"If you make more than $38,000 a year, you are among the world's richest 1%, " said Rev. John Nunes, President of Lutheran World Relief. Nunes gave some perspective on American "abnormality" at Concordia Seminary's annual theological symposium yesterday. The topic was "Doing Justice," and at least for the time I was present, Nunes was the highlight. I have certainly not thought of my household as the "the 1%." A couple of his perspectives I found helpful:
Poverty is multidimensional, and is manifested in different ways. In the United States, prosperity has created what he called "affluenza." He defines it as "a contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more." Affluenza is a type of poverty itself. Nunes suggests that those who are economically disadvantaged can actually heal the poverty of the affluent. Rather than economic segregation, meaningful engagement and service can bless both the economically poor as well as those suffering from affluenza.
Recognizing the persistence of injustice while not allowing it to be inevitable. One the one hand, Jesus says, "The poor you will always have with you." Yet we are not overwhelmed by the persistent tragedy of poverty, war-crimes, or racism. We deny its inevitability and courageously march forward "doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God" (Micah 6:8). This allows Christians to be realists. Nunes expressed Christian acts of justice and mercy to be "gradualism." It is neither passive ("Oh well, nothing will change anyway."), nor is it strict activism (Revolutionary for a moment, but unsustainable over the long haul.) "Gradualism" valiantly pushes forward with a realistic view of human sinfulness and remarkable hope in a God who ultimately holds sway over every injustice.