It doesn’t happen often. But I’m at a loss of what to say. Yet, here I am writing anyway. I’m not exactly sure what this post will turn into honestly. It could take a variety of roads.
So what has put me into this state of uncertainty??? Actually, it’s not a state of uncertainty really. But again, I don’t have the words right now, so I’m going with it.
I don’t know what to say about the state of our politics in this country. I have a long and deep history in politics and like to think I understand how it works (beyond the literal processes). And yet, when I observe what is happening in our nation’s capital, I am left wordless. Am I dismayed? Am I disgusted? Am I concerned? Am I confused? Am I amazed? Am I shocked? Am I something else or even all of these? Sure. Let’s go with that.
I don’t know what to say about the state of Christianity in the country either. Again, I have a long and deep history in theology and religion and like to think that I understand how it works (again beyond the literal processes). And yet, when I observe segments of Christianity in our nation, I’m left wordless. Am I confused? Distressed? Shocked? Wondering if all Christians worship the same God? Amazed at the seeming pull of idolatry that is running rampant? Distraught by the willful stubbornness and hard heartedness of some Christians? Upset by the twisting of Scripture, Jesus, and theology in order to make excuses and obtain power? Ticked off? Maybe I’m all of that, or none of it, or something else? Sure. Let’s go with that.
Politics and faith are two things that are near and dear to me and have been for as long as I can remember. They are like first languages for me. Things that come easy to me and don’t require a great deal of focus to grasp. Ask me to do something with my hands and Ill struggle and get frustrated and probably give up. But politics and faith have always been something I have connected with.
And so I’m in a weird spot where the world of politics and faith are not making much sense to me at all. Maybe this is just the culmination of the last several years. I don’t know.
And at the same time, I don’t feel hopeless or lost. In fact, I feel more connected to God now than ever before. I assume that some of that is because I have no where else to go. And so I turn to God.
All of this has me thinking about poverty. That might sound weird. Hang in there for a moment though.
There are many forms of poverty. Financial poverty is the most commonly recognized. We have a large segment of our population that experience financial poverty. But here’s the thing with financial poverty – it never acts alone. If financial poverty were in a vacuum, apart from other aspects of life, we would have solved it decades ago. We spend billions, if not trillions on financial poverty relief. Yet, we have more people trapped in financial poverty than we have since the Great Depression.
If we really wanted to fix this, we’d start to look beyond just the immediate and material needs of people. We’d start looking at the more abstract within people and in society. Poverty exists in a variety of forms. And it traps individuals, families, communities, and more. Poverty exist in conjunction with many unspoken systems that we would rather ignore or pretend that don’t exist. Poverty stays in place because we have decided that the systems that maintain poverty are beneficial to those in power. We’re too busy with our thoughts and prayers when tragedy strikes to do anything about the underlying problems that create poverty.
Other forms of poverty include – moral poverty, integrity poverty, vision poverty, poverty of mind, theological poverty, character poverty, truth poverty, wisdom poverty, emotional poverty, spiritual poverty, political poverty, ideological poverty.
Poverty has a tie to time. We see this with those trapped in financial poverty. The only time that exists for those in financial poverty is the present. That is because those in poverty are struggling to survive. There is no future when all you are doing is figuring out how to survive. And looking to the past doesn’t help you survive either.
And so you end up with people waiting in lines for hours upon hours for food, even though they are told that there will be enough and to come back during the regular hours. When you are focused on surviving, the only time that exists is the present. There is no future. There is no past.
I think this same mentality and reality is true of other types of poverty as well. Any poverty traps someone into expending any resources they have on survival. And when you are surviving, you don’t bother considering the future. You don’t bother looking to the past to learn from it. Those things require critical thinking skills and time to consider them. Survival doesn’t allow for critical thinking or time. It is only about right now – an endless present.
Spiritual gurus talk about living in the present. That’s different than the endless present of these more abstract forms of poverty. These forms of poverty trap people in an endless present of hell. Hell, be definition is the absence of or separation from God. Forget about the arguments about hell being a specific place or not. That’s not important to this discussion.
An ever present hell means that all that exists for someone is fear, torment, and misery. Those things don’t allow for clear thinking. Don’t allow for seeing what is coming or seeing the image of God in others. Don’t allow for consideration of others. Don’t make room for Shalom – wholeness or completeness. An endless present of misery is the opposite of Shalom. It is perpetual incompleteness and brokenness.
When I consider this in relation to what I see around me in politics and religion, I start to understand something. That what we have is ideological poverty, political poverty, character poverty, integrity poverty, theological poverty, intellectual poverty, moral poverty, and more.
And just like financial poverty, those trapped in these forms of poverty can’t and won’t see outside the present. Because they are expending all their resources on survival. And so they are trapped in an endless present full of fear, misery, and brokenness. There is no vision or consideration of the future. All one has to do is listen to the words spoken and written. All one has to do it look at the actions of those trapped in these forms of poverty. There is no past for them either. No learning from the past, or avoiding the mistakes of the past. Only the endless present hell for those trapped in their poverties.
The question comes down to this – what is my role? What am I called to in the midst of such poverty? What poverties am I trapped in that I don’t even know?
My role is to proclaim a different message and a different vision. To work with those who will listen. To listen to others who have vision as well. To invite those trapped in poverty a way out. To pray. To move forward regardless. I can’t convince anyone trapped in a form of poverty to change. I can only invite them out. And that’s what I will do.
Because when it’s all said and done, those trapped in these poverties will not last. The endless present hell will consume them. There will be more to take their places unfortunately. But they won’t last either. Only God’s way is eternal and lasts. That is what I hitch myself to. And I invite anyone who will listen to this way also.