Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Politics of Scarcity



On November 8th, I preached a sermon called "Scarcity vs. Abundance."  (If you missed it, can't remember it or just want to hear it again, click here.)  In the sermon, I made several points that I took from a great essay on the subject by UCC theologian and biblical scholar, Walter Brueggemann, "The Liturgy of Abundance and the Myth of Scarcity."  Here's a taste of it:

We who are now the richest nation are today's main coveters. We never feel that we have enough; we have to have more and more, and this insatiable desire destroys us. Whether we are liberal or conservative Christians, we must confess that the central problem of our lives is that we are torn apart by the conflict between our attraction to the good news of God's abundance and the power of our belief in scarcity -- a belief that makes us greedy, mean and unneighborly. We spend our lives trying to sort out that ambiguity."

Brueggemann persuasively presents the idea that one of the great themes of the Bible running from the creation story all the way through the teachings, life, death and resurrection of Jesus is about abundance.  God created the natural order with abundant resources for all, yet humanity continually seems to choose the way of scarcity.  The creation stories, manna in the wilderness, the miracles of Elisha and Elijah, the visions of the prophets, the poetry of the Psalms, the teachings and miracles of Jesus and more point to the reality that God provides enough for us if we will only acknowledge our place in God's creation and share it with one another.  Yet, despite what we say we believe, we live as if no abundance exists.  We only can have what we get for ourselves--getting that must come at the expense of others.  From our treatment of the environment to our rampant materialism to our lust for violence to our racism and xenophobia, we live according to the "myth of scarcity."

One needs only to watch the presidential race this week to see the ideology of scarcity at work.

Immigrants--documented or undocumented--all must be sent away.  Walls must be built.  There are not enough jobs, not enough wealth, not enough of America to share with the immigrants.  It is them or us.  Thee is no just way to share this wondderful and rich country.

The old, the disabled, the unemployed, the disenfranchised deserve their lot.  The spoils of our capitalist system belong to the strongest and the quickest.  Nevermind the lobbying, the backroom deals, the racism and the exploitation of workers and natural resources.  Those who have the most wealth deserve the most wealth.  All others deserve their failures.

More military spending is the only way to preserve the American way of life and keep America safe.  The needs of the rest of the world cannot be met.  They can only kept at bay to preserve our standard of living.

Climate change is a myth.  Our environment is not in crisis.  We can continue to use more resources than the rest of the world without facing any negative consequences for our never-ending consumption.

Marriage is for heterosexuals only.  By allowing same sex couples to marry, straight couples' marriages are devalued.  If marriage is for everyone rather than some, then everyone loses.

The voices of scarcity win votes.  Fear is a powerful motivator.  

My conservative friends would rightly say I'm picking on Republicans, and I guess they're right. Scarcity, however, crosses party lines.  I believe just about any politician, Republican or Democrat, will support the party platform of scarcity if it gets him or her elected.  We will see if the Democrats do any better than the Republicans this coming week at their debate.  I suspect the issues which provoke a declaration of scarcity may be different than the Republicans, but the politics of scarcity will make their presence known among the Democrats as well.  It's easier to run on fear and self-preservation than it is to offer a vision of a better world.

Whatever your political persuasion, listen carefully to politicians of all parties.  Do they inspire you to live in a world where there is enough for all or do they fill you with fear because there is never enough?

Grace and Peace,

Chase

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