An American Empire? Pt II

Yesterday, in what can only be described as a political post, I told you why I think America is an empire.  I also promised to relate this idea to faith in some way, so here we go.  As I said at the end of yesterday’s entry, empire is always about itself and not about people.  It may start out with the best of intentions but, invariably, its sole purpose will soon become to perpetuate itself.  The bigger it gets (i.e. the more stuff it accumulates), the more its concerns become dominated by protecting its holdings.  Over time, that attitude rubs off on its citizens and their concern is no longer the  welfare of their neighbors but the maintenance of their stuff.  In much the same way, individual Americans have become more concerned with the maintenance of their stuff than they are with the fact that their neighbor is starving.  What, you say , my neighbor is starving?  No way, he has a lot more money than I do!  I’m not talking about the guy who lives next door or even down the street.  I’m talking about your neighbor in the biblical sense; as in everyone, everywhere.  Got that?  Good.

Now that the neighbor thing is understood, let’s talk about a little more about our “stuff”.  Over a billion people in this world don’t have access to clean drinking water.  In fact, in Africa alone, people spend 40 billion hours a year walking to get water.  30,000 people die every week from drinking unsanitary water, 90% of them children{{1}}.  They do all this to get by on about 1.5 liters of water per day.  Meanwhile, the average American uses between 80 and 100 gallons per day{{2}}.  925 million people do not have enough to eat everyday{{3}} while Americans throw away an average of 4 lbs of food per day{{4}}.  385 million people live on less than $1 per day{{5}} and the average American teenager spends as much as $100 per week{{6}}.  113 million children worldwide aren’t enrolled in school{{7}} while basic education is guaranteed for American children.  As much 90% of the world’s population doesn’t own a car{{8}} while the average American family owns 1.9 cars{{9}}.  Didn’t realize you had it so good, did you?

We have all this wealth and Congress is in the process of instituting deep cuts to social spending, both here and abroad.  Why is that?  I think our wealth has made feel entitled to what we have, that we’ve worked hard and deserve the fruits of our labors.  While that may be true, the flip side of that idea is that those who aren’t doing as well as are deserve what they’re getting too.  Which, as you see by the figures above, is not much.  The reality is that we have been blessed with an abundance and that abundance didn’t come from our “labors”, it came from God.  You may not like hearing that, but it’s true.  The only reason you were able to do the things you did that brought you all this stuff was through God-given talents.  Did you get that?  God-given, not man-given.  Most of us reading this were also lucky enough to be born in the United States, the wealthiest and most secure nation the world has ever seen.  Whatever we have, we ourselves have little to do with the conditions that allow us to have it.  Yet, the curse of empire encourages us to hoard our wealth, to protect it at all costs.  It also encourages us to accumulate more wealth, often at the expense of others.  The way of Christ, however, is anti-empire.  It’s about protecting people, not stuff.  It puts a premium on human beings instead of money, possessions or power.  It’s about using the wealth we’ve been given to care for our brothers and sisters who are in need, not working to keep or gather more stuff to ourselves.  Yes, it’s counter-intuitive; but, when you abandon empire to follow Christ, good things happen.  For you and everyone around you.

[[1]]http://www.charitywater.org/whywater/[[1]]

[[2]]http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/qahome. html#HDR3[[2]]

[[3]]http://www.wfp.org/hunger/stats[[3]]

[[4]]http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2008/05/18/weekinreview/0518MARTIN-1260×909.jpg[[4]]

[[5]]http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats[[5]]

[[6]]http://www.laymca.org/development/Teen_Spending_Report.pdf[[6]]

[[7]]http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/issues/issues33/index.htm[[7]]

[[8]]http://www.energybulletin.net/node/8248[[8]]

[[9]]http://answers.bloglines.com/Car/how_many_cars_does_the_average_american_family_own[[9]]