I just started reading a book titled Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, by: Ronald Sider this week. I haven’t got very far in it yet, but I think it’s going to be a definite winner!
The reason I like it so much is that this book was originally published in the 1970’s and has now been updated and re-released. So… It’s not just some punk, 20-something writer trying to make it big by writing about hot button Christian topics like poverty and stuff. I think it’s great that this has become the “cool” thing for Christians to be championing, but I read a lot of stuff that just isn’t that great in regard to poverty and global justice.
Another thing I like about the book is that the author, who is an older, well-educated man, simply states the facts about the way the rest of the world is living, gives his take on what scriptures says about poverty (backed up with a lot of scripture), and then gives ways we as Christians can make a difference. He doesn’t take a political stance on the issues and states plainly that both ends of the political spectrum have good and bad attributes.
The reason I posted this, however, is because when I read the following, it really put things is perspective for me. He talked about how hard it is for us (Rich Christians) to even begin to understand what it means to live in poverty. I have struggled with this as well. I can read a ton of books and live around poor people… but there is a big difference in doing that and actually being poor!
So… he gives the following scenario to help us imagine what would have to go if we lived like most people around the world.
We begin by invading the house of our imaginary American family to strip it of its furniture. Everything goes: beds, chairs, tables, television set, lamps. We will leave the family with a few old blankets, a kitchen table, a wooden chair. Along with the bureaus go the clothes. Each member of the family may keep in his “wardrobe” his oldest suit or dress, a shirt or blouse. We will permit a pair of shoes for the head of the family, but none for the wife or children.
We move to the kitchen. The appliances have already been taken out, so we turn to the cupboards… the box of matches may stay, a small bag of flour, some sugar, and salt. A few moldy potatoes, already in the garbage can, must be hastily rescued, for they will provide much of tonight’s meal. We will leave a handful of onions, and a dish of dried beans. All the rest we take away: the meat, the fresh vegetables, the canned goods, the crackers, the candy.
Now we have stripped the house: the bathroom has been dismantled, the running water shut off, the electric wires taken out. Next we take away the house. The family can move to the toolshed…
Communications must go next. No more newspapers, magazines, books — not that they are missed, since we must take away our family’s literacy as well. Instead, in our shantytown we will allow one radio…
Now government services must go. No more postman, no more firemen. There is a school, but it is three miles away and consists of two classrooms … There are, of course, no hospitals or doctors nearby. The nearest clinic is ten miles away and is tended by a midwife. It can be reached by bicycle, provided that the family has a bicycle, which is unlikely …
Finally, money. We will allow our family a cash hoard of $5.00. This will prevent our breadwinner from experiencing the tragedy of an Iranian peasant who went blind because he could not raise the $3.94, which he mistakenly thought he needed to receive admission to a hospital where he could have been cured.
I think it’s really important for us to just be aware of the world around us. Like I said, I just started this book. I’m really interested to see how it plays out. I’m interested to see what he offers up for us, as “Rich Christians”, to do about it.
For me… the most convicting thing about reading something like this is that I complain way too much about stupid things! How dare I?!
I rarely stop to thank God for the pair of shoes that keep my feet from getting torn up, for health insurance, for transportation, for literacy, for more food than I know what to do with.