I was impressed in listening to Krista Tippett interviewing Parker Palmer (you can listen or read the transcript here yourself, or podcast) about the economic downturn and how we as Christians need to look at it. Palmer himself is a Quaker, and the hour was filled with wisdom.
What stood out for me is how this economic downturn may be an occasion for change in the church. I have found the church generous up to a point in helping the poor (I speak in generalities; there are some outstanding examples). Of course there is needed accountability, handouts by themselves aren't the answer. But as Palmer stated, we live in a rugged individualistic society where it's up to each one of us to make it ourselves. There is some help within the system for those who don't, and this varies depending on where people live. But by and large there is not much for us to fall back on, should any of us fall.
I am Anabaptist to a significant extent. The Amish are one group from the Anabaptists (I was raised Mennonite) who do find help and security in falling back on each other. They are committed to seeing each other through. Of course this is a joint venture, and while there are surely those who are wealthier and those who are poorer among them, they work at making it more of a common sharing, helping those in need, one obvious basic example from them being their barn raisings.
The question comes back, what about those who are not so deserving of help because of the continued misuse of their finances? Of course none of us (very rare, certainly not myself!) can claim to have always made wise financial decisions. And there may be some who have this and that expense which they don't really need or maybe would do better in life, without. This calls for a personal, prayerful self-inventory for all of us.
We need to offer help to those in need, and part of that help will be encouragement and indeed, a call toward responsibility. Those whose spending is out of control can't expect to be supported in that kind of lifestyle. They may need special help, but there will always be some who refuse such, and therefore can't be a part of this needed dynamic. After all each needs to be there for the others, as well as having the others be there for themselves. In such cases help comes sadly to them from a bottom rung such as in shelters and soup kitchens. With hopefully the kind of help that can get them back up on their feet.
Should this be a part of our Christian witness in the world? Why is it so lacking among us (or so it seems to me)?
What might you add to these beginning thoughts on this subject?