I apologize that the series on money has been so slow-going. I promise to write more after the move is over, but for now, without further ado…
I think it’s fair to say that most Americans are out of touch with reality. They have little to no concept of how others around the world live their lives and what extreme poverty looks like. The mere glimpses I’ve seen while overseas don’t make me exempt to this criticism: I’m sure I really, really don’t get it, and that’s important for me to remember anytime I’m thinking about wealth and poverty.
But I think many people talking about social justice as a Christian mandate are also out of touch with reality. I say this because of how their message does or does not discuss certain key issues relevant to their audience.
Or perhaps I should say “it did or didn’t” because it remains to be evaluated in the future what Christian leaders are teaching today. We know what our own pastor teaches or what books are popular among our friends, but we can’t always assess the bigger picture for at least a few years. So at risk of being completely irrelevant and outdated, I am going to do what is easy and discuss the things I remember hearing and reading in college. This also carries the risk of being less about what anyone actually said and more about how it stuck with me. Perhaps later I can deal with some specific authors or speakers in greater detail, but for now, I can only offer a “reader response criticism”-style analysis of the issues. And in some ways, that’s extremely useful, I think, because what everyday Christians take home from a sermon or get out of a book is almost as important as what was actually said. If a message is consistently misinterpreted, that’s a big problem.
There are two similar and related primary problems I see in the way topics related to economic justice have been handled by evangelicals of late:
(1) There is a tendency to speak to one’s entire audience with a message more applicable to only a portion of one’s actual audience. Mostly, I mean that there is a tendency to speak to the more privileged without helping the less privileged (whether somewhat-less-privileged or much-less-privileged) understand their role as relates to the pursuit of justice.
(2) There is a tendency to overlook key issues relevant to even that smaller segment of “privileged” people or relevant to a basic concern with justice, in and of itself.
While I have a lot of thoughts on this, they’re still a bit of a jumble in my head, so please bear with me as I attempt to articulate them in the midst of this crazy season!