Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A letter to Shane and Chris

Shane and Chris,

My wife and I are indebted to you guys for your bold, prophetic voices. In your words and walks, you are re-imagining what our faith looks like against the prevailing script of “technological, therapeutic, consumer militarism” (Brueggemann). As a family gearing up to do church-planting among the poorest neighborhoods in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, we resonate deeply with your call to the church to take seriously Christ's own words and walk amongst the desolate.

Huge swaths of the church still consider doctrine a list of truths to be affirmed rather than acted, conversion more decision than demonstration. It seems wherever we look to the right to put words to our faith, we must sacrifice hearing the things closest to God's heart for our lives. But wherever we look to the left to put action to our faith, doctrines get sheepish, scurrying into the shadows of a looming concern for the poor. Talk of sin gets befuddled, talk of hell squeamish, and in the end we're hard-pressed to find a problem worthy of the solution of the cross.

We fear Jesus for President dabbles in the latter. You guys borrow heavily from liberation theology to paint broad strokes of the biblical narrative - a tradition the church has much to glean from. But by reading the Scriptures exclusively through the lens of God's interaction with regimes, they are muffled. Likewise, in your book, the stories of triumph over wicked political powers are shouted while the Bible's most prominent theme of God reconciling sinful man to himself through Christ is whispered ambiguously. There is one mention of sin, to assure us it's not the yoke Jesus frees us from (111); more attention to the hell of poverty on earth and even doubts (?) of an eternal one (290ff); and more excitement about the "conversions" of car engines and renewable energy sources than the sheep Christ came to claim (308). No faith in a desperately needed Savior. No atonement. No justification. No reconciliation. No salvation.

I realize these are "buzz words" for Bible thumping (or Bible humping, as my co-worker says) fundamentalists. And there is a desperate flight in my generation of all things fundamentalist. But they are the words of Scripture - to whom else may we go? If others have embalmed them and decorated their narthexes with their death, that is a travesty. And yet we can still do nothing less than watch the Spirit breath life into these words through us, reattaching them to the cross-bearing lives they belong to.

Again, we sincerely applaud your audacity to defy the comforts of Christendom for the cost of the cross. But we are equally desperate to hear men and women boldly making sense of that cross in light of the Scriptures - "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us".

David and Julie

Monday, November 10, 2008

November 4

Here's a powerful post surrounding the election. Its a white father wrestling with how to account for this red-lettered date with his black son (adopted from Ethiopia).

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Taxing the Wealthy

I've seen this tax illustration countless times leading up to the election but its very misleading for several reasons.

1. All we are privy to is what each man at the table pays for the total bill (i.e. his taxes). We have to do the math to figure out what each one makes according to the 2008 tax brackets. To pay $0 of a $100 tab, the bottom four men must make $8000 or less a year. Our present poverty line for singles is $10,400, neither of which are livable wages. For the richest man to pay $59 he must be making 44 times that amount, or $354,000.

2. In reality of course, taxes don't buy beer unfortunately. Pure capitalism is a bit of a mirage. Big business in America takes a lot of government money to float by way of infrastructure, subsidies, security, etc. So the richest men at the table are paying money to make money, not just to fund others' drinks.

3. In the illustration, the money is paid in exchange for equal rounds of beers for all participants. The poorest appears to drink as heartily as the richest. Sadly this is embarrassingly untrue. Of course richer folks will live more comfortably on their own income than poorer folks, but how do we account for the huge disparity on government spending between wealthier and poorer communities? Let's just say kids in Richland County don't go to the same public schools as kids in Lexington.

4. On that note, the illustration fails to account for the members at the table as human beings, instead of units of economic output. Each man at the table represents not just himself but his family, his community, his school, his subculture. America is not a level playing field. Sure there are lazing, greedy, mooching poor people (just as there are lazy, greedy, mooching rich people). But unless we are willing to say that the reason 80% of black kids in inner-city Baltimore fail to graduate high school is laziness, we are just beginning to scratch the surface of a problem much bigger than we realize. Meanwhile, we're arguing over who gets to pay the least for it. Surely money is not the only answer, but I'm not holding my breath for a free one.

5. Another barrier to a level playing field yet to be mentioned is oppression. The Bible is not ignorant to the inherent wickedness and laziness of man (see Proverbs and Paul). But by far, the number one factor contributing to poverty according to the Scriptures is oppression (see Pentateuch, History, Psalms, Proverbs, Prophets, Gospels, Paul, and James). Of course there are rich people who are innocent of malicious oppression; and there are rich people who are ignorant of their oppression; and there are rich people downright guilty of it in complex economical, social, and political ways biblical writers' couldn't have dreamed of. Whatever the category, chances are that at that table, some are able to pay more of the bill because others can't.