"Redistribution of wealth" - who me?
Getting my doors blown off by yet another great book.
The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne.
Don't even think about reading this book if you aren't ready to get rocked back on your heels with his stories and challenges about wealth and redistribution, poverty and homelessness, love and service, war and violence, Iraq and Mother Teresa. If you like the way you live and don't want to make any changes that might affect your family, your community, and the world, then DO NOT read this book. In fact, don't even read the rest of this post.
If, however, you choose to read this post, do not, I repeat, do not write to me and tell me that he's just a rebel or misguided somehow or unpatriotic or not a Christian. Don't write to me and tell me that I am a communist or marxist and recommend that I make my way to Cuba to join the revolution. Please! I beg you, don't get angry at me. Remember that you have been warned. You can turn away now.
Still reading? Then check out a couple of quotes that have sent me to my knees and to the local Crisis Assistance Ministry organization with bags and bags of stuff that we don't need and won't miss - shame on us!
* It is much more comfortable to depersonalize the poor so we don't feel responsible for the catastrophic human failure that results in someone sleeping on the street while people have spare bedrooms in their houses. We can volunteer in a social program or distribute excess food and clothing through organizations and never have to open up our homes, our beds, our dinner tables. (page 158)
* (Speaking of faith-based nonprofit initiatives) The church becomes a distribution center, a place where the poor come to get stuff and the rich come to dump stuff. Both go away satisfied (the rich feel good, the poor get clothed and fed), but no one leaves tranformed. No radical new community is formed. (page 159)
* There are many progressive liberals who have taught me that we can live lives of disciplined simplicity and still be distant from the poor. We can eat organic, have a common pool of money, and still be enslaved to Mammon (the personification of the money god that Jesus named in the Gospels.) Rather than being bound up by how much stuff we need to buy, we can get enslaved to how simply we must live. (page 162)
* Simplicity is meaningful only inasmuch as it is grounded in love, authentic relationships, and interdependence. Redistribution then springs naturally out of our rebirth, from a vision of family that is larger than biology or nationalism. As we consider what it means to be "born again," as the evangelical jargon goes, we must ask what it means to be born again into a family in which our sisters and brothes are starving to death. Then we begin to see why rebirth and redistribution are inextricably bound up in one another, as a growing number of evangelicals have come to proclaim. It also becomes scandalous for the church to spend money on windows and buildings when some family members don't even have water. Welcome to the dysfunctional family of Yahweh.
So it is important to understand that redistribution comes from community, not before community. Redistribution is not a prescription for community. Redistribution is a description of what happens when people fall in love with each other across class lines. (page 163)
* I am not a communist, nor am I a capitalist. As Will O'Brien of the Alternative Seminary here in Philly says: "When we truly discover love, capitalism will not be possible and communism will not be necessary." (page 164)
Ouch, ouch, ouch. This book stings. Its truths hurt. It is waking me up from my privileged, insulated, well-indoctrinated, profoundly selfish "American dream." And it is demanding that I make a decision about how I live now that I am awake.
(Middle of the night correction - This dream I have been dreaming and living is not uniquely American. It didn't begin here, and it won't end here. It is a dream that revolves around me and what I want and think I need. It is a dream that lulls me to sleep when so many people all around the wintry world are wide awake trying to figure out how to stay warm, how to feed their children and themselves, how to get clean water to drink, and keep a roof over their heads. It is a dream that keeps me comfortable in the huge church I attend instead of uncomfortable with how distant it is physically and philosophically from the desperate pain and suffering of people in this growing city. It is a dream that whispers to me in cynical and self-serving tones about how many of the poor choose poverty over hard work and alcoholics choose alcohol over sobriety and greedy people choose houses and cars and clothes they couldn't afford over frugality, so it's not my problem. It's the dream that has somehow separated me from the unruly, uncontained, unimaginable love and grace that ought to overlook a multitude of faults and meet needs, the same inexplicable love and unfathomable grace that has brought me to the place I am right now. No, it's not an American dream; I apologize to those who are offended by my reference to the USA in this context. It's not Italian or Spanish or South African or Brazilian either. Although it is a dream shared by millions in every nation, it is my personal nightmare. And it's time for me to wake up and do something about it. Added at 4:01 am, March 3rd.)
If you come to this blog and don't find an update for more than a month, it will very likely be because I took this book - and The Book that this book is based on - seriously and sold this computer and gave the money to someone whose need is greater than my greed. After all, how many computers, printers, pots and pans, coats, scarves, bags, markers, blank journals, sticks of incense, candles, skirts, t-shirts, pairs of shoes, books, magazines, and square feet of living space does one woman and her family of four need?
Redistribution of wealth... who me?