These are a round-up of some things that have got me thinking this week.
The categories of nomad, prodigal and exile to describe those outside of church in this helpful article on conversion provoked my thinking not just about my friends but about my own journey with church. I have been a nomad and an exile as well as lots of time connected with church in a rich and enriching way. It was helpful to think through what can sometimes be a complex relationship.
‘God sides with the poor against the rich’ is how this article by Betsy Childs begins. She presents that soundbite as a summary of liberation theology and contrasts that with a reformation theology that recoils at the very hint of favourites or that there is virtue in any human condition or attribute. The rest of the article has lots to say about the dangers of wealth. It also makes the move that the real issue is poverty of spirit rather than economic (or relational or environmental) poverty and repeats the oft heard idea (among rich people) that as wealth blinds us to our spiritual needs so economic need reveals our spiritual poverty and this is why the poor are blessed. It is somehow easier for poor people to enter the Kingdom of God because they are not distracted and comforted by wealth.
Now, there is lots in the article that is good but I end up feeling that this is letting the rich off the hook. It also strikes me as dangerous. Surely, under this system, the most valuable thing that we can do for the poor is- keep them poor! An example is given of a father who cannot afford medicine for his child and who is therefore ‘blessed’ (really?) because he is aware of his need of God. Surely the Christian response is to address the physical need and be concerned about ‘relationship with God’. In fact I am not sure what God we are trying to have a relationship with if we treat the relationship between parent and child so unfeelingly. Having argued that we mustn’t make a virtue of poverty this is exactly what the article ends up doing- but only if you are already poor. If you are rich you are encouraged to give but the main danger is taking pride in your giving or voluntary adoption of simple living.
We need to do better than this. It is too comfortable to encourage the rich to give a bit while we pretend that the poor are blessed because their need makes them open to God. God does bless desperate people (whatever their material circumstances) but that doesn’t justify the circumstances that made them desperate. You see I really believe that there is no virtue in poverty- and that is why we must work and fight and serve to see people liberated from it. It is as profoundly unchristian to be so focussed on eternity that we are blind to the context of people lives as it is futile to be so concerned with the context of people’s lives that we lose sight of eternity.
And my favourite quote of the week!
Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we’re here we should dance. -Anonymous