This is a blog post that most of you will stop reading when you realize it’s about numbers. Terms like “tax code” make many people’s eyes glaze over – especially those of us who prefer the humanities over math.
But we in the Church need to look at numbers. We follow Jesus who lived for 33 years, rose on the 3rd day, and served under the thumb of an empire that expected Judeans to pay an exorbitant number of taxes which kept them poor. We are called to live differently if we take Jesus seriously.
Now that we are in Eastertide and resurrection is our message and our mission, please consider listening to this podcast with Jerome McDonald – host of the WBEZ radio program Worldview – and Jeffrey Winters – Director of the Northwestern University’s Equality, Development and Globalization Studies Program. It’s both golden and unsettling.
One of the most powerful excerpts:
Jeffrey Winters: “Over the last 30 to 50 years, the story of the United States has basically been one of a massive, almost mind-boggling shift upward in wealth and income. Over the last roughly 30-50 years – the great majority – well, 99%, nearly, of all wealth gains went to the top 20% and the biggest part of that went to the top 1%. And then if you narrow it down even more the top 0.1% really gained the most. And meanwhile, everyone else either shifted downward or was held pretty much stagnant. A society can sustain that kind of change in distribution and inequality only so long before it begins to have all kinds of societal effects, some of which are extremely negative.
Jerome McDonnell : The U.S. is the most unequal of all advanced economies. It does not have a peer.
Jeffrey Winters: That’s right . . . Our Wealth Gini Index is 81 which is the highest in the world.
Yikes. Let me repeat: The U.S. is the most unequal of all advanced economies. I’m pretty sure this is a sin.
It feels overwhelming and perhaps even hopeless to consider working towards income equality. And for many of us with healthy or even generous incomes, we don’t like the idea of sharing. We worked hard for our big salary . . .
Jesus lived and died in the throes of an unequal system that kept the poor powerless and the rich powerful. He also rose up making the point that love ultimately wins and evil (read: injustice) ultimately loses.
When a billionaire is our President and his cabinet is filled with other millionaires and billionaires, it’s hard to believe that economic resurrection for the poor is possible. That’s where we come in, moved by a Power that speaks up for the poor and against forces that keep people poor.
Being a follower of Jesus might just involve knowing something about economics and the tax code – even when it makes our eyes glaze over, for the sake of the Gospel.
Tune in tomorrow for Step One in how to begin to do this.