Today’s gracEmail is written by my friend Fred Peatross, who introduces himself as a “cultural architect” for Christ. Fred is an influential participant in the emergent/missional movement, “Conversation Editor” for New Wineskins online journal and the author of a regular e-column as well as several books. He writes from the edge where faith meets the future and his writing often leaves me a bit uncomfortable — which, I usually conclude, is exactly what I need.
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the other side of thankful
by Fred Peatross
Scripture always bends towards the oppressed and the marginalized. Beginning in the Pentateuch — take care of the widow, the orphan, the stranger among you. The story is written by oppressed minorities. And it continues on into what we know as the New Testament — no room in the inn, crowds following Jesus because they are hungry. The story always goes towards the underside of the Empire.
I’ve often I wonder if the American church perceives Scripture as she should, simply because we are the Empire. We are the ones in power, the ones with wealth. And riches blind Empires to priorities and responsibilities.
There are six billion people in the world, three billion live on less than two dollars a day, 800 million people will not eat today, and 300 million in Africa alone do not have drinking water. We (Americans) comprise 6 percent of the world’s population yet we consume 40 to 50 percent of its resources. We are the upper, upper, rich elite. And our way is taking over the world. So we have to ask some important questions:
How can we take all this wealth and give it away, all the technology and beautiful parts of capitalism and bless the world and the poor? If we don’t, we’re in deep trouble.
The issue here is not about saving the poor — it’s about saving us.
When Jesus used the word hell, He was not pointing toward people who did not believe the right things. It was a warning to the religious and their indifference to the suffering of the world. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus is not what heaven and hell are like. It’s a parable to rich people warning them that their apathy has them in danger.
The good news, in all this bad news, is people are desperate to understand this culture of excessive materialism. And in a time when American churches have more concentrated wealth than any time in history in a world with massive poverty, it can truly be said, “we exist to bless the world.”
Copyright 2007 by Fred Peatross.
Hits the bull’s-eye. Sometimes Fred is kind of over the top. Too often he hits the bull’s-eye. Which is usually on the spot over my heart. This one needs to be nailed to the door of American Religion. — John Acuff (USA)
More harm than good. I would suggest that giving to the poor would be doing more harm than good. Giving to skeletal Africans may make the giver feel good, but it doesn’t fix the problem, as is proven by history. This article by a non-Christian economist sums up the problem nicely. I believe that the real reason for poverty lies in paganism, as demonstrated by the immoral behaviour described in the linked article. Only in a society based on Christian principles can true wealth and freedom flourish: Muslim oil-based economies may be fantastically rich, but they would be far richer if the ruling families didn’t take the majority of the oil revenues to support their hedonistic lifestyles. . . . In an answer to the question “How can we take all this wealth and give it away?” I would say: “Give to missions and bring about social transformation by making disciples.” Merely giving things away feeds the Big Man and, if any trickles down to the man on the street, it fosters welfarism, which is contrary to the work principle laid down in Genesis 2:15. . . . — Jachin Mandeno (New Zealand)
So true. Great article and so true. Let me tell you what Lowell Hoover and Bobby Hoover and myself have faced. Two years ago we went to Peru and started to try and clean the water that is so polluted in all the country that it makes the water in Africa look like a mountain spring. I moved there and stayed for over a year and worked to install systems for the poor. Several American congregations and denominations have churches there. We begged and pleaded with some of these churches to furnish a water filtration system for the churches and the schools they sponsor and . . . with a few exceptions, all our pleadings and begging for help fell on deaf ears. . . . Meanwhile, a certain rich U.S. heiress left over $12 million dollars to her dog. If we could use just the interest at 4% from that amount of money, we could provide a water system for every school in Peru over a three-year period and never touch the principal. It is so sad that this is what we have come to. I would challenge you to print this in your newsletter as we are so comfortable. — Randy Lykins (USA and Peru)