Paul Waddell writes that one of the foundational virtues of justice is a vision of interdependence and solidarity. "Interdependence suggests not only that we need and depend on one another, but also that unity exists between us is so penetrating and extensive that there is no way any of us can exist apart from everyone else."
"Instead of envisioning us as ioslated and utterly disparate individuals who have little connection to each other besides theconnections we choose or are willing to accept," Waddell writes referring to Pope John XXIII, "John saw that human beings are morally and spiritually connected to one another and, therefore, responsible for one another. Solidarity makes justice both intelligible and imperative because it recognizes that human life, from first to life, is shared life; as Daniel Maguire wrote, 'Everything about us is social."
Can I dovetail this series in with what I am reading in Paul Waddell's book?
Sure I can. It's my blog. :-)
"The need for intimacy and communion is bred into us because we are modeled after a God whose innermost being is relational. Christians express this by speaking of God as Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity means not that there are three gods, but that in one God there are three persons bonded together in love. God is a communion of unbreakable love, an everlasting partnership of love. God is not three isolated individuals; rather, God is the solidarity of unbreakable love. To speak of God as Trinity is to hold that at the very heart of God we find not solitude (Dan interjects: stop and pause over what God is not) and isolation, but intimacy and community. And it is a communion of persons characterized by life-giving, mutual love...As God's images, there must be some correspondence between what is true for God and what will be true for ourselves. Love, intimacy, communion, and friendship are not optional elements to a life of happiness but absolute requirements, because if the God in whose image we are made only exist relationally, then the same holds true for us. If God is a partnership of love, we will find happiness, and fulfillment in whatever measure we imitate such love in our lives."
So, this deacon who scrutinized our budget was well intentioned. He was gracious in his approach. He was uncomfortable with this as much as I was. He looked over our budget. Have you ever let someone peer into what you spend down to the penny? He owned a home and was quite successful. Humanly speaking, I could have been where he was. Nice home. If we felt God was calling us to have Sheila teach and continue on to her tenure, who knows where we would be today?
He found that among other things, that if I cut back from buying the daily newspaper, we could save money that way. At that time, I was spending thirty-five cents a day for a newspaper. What he did was a kind of gracious blowtorch analysis of our budget. He literally divided our needs and our wants and separated them and everything that wasn't a need, was bad and we should cut back on. I forgot what the exact figure was, but, it was like incredibly minimal and it would take months to get to the 1,800.00 we needed right away. Both Sheila and I were remembering the silliness of cutting back on the newspaper in light of our big need. He didn't find any "smoking gun" where we were impulsively overspending. Another deacon, who was a mechanic, after this meeting gave us his knowledge, and his gifts, for a week devoted his time to put a new transmission in our car.
So, part of my story is a testimony that financial struggle, chronic financial struggle may be more than just financial discipline, faithful budgeting and living within your means.
I live and work in a world of financial oppression and injustice.
I am in management with a large limousine company. I have probably anywhere from 15-25 people a week applying to be a chauffeur with us. These are people who may fit the classic definition of poor or poverty, or they may not. It is humbling and stunning when I sit across the desk from an applicant who wants a commision-based $5.00-9.00 an hour job when I look at his application and find he or she was in upper management 2 or 3 years ago, making 6 figures for an annual income but they lost their job and now they are looking at the bottom of the barrel for survivial. They were pretty much on top of the world a few years back. Now, they are in their late 40's, early fifties, even 60's and they are just trying to survive on a limousine paycheck.
I know there has to be other stories like mine. So, I keep writing.
One of the reasons why I left the church and was going to start life afresh without institutional Christianity was over money and accountability. We had been a two income family for two years. It was '99. But it seemed like even though Sheila was now bringing in an income, we kept on facing crises. We didn't go out a buy a new tv, new vcr (Sheila's parents gave us a vcr somewhere in the late 90's for Christmas) or any impulsive spending like we had to keep up with the Jones'. I don't remember the first crisis. But I remember the second.
The first crisis happened (dental?) and we asked our church for help because there was just no way even with two incomes we could afford it. Within a couple of months from that, my used car's transmission died. I needed a car to get to work. I had to pay for it. But at that time, we had no credit cards, we stayed away from credit cards. But we could not pay the $1,800.00
This post, or series of posts emanates from the discussions our church has recently had about money and the kingdom of God. David Fitch, my friend and my pastor has been preaching about money for several weeks. I have enjoyed his messages. On top of that, we've had ongoing conversations about the practice and use of money in the kingdom of God as a church prior to worship. It's been a great discussion. But all this talk about practicing the use of money in God's kingdom, touches some past wounds and even current wounds in my story.
I am opening up to some vulnerable and tender issues within my story. I can't wax eloquently like Michael Kruse on this--the Lord has given him a great gift and passion for economic justice. There are others who may have a different opinion other than Michael's, but who are eloquent and gifted as well. I speak out of the context of my personal story. I don't have any simplistic answers or solutions, which, is part of the reason why I am writing this. I know there is a chance that there will be some readers who will think I have been blessed with abundant materialism. I can't deny that. In the context of my journey, I don't believe I have been a materialist in spirit or in practice.
Just for a simple fact sheet for background: I have opened my home to a completely unknown, homeless stranger and let him stay with us for 10 days--when he came to my house to stay the first day, I had known him 75 minutes--with no previous contact or awareness that he existed. I have faithfully sought to tithe every paycheck and give over above that. When I had no money, I gave a missionary who was seeking further theological education, 12 volumes of commentaries (which back in those days cost about $20.00 a volume). I have opened my home to let people stay for various lengths of time. I have been generous with my time, money, and gifts. There is a tier of New Testament texts that speak of giving generously with a cheerful heart, out of worship, with no eye as to what is in your savings (your emergency fund, your college fund for your children, etc.). Those texts and stories (the widow and Jesus, for example) have shaped our giving. We've been married for 26 years and we have never paid more than $100.00 for a television. Our current television--we did pay for $100.00 for--is currently 24 years old. I have never gone into debt for a dining room set, living room furniture, etc.
That gives you a brief picture in small snippets some of my heart and background. Most of the above paragraph, we practiced and did during a stretch when as a family we believed we were following God's call to us--which resulted in earning $12,000 in the suburbs of Chicago from 1984-1995. Even back then, the poverty line for a family of three was just below that figure.