Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning

Monday, February 21, 2011

Wisconsin and God's Economy

I have been following with interest, and yes, with sadness, the events unfolding in Wisconsin.  There is much about the struggle is painful, including the hypocrisy of a Governor who will give away tax breaks to the rich, and take benefits from teachers.  Yes, I know it is not that simple, but there seems to be a trend right now that makes we weep for America.  It is the use of power to protect and entitle those who have the most at the  expense of those who have the least.  We see it on Capital Hill in Washington, DC as well as in Madison, Wisconsin.

At the same time that all of this is going on, I have been reading the book "The Irresistible Revolution" by Shane Claiborne.  Shane is acutely aware of the disparities our current economic system have created, particularly the disparity between the rich and the poor.  He points out that according to a UN report 20% of the worlds population receives 83% of the world's income.  He also pointed out (yes the books is a bit older) that in 1965 the average CEO made 44 times as much as the average worker.  1998 the average CEO made 212 times as much as the average worker ($1,566.68 an hour).  And it is getting worse!

He notes that "people are poor not just because of their sins, they are poor because of OUR sins (and people are rich because of our sins).  We created poverty by our need to protect ourselves.  Our need to hug resources to ourselves.  And our inexorable emptiness that no amount of treasure can satisfy.  As Gandhi put it, "there is enough for everyone's need, but there is not enough for everyone's greed."

Claiborne points out that from the earliest times on there has been a theology of redistribution.  In the Old Testament there was the year of Jubilee, where the people of Israel were asked, in an ongoing way to spread the wealth, and periodically, to totally level the playing field by redistributing the wealth among all the people.

John the Baptist preached repentance, and combined that with an imperative to give away one's extra shirt.  Jesus?  Over and over again (See Mark 10) Jesus suggested an economy of grace, and Paul too envisioned another economy, where all shared with one another and met one another's needs.  It is clear from a plethora of teachings that rebirth, restoration, and redistribution are connected.

Now we have a political party, perhaps two, that are railing against entitlement.  Who are legislating against redistribution.  They are seeking to keep the wealth in the hands of the wealthy, who are none to eager to let go of any of it.  Not in the form of charity, or new jobs and business development (No, trickle down does not work.  Never will).

The early Christians said that if a child starves while a Christian has extra food than the Christian is guilty of murder.  Basil the Great, writing in the fourth century wrote, "When someone strips a man of his clothes we call him a thief.  And one who might clothe the naked and does not, should not he be given the same name?"

If, as we see in the scriptures, rebirth and redistribution are bound up in one another, we cannot say we love God and pass by the person in need, the vulnerable one.  If that is true, then how do we view legislation that gives to the rich, and cuts programs for the poor?  How do we view a leader who gives breaks to those who are well off, so they can be more well off, and cuts benefits to people who have less?

It is certainly something to think about.

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