Hope…Some Preliminary Thoughts

10 12 2008

For my Liberation Theology class we read Integrating Ecofeminism, Globalization, and World Religionsby Rosemary Redford Ruether.  When we discussed it in class, I began to feel a little hopeless.  She spends alot of time discussing poverty and the damage done to the environment and war.  She talks about the symptoms but also about causes.  I’m only going to mention one of the many things she brings up in the book

The gap between rich and poor has steadily grown, with some 85 percent of the wealth of the world in the hands of some 20 percent of the world’s population, much of that concentrated in the top 1 percent, while the remaining 80 percent share out the remaining 15 percent and the poorest 20 percent, more than a billion people, live in deep misery on the brink of starvation.  In 1960 the richest 20 percent had thirty times the wealth of the poorest 20 percent; by 1995 this gap had grown to eighty-two times.  The 225 richest people in the world have a combined wealth of over $1 trillion, equal to the annual income of the poorest 50 percent of humanity or 2.5 billion people, while the richest three people have assets that exceed that of the forty-eight poorest nations.  This means, in terms of absolute levels of poverty, that in 1999 almost half of the worlds population was living on less than $2 a day, and more than 20 percent of the world, 1.2 billion people, on less than $1 a day, according to World Bank figures.

This disgusts me.  I’m fairly certain that the majority of this wealth is in Western hands (Europe and the United States), and probably white males.  That’s just my guess…I’ve done no research on that.  As we were discussing this and the way “free trade” works, which is basically becoming increasingly unregulated and causing poorer nations to become even poorer by exploiting the workforce, I become suddenly aware of how hopeless I felt. 

I’ve been trying to work this feeling out since Monday.  First, I realized that the world is getting worse, not better.  The whole idea of humans moving forward from hunter-gatherer societies to agrarian to urbanization to so-on-and-so-on is ridiculous.  I think it has taken us further from who we really are.  But that’s a little bit of an undeveloped thought on my part.

I then realized that in our world, money is God.  If nothing else from the teachings of Jesus challenges our way of living (and I would venture to say there are others), Matthew 6:24 should:

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and wealth.

This world chooses to serve money.  It has become the task-master of the way we “do business.”  But is this the way it should be for Christians?  I don’t think wealth is a safe thing for Christians.  I don’t think that we should take as “rights” our material things at the expense of another’s physical needs.  Some might argue that we “need” these things, like cars, for instance.  I will be the first to admit that living without a car is not an easy thing to do, but it’s not because I actually can’t live without a car.  It is because our society has structured itself in such a way that many of our wants appear to be needs.  And they do this without recognizing the actual needs of people all over the world.  We’ve become an inward looking nation, and i fear that we will always be until we collapse in upon ourselves and become the exploited, not the exploiter.

Moving on.

I then realized that hope cannot be a merely a feeling.  If it were I think it would be diluted down into a false optimism.  I think it is a sober assessment of this world and a conviction (perhaps there is a better word) that God will set this mess right in the end.  I don’t think it is laziness because it’s going to get fixed eventually, nor do I think it is ignorance of events and problems because they don’t matter if it’s all getting fixed.  I think it is that pure sorrow that comes from watching humanity be treated and act as less than human.  It is that sorrow that leads us to say “Jesus, come quickly.”