Saturday, August 2, 2008
I just found a Presbyterian News Service pen in a pile on my floor and realized... i have not been a good steward of all the free junk I received at GA. And I meant to write this blog entry a month ago.
Pamphlets might be useful if I'd get around to reading them. The pens, i lose. The frisbee? haven't played with it. And I was on the strict side - I refused balloons, shirts, mugs, and whatever THESE things were supposed to be.
It's ironic that the church gets together and signs a handful of resolutions about simplicity and stewardship of the earth's resources, while in the next room people hand out meaningless bits of plastic all the day long. But don't worry, I'll think about the News Service whenever I happen across that pen... definitely a worthy cause, isn't it?
Okay, excuse my snarkiness... I'm on a sarcasm streak. Here is a more serious question that I started contemplating at GA, specifically in the "global marketplace" section where we buy crafts made by peasants worldwide. We import handmade goods from our mission partners worldwide, and we pay American prices for third-world items, thus raising a pretty penny for those we would support anyway. At first glance this looks awesome, especially for a tightwad like me. GUILT-FREE SHOPPING! I might even be able to get away with transfering some of my tithe money into the Christmas-shopping budget, because it's all for a noble cause. But upon further thought, I wonder... I guess my question is whether we can join the healing of the world while participating in its wounding.
parameters of this question:
I believe that a culture of consumption, of luxury, of entitlement and of materialism is WOUNDING our world more than we know. The poorest citizens of the poorest nations are the ones who bear the worst of it -- picture children in sweatshops, making clothing for American children.
I believe that there are worldwide economic structures that keep people and nations in poverty. The well-meaning rulers of these structures often hand out charity to the very ones that they impoverish. Charity is a mixed bag because sometimes it perpetuates the systems of oppression. I believe that helping the poor and needy is part of mission; I also believe that dismantling the systems of oppression is a Godly and missional action.
and... being a Calvinist... however loosely... i believe that I, a sinner, am complicit in all of the crimes the human race perpetuates against one another. I think I'm unwillingly learning materialism, over-consumption, and all the other world-endangering societal sins. I want to un-learn them. I want to develop Sallie McFague's "philosophy of enough-ness," learn to limit my desires, and live simply that others may simply live.
So when I see a $150 hand-carved chess set juxtaposed with an appeal to relieve the poverty of Indian peasants... I kind of freak out, because there are a million things going off in my head. Yes! relieve poverty! support fine art! do your necessary shopping here! Treat yourself guilt-free.
NO! I don't need it - I don't need it - I don't need it - it's a luxury - give that money away instead - invest it wisely - microfinance it - i'll play chess with the set i got as a kid because it is GOOD ENOUGH and does not need upgrading.
The question, again. Can we join the healing of the world while perpetuating its wounding?