Tuesday, September 18, 2007


There's been lots of good comments over the "Rich Getting Richer and Poor Getting Poorer" post below. Readers who might not know everyone involved need to know that the posters are all close friends of mine and people I've partnered in ministry with. I really respect all the different views and opinions.

I think it boils down to balance.

Balance of salvation through Jesus covering the spiritual AND the physical. If you go merely spiritual, it's easy to fall into apathy and a distant, pharisaic, vague, pseudo-spirituality. However if you put all your theological/spiritual eggs into the physical basket, you're in the pit of merit based works righteousness, and that is missing the point just like detached asceticism.

Balance of reality and vision.
Now, let me quantify that statement. What I mean is, a balance in discerning the way things are vs. the way things could be. Again, I believe Jesus changed the world and as his followers we are to take part in his continuing shaping of our world. At the risk of sounding extreme, you don't get crucified for keeping the status quo. So in my assessment of wealth in St. Louis county, it may seem zealous, ambitious, foolish, naive, or idealistic to think that 1. this can change and 2. the church must be the body that models the change; but I don't care if it sounds naive or idealistic, because I am filled with the hope that God will use us as he pleases for his will to be done. But we have to temper the way things are with the way Jesus calls us to live, because the hope contained in faithfulness to Christ must guide us toward a better way of living.

Balance of our community with our needs, and communities with needs around us. People in West County need love, hope, and a savior just like people in the city do. So it is more than just simple economic distribution. My church needs to be equipped to minister to people in our context. We are building a new facility which we believe can help us accomplish this in a better way. All I'm saying is that by being exposed to the way others in our own backyard live, we can be transformed and adjust our attitudes about what is important and what being blessed is like on many levels (not just physically, but intellectually, socially, etc). Downtown the problems are many- crime, inadequate living conditions, unemployment, STD's. But in West County we have tons of problems too- self worth being tied to GPA for students and "success" for adults, hyper-consumerism, and an over scheduled, over committed, burnt out culture of first place or bust. However, it's easy to say it's not just about economics or physical needs when all your physical needs are met.

Balance of what is really needed vs. what we think is needed. Here's a tough one. If we really were to get down to it, even an average income of $30,000 in St. Louis city is so much more than many of the people in the world will see in a decade. So all of you out there could say: "Well Adam, if you're so down with helping poor people why don't you sell that laptop you're typing on!" Ahh, touches! You know, part of me wants to say you might be right! Let me list other luxuries I enjoy that are not essential to physical life: car, cell phone, iPod, digital camera, dvd's, books, furniture, too many clothes, air conditioning, expensive watch, a $1500 Taylor Guitar, Nintendo wii, tv, this laptop, I could go on. So if it was simply about gettin rid of all things except meager shelter, food, and water I wouldn't have a leg to stand on. But that's too simple. The issue is much more complex than that. But I have found that "de-accumulating" is a better way to live. In case you're wondering, I have sold clothes that I didn't need along with most of my DVD's (I kept the ones I got as gifts, and the boxed sets). What I've discovered as I've shed some posessions, and have been living in a house that won't let me accumulate much more than I already have...is that I really don't need all the stuff I thought I did. It's been over a month with no cable. The more I give away, the more I appreciate what I have, and the less I have to worry about. So in our discussions about distribution of wealth, a tough part of the discussion is that we really don't need all that we think we need.

So what do you guys think about all of that? One of the reasons that radio/tv talk shows are so popular is that they're so polarizing- they offer neat answers to messy questions. They are often not designed to provide rational discourse but rather entertaining sophistry. No one would want to listen to a show where the hosts repeatedly said things like: "Ya, I see your point" or "It's really not a simple sound byte solution". Hopefully people will want to read blog posts that try!


Adam Caldwell said...

well..said and well put...we do tend to overemphasize the side where we believe people are missing the point, as Kierkegard(?) reminded us, a push from one side should only be the "pinch of spice" to get us balanced or headed toward the right direction...it is a redemption of the whole person (spiritual and physical)...blessings to you and your ministry my friend

Professor RJ Gumby said...

A pretty good summary all and all Meester Mustoe.

One other point: Averages are tricky things. An average income of $30,000 may seem small, but it assumes there is a static class of people who stay in this range, or stay in the city. Like all things in this world, it's much more complicated.

To me the issue is really about opportunities. The problem is not only helping those who need it with physical and spiritual needs, but also helping with education (like working to fix the broken St. Louis schools or tutoring).

A worthy thought provoking topic...we need more of these.