Sunday, November 29, 2009

The End of Poverty? (Part II)

There is a moment when the rich will have to accept that they are digging their own grave. By creating more and more poor people every year they are simply creating less and less consumers and therefore more and more problems for their own businesses and their won fortunes. The world will never go back to a positive yearly growth until poverty is alleviated for a vast majority of the poor. It's simply mathematical. So unfortunately the rich don't have any more real solutions, only a few tricks to prorogate a dead system a bit longer.
Philippe Diaz, director of The End of Poverty? [2009]

The call to 'Make poverty history' needs a partner: 'Make affluence history.'
Shane Claiborne, Jesus For President [2008]

Wife and I attended the 7pm screening of The End of Poverty? in Santa Monica last night. The 100 minute documentary seeks to answer the perplexing question of why the countries of the North are economically superior to the South. Starting in 1492 (when 'Columbus sailed the ocean blue') all the way to the present, the countries of South America, Asia and Africa have been held down by oppressive policies handed to them by the Industrialized countries of the North in dire need of their precious resources to continue the Capitalist project.

Jumping right to conclusions, if director Philippe Diaz' thesis is correct, we followers of Jesus, citizens of the Reign of God, will need to pursue systemic solutions to fight for 'the least of these' in our world. Instead of charity and development, we should prioritize mobilizing a people willing to live simply and sacrificially, to protest American policies that continue to oppress our Third World neighbors. In short, we should take seriously the New Testament call to repent (from ways that we participate in the oppressive system) and resist (creatively forming practices to live alternatively) in systemic, rather than individualistic ways. The film indicts Western Christianity (from the 16th century to the present) that has individualized and privatized both faith and economics.

Where can we start this radical re-engagement? Where else but in our local faith communities. Churches are communities that form us into Jesus' image, living empathically and humbly in the face of indifference and gross materialism. Churches, originally subversive political bodies in the context of the 1st century Roman Empire, can mobilize disciples to protest US farm subsidies and tariffs that price Third World farmers out of the market, as well as IMF and World Bank debt 'strategies' that we can demand be 'released' (that great New Testament Greek word 'aphesis' which we usually translate 'forgiven) so that these Third World countries can be liberated to make decisions that enhance their way of life.

Whatever you do, don't miss an opportunity to see this film. It will change your outlook on why more than a billion in this world live on less than a dollar a day (hint: it has more to do with how we live than they do).

--Theological Autopilot

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