deliver complete justice and fairness. So why do I advocate them? Because their will always be significant imperfections and sin at work this side of Jesus’ return. To hold an economic system up to the standard of utopia is to stand in condemnation of all systems. The standard is what system most realistically creates the greatest justice and prosperity within the context of a fallen humanity. Free markets are the worst economic system except for all the others. :)

Precisely because no economic system can deliver full justice, charity and grace are essential to a just and righteous society.

Ted Gossard said...

Karen, Thanks. I've missed it too, for the most part. So I'll have to download it to get it all.

You have a great point here. President Bush wanted the economy to keep moving after 9/11, against the wishes of the terrorists, of course. But in this process, we really didn't stop to learn some larger lessons we could have learned. Like national priorities. And root causes of the systemic problems we're facing in the world. Instead we're determined to hunker down and keep going on our way.

As much good as we've done, we still could be doing so much more in working at the problem and the widening gap here and elsewhere, between the haves and the have nots.

Like you say, we need to volunteer and find what we can do with all we have. And we need leaders who will help us see this need, and make sacrifices. Thanks!

Ted Gossard said...

Michael, Thanks!

I don't disagree with the good in the free market system. And this system in itself seems good in delivering justice and prosperity to a significant extent. So my complaint has nothing to do inherently with the system (though my post might suggest that).

I just see the need to have some oversight in the form of controls, to some extent, to hold some accountability. (No matter where you turn, as you point out, there are problems this side of "heaven".)

Having said that, I am a believer, to some extent, of more of a socialist system which does not scrap free enterprise. This is difficult. But we know, as good as our system here is, that we have seen problems as we look at a global market that we're a part of.

Corporations having to foot medical insurance premiums that corporations in other nations do not have to. One example.

I hope I'm not throwing stones at my nation. But I do think we need to look at our priorities, both nationally and internationally. And the national political discussion (as much as I cringe, often, at both sides) does seem to be moving more towards addressing this "haves, have-nots" issue.

And as those of the community of God in Christ, I think we have to make a prophetic call to our nation (and to others) in light of the kingdom of God in Jesus, both in how we live in demonstrating it, and in words, calling for true righteousness, justice and peace/prosperity for all.

Ted Gossard said...

Oh, and Karen. Not to forget the great point you make in us praying. What more important thing could we do in this, and in all of life?

(Almost finished with Philip Yancey's recent book on prayer. A great read and one I'll go back to.)

Dave J. said...

Socialist, Ted? That is okay ;) I get what you mean. It leads into this comment:

Another way to look at wealth and our actions (personally or corporately), is the expense that it comes at. That may be obvious when considering what car to drive, but it does in so many more ways.

If you give the 'poor' a helping hand, are you taking away a chance for them to learn/struggle/grow on their own? When are you meddling, when are you lifting-up?

Socialism seems to try to take into account the balance of the expense of wealth that I described.

julie said...

Great post! I regularly struggle with this issue. As a family, we see needs (coats, food, school supplies, World Vision...) and try to meet them, yet this does not satisy my suspicion that there is MUCH more to do.

Ted Gossard said...

Dave, Great point. It helps no one to make them dependent in ways that takes away their own contribution and part. A balancing act, somehow, here, I think (I'm not an economist). Thanks!

Ted Gossard said...

Julie, It is good to be asking these questions. And to get advice from people who are regulars at helping the poor and homeless.

I recently learned alot in helping a very worthy couple, who due to health and loss of work, were about to lose their home. It was a good experience for me.

Yes. There is much we individually and together can do, as it becomes a priority for us, to see (like the good Samaritan) and act on.