Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Inadvertent Mail Bag: Wealth Inequality Edition

My sister sent me this article about the online criticism of Dave Ramsey's large home and Ramsey's response, with the following commentary:

Sometimes you express frustration over people who purport to be righteous but seem to spend a lot. Thought this was a good take on it. What do you think?
I responded, and then, since I'm lazy, I thought, "I could just Ctl-C Ctl-V and, BAM, blog post!" So here's my response.

Sorry I didn't respond for a few days. I had it sitting around waiting for me to have time to get to it.

There's tension between the natural man response to material things--which is to get more for myself, even if it's at the expense of others--and the commandment to love one another. For Mormons, this is heightened by the Law of Consecration. We have committed ourselves to having no poor among us.

This is a giant personal struggle for each of us. At least it SHOULD be. I get frustrated when I see others not struggling, but rather embracing class distinctions.

"Maybe they're struggling without you seeing, [A Random Stranger]." Fair enough, but it seems unlikely to me that someone who flaunts his opulence is struggling with his opulence.

"How does this even effect you, [A Random Stranger]?" A legitimate question. But since Zion is a societal outcome, the efforts of others has a bearing on the reaching of the goal. This is like saying, "What the lady down the street does in her bedroom has no bearing on you." True, except sort of not true. A town full of perverts will see the public normalization of perversions, and other sins will manifest themselves, sins that aren't confined to bedrooms. This is why I have an interest in the attitudes of others towards money and things.

When I give money to poor people, I don't give them my large notes. Why? Well, I could argue it's because I need those bills for my expenses. But one could also argue it's because I'm a terrible person. After all, when I get out my wallet and say to myself, "Not the 100; I need that for me," and I give the person a five or a 10 instead, do I really think the poor person DOESN'T need the 100? [NOTE: Current conversion rate is ¥6.26/$1; my name ain't Rockefeller. - ED.] Even more than I do? But my wants are more important to me than the poor person's needs. And that is why I am a terrible person.

With all these personal decisions, there's a lot that goes into it that an outside person can never know. Thus the command to judge not. But Christ IMMEDIATELY follows the command to not judge with a command to not cast pearls before swine. So I have to evaluate who is "swine" and who isn't. There's an element of judging involved in that, I think. [NOTE: This argument is made more clearly here. - ED.] And I'm committed to live in a Zion society, yet most of my fellow covenanters want 10,000-square-foot Bear Lake cabins. [NOTE: Like this one. Yeah, I know. "It's for family reunions!" Those used to happen in parks, not themed master suites. - ED.] This is the source of frustration.

Sure, Mitt Romney has given more money away through tithes, offerings, and non-church charitable contributions than I could ever possibly own in a billion years. Yet he has a car elevator. Is he a terrible person? I don't know--judge not. But I don't think I would be moving closer to Zion if I bought a car elevator for myself.

In Zion, none of us will have car elevators until everyone has something just as frivolous of comparable value. When someone has food insecurity, there will be no car elevators. The goal is to move towards this. Public opulence is not evidence that we are moving towards this. I have an interest in the public opulence of others, but I shouldn't judge. All I know is I'm a terrible person because I went on a vacation to Thailand while I live on the same street with people who don't have enough to eat. I'm supposed to work against that.

I don't know if this makes sense or not.

Love, [A Random Stranger]

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