Friday, October 8, 2010

Christian Moguls

I've been reading articles this week in both the New York Times and the Washington Post about the obscenely wealthy... and what effect that is having on our overall society here in the United States. You can imagine, the news is not good. Columnist Maureen Dowd talks of the rich and famous giving away their best clich├ęs on how to reel in the dough with Jesus at your side. And Steven Pearlstein analyzes the true dangers of a society where one-percent of the population hold half of the nation's wealth in their wallets. There is no longer a sense of "We're all in this together" because we really aren't. Lucky for the super-rich, most Americans have yet to put two and two together to realize that they are being played.

I remember sitting in a church service a couple years ago, and listening to the rector give a sermon in which he touched on how difficult these times were because of the economy and specifically the disintegration of people's stock portfolios, and how that can cause concern. I told him after the service that I wasn't worried; I was already at the bottom of the barrel because I didn't have a stock portfolio. "Welcome to my club!" I said, noting that I lived daily according to the viscissitudes of the economy. He stared at me blankly. Clearly, just as his sermon had spoken to a reality that wasn't mine, he couldn't relate to an existence that didn't have a stock portfolio.

It all makes me wonder about the role of the Church in a world where the church leaders don't speak up more about this growing disparity between that one-percent who have so much, and the 99-percent who think that either the one-percent deserve to be that wealthy, or (worse) have a belief that one day they, too, will be part of that one-percent if they just keep voting a certain way and working hard. How many were lured into believing they WERE among that one-percent when the serpent slipped them a credit card offer they couldn't refuse with promises of tons of credit, low interest rates (for six months) and how 'bout them frequent flyer miles?!?!

I contemplate all those sayings of Christ in the Scriptures about wealth, the wealthy, having enough, and what happens to the treasure stored up in this life (hint: it rots). If you recall what Jesus says to the young rich man:
As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honour your father and mother.” ’ He said to him, ‘Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.’ Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.--Mark 10: 17-22
To give up everything, and follow Christ, I understand to mean not only the literal "give it all away and wander from town to town with me." Obviously, one can not do that today because Jesus, the man, is not in the flesh and blood to be followed from town to town. But, according to my theology as of October 8, 2010, I think this is the plea of Jesus for the young rich man... and all the very rich people... to realize that we need to be "all in this together." That's a very Jewish perspective on the collective community needing to be the focus, and not just the individual. As Pearlstein notes in the Post article, the danger of not coming to this understanding is a nation that will collapse due to people becoming even more disenchanted, angry and industry will grind to a halt. It really behooves the very wealthy to share what they have, so as to keep the society clicking along. The Church certainly gets this at stewardship time: how many grumble about those in the congregation who have the means to support the ministries, but will only part with a couple of copper pennies?

I asked what the role of the Church should be in this discussion. I'm thinking it should be taking on its traditional place of being the prophetic voice. Why just leave it to newspaper columnists to state the obvious?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So stewardship is upon us again. You do what you can, and I really believe that it is either your time (which you do}, your talent (which you have plenty of} and I hopethose that have treasure really do start giving it up.