Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Feeling Poor after Taxes?

Taxes paid - pain felt. Let's put our poverty in a global perspective. We might need to put off buying a new i-pod which we need because we've more songs than the Nano can accommodate, or because the battery's not lasting long enough to jog the lake any more (I'm getting way too personal).

So, feeling a little impoverished, like the $3 a gallon is forcing me to ride my bike more, feeling like going to the movies is a big deal, I check out this little web site, (you need to look at this if you're to appreciate the point of this post) which I think I've shared before, and type in my salary.

It's the end of self pity, and the invitation to re-evaluation: of how I use my money and my time, of the resources I consume, and of whether my life, and our life as both a community of faith, and a nation is offering hopeful, sustainable solutions to the problems that plague the vast billions living in abject poverty.

I was led to the site as part of my preparation for my sermon on Sunday. If you'll be there, or know someone who will, maybe encourage them to check this out before showing up. And what's more, I'm interested in your reactions when you watch the little graphic which reveals where you stand in relation to the rest of the world. Please share your comments regarding how this makes you feel and what you might do in response. Thanks


At 26/4/07 14:40, Anonymous donte said...

I think our problem is that we all have a tendency to accept the reality of the world as it is presented to us. For most of us (those whom would be reading this blog) the reality of our world is one of virtue and economic prosperity.

We don’t compare ourselves to those who are “least” in this world, because we are so very far removed from their state of living. I’ve began to realize that we all struggle with the juxtaposition of knowing, “I am not the least in this world, but I am also far from the greatest.” As a middle class American I think this tension can often paralyze us to the point where we do nothing to combat poverty. We give “what we can,” which is usually enough to make us feel good, but not enough to bring about real sustaining change.

We do not want to jeopardize our lifestyles (or that of our children or family) so our first priority is always to sustain what we have, rather than providing hope for those who have nothing. We feel sorry for people who don’t have the basic needs to survive, and we pray and hope that their situation gets better…as long as it does not impede on our comfortable lifestyles.

At 26/4/07 16:40, Anonymous donte said...

More thoughts…
I do not really like the “How Rich Are You?” calculator, because I think it distorts our vision of who is rich and who is poor in our world. A common misconception in the evangelical world is that all poor people are somewhere near the "ends of the earth." Many evangelicals also erroneously believe that the American Dream is possible for all people living in the US.

The calculations suggest that a family with an income of $10k a year is in the top 13% of the richest people in the world. Perhaps a family in Uganda can live prosperously on that income, but many families in the US cannot.

As a child I grew up poor by anyone’s standards. My mother was on welfare for most of my childhood and our family often struggled to make it the end of the month with three solid meals each day. Our electricity and phone services were disabled more times than I care to remember. We lived in a crime ridden section of LA and by the time I was eight I had already seen someone murdered right in front of me.

I don’t want to suggest that my life as a child was any worse that someone who grew up in Africa (I’ve been there and I saw poverty beyond comprehension). I only want to bring the conversation closer to home…there are many people living in poverty within minutes of our own community.

At 27/4/07 07:57, Blogger Richard Dahlstrom said...

I think you have a good point Donte. One of my complaints with the calculator is precisely what you're saying: there's no way to localize the poverty/wealth. I'd rather make 10k in rural India for example, than in 20k in Seattle. Thus, Americans who are living in real poverty are still presented as wealthy. On the other hand, access to fundamental services are often better among Americans in poverty than almost all of the developing world.


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