Let me begin with a disclaimer. I am not a political junkie. I’m one of those awkward people who find themselves in the in-between; my liberal friends find me quite conservative, and my conservative friends find me quite liberal. While I don’t spend a whole lot of my time worrying about the American political system, I have done more than enough research to confidently say that I think there is good and evil on either side of the party line. I was raised strictly Republican, but life experience has taught me that rarely is there a side that is wholly right and a side that is wholly wrong, especially where humanity is concerned. And despite my unwaveringly loyal right-wing raising, I am admittedly a person who must hear both sides of both stories, from a variety of angles, in order to decide what I believe. My beliefs and values are something I refuse to blindly inherit. Needless to say, that particular trait is one that has started many a heated conversation in my family.
With all that said, it probably comes as no surprise that I haven’t done a whole lot of mainstream-news research on this business of Occupy Wallstreet (mostly because I don’t tend to trust mainstream news sources, since they have their own political agenda, whether we want to believe it or not). However, I do have both a pulse and ears, plus I live in America. So I’ve heard bits and pieces. The bits and pieces range from “Let’s stick it to the corporate American man and take our country back!!” to “Those people just want to sit on their keesters at home while I foot the bill for their life!!” And yes, it was a literal use of the word keesters. And no, that person was not from rural Arkansas.
To my knowledge, this issue of the rich and poor has been around since basically the dawn of time. Money is a funny thing, and it has a ridiculously effective way of dividing us. And I’m not going to dig too far into my own personal beliefs in this specific issue, simply because I do not yet have the knowledge base to have an opinion. But there ARE a few things that I do believe, without question, that are related to the idea of a few people controlling a large percentage of resources.
I believe that it is a pity that we live in a country where “opportunity” means that a large number of people will be paid tens of millions of dollars each to play a game, and still not be satisfied with their wages. I believe that it is a pity that we have elevated celebrity status to the point that there are people in this world who can and will spend millions of dollars on a wedding that ends in divorce less than three months later. I believe it is a pity that there are people who have stocked up literally more money than they, their children, and their grandchildren will ever be able to spend and are told it’s good stewardship. I believe that it is a pity that many people, either in word or action and including myself some days, believe it is more important for them to have the resources to drink a five dollar cup of coffee than for a child in Africa to have drinking water that won’t kill them. I believe that it is a pity that we live in a country where, on any given day, all of this takes place no more than a few miles from countless other people who have no home, no food, no money, no means for medical care.
I believe it is a pity that a lot of people reading this are likely thinking, “Well, those people could get out and get a job of their own. This is America. We pull ourselves up by our own damn bootstraps here, they can do it, too.”
Sure. Maybe they could. But maybe they don’t. And maybe they have children. Children who CAN’T pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. Children who are, for all intents and purposes, orphans. Sure they have a mom or dad at home, but…they really don’t. I can’t tell you how many kids I have taught over the past three years who are essentially parents, some as young as 10. They are parents to themselves, parents to their siblings, parents to their nieces and nephews, parents to their parents more often than I’d like to say. By the time they’re 13, they’re part of the system, and the idea of living any other way is as foreign to them as it would be for someone to ask us how we’d feel about moving to the Czech Republic next week. If you haven’t seen this side of the country you love so much, I will not apologize for telling you that you need to get out more often. It will change your life.
Things are not black and white. People with money don’t always have it because they’re hard-working. People without money don’t always go without it because they’re lazy. And believe me, I know better than I have at any point in my life that the system the government has set up to help the poor gets beaten and abused beyond recognition. I watch it daily. But here is my whole-hearted conviction:
We are responsible. The government is not. The government system for caring for the poor is failing because the government should never have been a part of it. The government system for caring for the poor exists on such a large scale now because we never stepped up to the plate God called us to before poverty become a global epidemic. We should have done it. We still should. We the church. I think there’s a reason Scripture tells us that true religion is to care for orphans in their time of need. Because they still have a shot to turn things around. They still have a chance to not become a part of the system of poverty. And they can become one more person who’s able to aid the widows and orphans after them, rather than become another person who’s being cared for, sometimes for their entire lives.
I think there’s another reason Scripture tells us that true religion is to care for the widows and orphans in their time of need. I think it’s part of His way of reminding us that nothing we have is actually ours. Sure, we’ve been raised to believe that what get to keep what we earn, and ONLY what we earn (which I also believe is part of the reason we struggle so much with the Biblical idea of grace). But is that true? Where did it come from? Is what we have ours? Did we earn it? Or was it given to us? Could it be taken away as quickly as we got it? So why do we insist on labeling it “ours” and hoarding it? Is the American way of “yours” and “mine” and “earned” the same as God’s way?
I am in no way “the 1%.” But I’ll tell you one thing I am absolutely certain of. The 1% are not the only people in this world who have obscenely more than they need. I have absolutely everything I need and most things I want. While a huge chunk of the world goes on starving and dying of illnesses I’ve had multiple times since my birth. Nothing about that seems okay to me, to be honest. Working on how to change it.
God’s economy is a very different place to be.