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 faithfully...in the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Does Jesus care?


By the time most of you read this the US stock market will be in the midst of a terrible free fall. Though the markets don't open for an hour, this article in the NY Times, explains that the tremendous declines in markets globally, both Monday and Tuesday, have created a pent up demand for selling. What will this mean for you and I? I don't know, but the global crisis, this time, is a result of the American economic crisis, and the American crisis has at least two addictions at the root:

1. Oil - Up 74% in the past year, this single commodity drives the US economy, affecting the price of everything we buy, from construction materials, to toys, to the food we buy. And though its not an absolute truism, it's generally true that the farther something comes from home, the more energy it has consumed to get to you. Read the labels on your clothes, manufactured in places with cheap labor. They're not as cheap as they once were because getting them here costs more - same with food - and of course the cost of driving a car - and heating oil. All those dollars spent on the basics of transportation and keeping the house warm are dollars not spent elsewhere. Thus the wealth, globally, continues to flow to those with oil or better fiscal habits than us, many countries of which are now using their wealth to diversify.

2. Credit - Buy a house with no money down, turn around and sell it in a year. Make loads of money! That's so 2002! Our efforts to keep the economic machine well oiled created an unsustainable addiction to credit, which created an unrealistic inflation of house prices. It now appears that its time to pay the piper, and many can't, leading to record foreclosures.

Does Jesus care about any of this? Well that's a question for a book rather a blog, but the answer is yes, only louder; something like this: Y-E-S!! For centuries the developed world has harvested the natural resource wealth and cheap labor wealth of the powerless across the globe. Slavery, colonialism, and more recently the economic globalism that keeps 'our best interests' in mind, have contributed to the oppression, suffering, and deaths of untold numbers. Of course, one can't read the prophets of the Old Testament, the words of the Jesus, or the words of Paul without realizing that this reaping bounty and enjoying luxury at the cost of other's well being is unacceptable to God. And the odds are that all of us who are reading this have blood on our hands.

I wonder if we who are the church should constitute a different economic model, one based on simplicity, interdependency, and deeply intentional care for both the poor and the earth as the foundations for our economic practices. "The Amish" you say? No (though we could learn a great deal more from them than we could criticize); more yeasty, more interwoven with the larger culture. How about co-housing, and health clinics for the army of uninsured and underinsured? How about living closer to work, using public transportation, and buying more locally? How about real commitments to a change in how we do energy here in America? The list could grow...and will...as the crisis grows. And maybe the crisis will be the only way we'll change at all.

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9 Comments:

At 22/1/08 10:38, Blogger Tiffany said...

Thank you for being an informed, compassionate voice in the name of Christ. I'm so tired of people speaking hatefully (e.x. "we shouldn't throw money at the poor. they need to earn their own way.")and calling it Christianity. I'm so saddened by how many people miss Christ's call to be on the side of the poor and oppressed, instead of fretting about our own bank accounts. Thank you for being a voice of hope.

 
At 22/1/08 18:03, Blogger JAMESWalker said...

Geez. I must agree with tiffany on the Thank You.

I'm glad to have this place to go to for some enlightening information.

Also, Happy Birthday. I'm proud to have you as my Uncle.

 
At 23/1/08 08:52, Blogger Katie said...

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

- James 1:27

It doesn't say "keep oneself out of the world." Be in it, yes; but not polluted by its practices. I heard a pastor speak once about finances. What really stuck with me was when he said that you can't serve God if debt ties your hands. You can't leave your job for something you feel God calling you to do, because you'll fall behind on payments. You can't give generously (or most people don't), because you'll miss your payments. In short, being in debt becomes your God, so you can't serve the living God as He would have us do.

 
At 23/1/08 11:41, Anonymous donte said...

