God is Setting All Things Right. So I am Blogging Through the Bible in a Year.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Class Summary for Nov. 10 - God Loves the Rich, Too

In yesterday’s class we went to the annual Missiology Lectures with guest Vinoth Ramachandra. Although I agree with some of his challenges, his lecture is another example of why theologians are incapable of influencing businessmen and economists. The lecture was full rancor and simplistic deductions about such things as capitalism, laissez-faire economics and American culture. After calling Fareed Zakaria (the author of The Post-American World naïve he proceeds to give a completely biased and simplistic view of our culture then has the audacity to encourage us to become more nuanced in our dealings with third-world countries. I do not know if this comes from his British university training or a cynical view of man, but I found it completely insulting to my friends who are in business fields and Ramachandra devoid of love. He complained that although the USA calls itself a “free market” it is not. This I agree with. However, later he complains that the poor are being oppressed by laissez-faire capitalism. Excuse me one moment, there, sir. ‘Free markets’ and ‘laissez-faire’ are basically the same thing (according to Merriam-Webster, laissez faire is “a doctrine opposing governmental interference in economic affairs beyond the minimum necessary for the maintenance of peace and property rights." The USA cannot be anti-free markets and laissez faire at the same time. But to Ramachandra, since laissez-faire is what businesses want, he wants the opposite. What he and other anti-free-market capitalism types attempt to do is shift the blame from what truly causes economic problems, governments creating onerous laws and/or not enforcing the laws equally, to a mystical economic system they cannot control (North Korea has no laissez-faire, free-market capitalism economy yet most people do not want to live there). Unfortunately I find this from many Non-Western theologians that they wish for Americans to understand the intricacies of their culture and be culturally sensitive yet proceed to bash our culture as though it were ruled by the devil himself. It makes me ashamed to call myself a missiologist, attempting to tear down the barriers between the secular and the sacred.

Ramachandra said that Christians should do, “Anything to encourage the rich to part with their money.” This is what God put us here to do? God loves the rich, too. I do believe Jesus’ attitude toward Zacchaeus and his parable in Luke 19.1-27 would challenge Ramachandra. Jesus did not condemn Zacchaeus for being rich. He simply asked to come to his home. The people grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner” (v. 7, ESV). Zacchaeus felt shame for what he had done and repented. Jesus does not begin a lecture on the evils of the Roman economic system. He simply stated “Today salvation has come to his house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (vv. 9-10). This should be the attitude we take towards the rich. Theologians and missiologists should not feel jealous because businessmen have more money and possessions. Theologians and missiologists should challenge them to see beyond the physical and acknowledge the one who blessed them with what they have. By doing this the businessman and the rich will see God’s love for them not as rich or poor but as his creation. Then when they become as Zacchaeus and want to give away their money to the poor cross cultural workers like myself can rejoice with them and help them do the things Ramachandra suggested. Unfortunately none of this will happen until theologians stop grumbling that non-Christians and nominal Christians fail to live by Jesus’ standards (which they outright reject or care little for) and have more than the poor, show little to no understanding of economics and attempt to portray the rich as the enemy instead of someone who needs God.