Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Inequitites, Part 2

These are reflections on my previous post about some inequities I experienced the other night from about 3 feet away on the Metro coming home from Busch Stadium. It raised some serious questions for me:
What does it mean that there are massive inequities in the world?
Am I supposed to feel "white guilt" for my station in life?
Am I supposed to feel sorry for my African-American brother and his station in life?
What can I even do to address inequities on this scale?

Where I am born and to whom I am born is beyond my control. A large part of what I experienced the other night was due to factors of our birth. We like to think that we are largely self-made people, but that's really a myth of the modern world. While we are certainly responsible for making something of our lives, and this is without a doubt the 'land of opportunity', the material we start with and where we start with it determines more of who we are than we care to admit.

Things don't make a person happy. A cultural myth that is heavily marketed to us is that money+stuff=happiness. Love, relationships, family, warmth: These are all ingredients money can't buy. If you've ever been to a third-world country, you've likely walked away thinking: how can they be so happy?

The American Dream is really a new form of aristocracy. The things we've come to expect out of life are things that for the majority of human history were only available to royalty. It's great that a higher standard of living is available (who wants people to intentionally suffer?), however a short reflection on history will hopefully fill us with gratitude.

Feeling sorry for someone is a waste of energy. Feeling sorry for someone often has the effect of making us feel superior. "Oh, those poor people!", which really can mean "I'm so much better than them. I'm glad I'm not like them." And when we feel superior, we can no longer move to help as a fellow human being. Our help comes tainted with self-righteousness.

Admit the disparity. It doesn't do any good to refuse to acknowledge the inequities. Look them square in the face and say that they are there. Then do something. The inequities would have been even greater if I'd talked about the families I've met in third world countries. Hand-wringing over their existence does nothing. Act.

True living means giving. In God's economy of things, giving is actually a better way of living than receiving. Jesus says it's actually the best way to go about life. The consumerism of our society wants to reverse God's economy and tells us that it is better to receive than to give. In contrast, if we follow Jesus and have, we give. We work for justice. We pay attention to inequities. We live simply so that we can give.

What are your thoughts on the inequities you see in life?


Steve said...

One way of working for justice includes actually befriending those who exist in a socio-economic status where in comparison we have clear advantages. That may conflict with the way most of us naturally socialize, but it is the best way to learn of needs that can be met directly. It’s easy to remain isolated, sometimes in spite of giving money through one or more good social justice organizations. But embracing real folks who benefit from things we often take for granted takes intentionality, and it can begin with one relationship free from guilt or superiority complex. After years of giving a deaf ear to Christian teaching and a head knowledge of God’s Kingdom, what eventually drove me to act was an honest evaluation of the easy ability to make a difference, a firm commitment to God’s economy of things and a heart for one family outside my usual circle.

Scott said...

Steve -
Thanks for your comments. I totally agree, incarnating equals massive interior change.