This conversation is tough! Not because I disagree with the ethos of simplistic living, but because I am afraid of all of the ‘comfort’ it will cost me. I say this fully aware that following Christ often means being uncomfortable and countercultural; but it is often the protection of my comfort that usually thwarts my willingness to remain in God’s stream of activity. I am embarrassed by all of the decisions that I make to protect my comfort, rather than pursuing God’s will. I can take the bus more often, but it’s not as comfortable as driving my own car. I could move closer to work, but I might only be able to afford ½ the house that I live in now. Of course other arguments can be made as to why I don’t buy locally, or change other lifestyle habits.

What’s worse is that I (and I imagine others) really lack faith. I don’t really have to the faith to believe that my actions will make much of a difference if there is no congruent proclivity from our government. Although I’ve changed many of my consuming and spending habits (2008 New Year’s resolution), I am fully aware that the empire of capitalism does not work without economic growth. A capitalistic economic models tells us that when people don’t spend we fall into a recession—investors panic—stock prices fall—businesses suffer—employees are laid off (usually the poorest quartile)—unemployment rates spike—an so forth. I know that there has got to be a better way, but in the current era this is the only model (compared to socialism and communism) that actually helps more people than it hurts.

I am excited that CHANGE is coming in ’08! Thanks for pressing this often overlooked theological consciousness.

 
At 23/1/08 12:51, Anonymous TTR said...

If you only knew. Too much to explain here. Suffice to say,

Just get over yourself.

 
At 23/1/08 12:52, Anonymous TTR said...

If you only knew. Too much to explain here. Suffice to say,

Just get over yourself

 
At 23/1/08 15:10, Blogger Joanie said...

Richard ~ how I do appreciate your insights and the words you have shared. The issues you raised are the reason I have struggled with my faith for so many years; it has nothing to do with Jesus, but because of how I see Christians living around me (and, unfortunately, even some of my own choices). I feel caught between two worlds ~ the one in which I live and God's desire for how His children should live... How do I relate to people around me and move forward in the ways I feel God tugging at my heart? When I see and connect with a hurting world, it overwhelms me ~ how does one person (or one family) make a difference? And yet, I keep trying! I talk with people about what I'm seeing (when the opportunity arises) and wonder how we can make changes, our family has worked at a food bank, we've delivered 'donated' produce to food banks, we give as God directs us to give, taught a beginning sewing class to mostly non-English speaking immigrants, reached out to our neighbors and continue to encourage them to take up some of their large lawns and plant fruits and vegetables instead (so they are not so dependent on the goverment to fulfill their every need and can share their surplus with others). Does this make me special or better than others - NO - for we've purchased nice things and splurged on ourselves too, when we could have made other choices... We have tried to be good stewards of the land God gives us; no matter how long or short of a time we may be there. We continue to educate ourselves and try to spend more time in God's Word, so hopefully we learn to make better choices. It's not easy. It is my hope that by sharing ~ someone may read this and realize that "small acts can make a big impact"! It may not change the world, but it can make a difference one person at a time. The final question is... are we willing to take the risk and do what He asks us to do?

 
At 24/1/08 22:14, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Richard, I'm sorry for leaving this as a comment but I couldn't find another way to communicate. I enjoy your blog and plan on adding it as a link on mine. I wanted to mention mine, which is more focused on people, like myself, who feel disenfranchised with American Evangelicalism (but who our orthodox in theology). . . and who want to remain with the Church. It is meant to be a very, very honest sharing . . . maybe more honest than some Christians would like.

When you get the chance, check it out and see if it is one that you would want to add to your blog links.

BTW, we are almost neighbors (I'm in Anacortes)and share climbing plus other interests.

http://evangelicalinthewilderness.blogspot.com/

 
At 31/1/08 23:19, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oil-up, yes causes lots of problems

Credit and variable interest rates, yes causing pain

Slavery bad, correct
Colonialism, also very troublesome

Economic globalism however is a good thing. Living standards are rising around the world. Buying things and services from countries having less is a good thing, that's how they get the resourses to care for their people. (Blood on hands on this one, what are you talking about?)

 

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