I really struggled with this chapter.  Again, I am not a numbers person, and money stresses me out.  But I just don’t understand what the issue is with tithing.  I get that people use it as an excuse or a cop-out.  That’s valid.  But I don’t think the solution is to withhold your tithe from your church in order to distribute it yourself elsewhere.  Churches depend on giving just like any non-profit, and without tithes, people will lose their jobs.  My family members will lose their jobs.  I don’t think the solution is to quit tithing.

I just do not understand economics.  I’ve never been a numbers person.  Give me words, and I’m there, but numbers!  I don’t know really how to help raise up the poor from their poor-ness or how to help the vulnerable middle keep from going under.  All I know is that God provides.  God wonderfully and magnificently and miraculously provides, and I cling to that promise.  Claiborne talks about coming to Calcutta with no idea where he would sleep or what he would eat.  But he went, expecting God to provide, and God did!  I get that these issues are important, and I get that people can be boosted up and provided for and all this…but it’s just not my heart.  Money is just not my heart.  People are my heart, but money…I’ll leave that to the math guys!

I began to feel physically ill while reading this chapter, absolutely overwhelmed with the amount of excess and waste that comes out of the extraordinary means of some people, mostly in the US and Europe.  Even those who do not have excess are being caught up in the MORE MORE MORE MORE MORE of our society’s cultural messages.  Sine writes that the middle class “increasingly derive our sense of identity, self-esteem and even our life purpose from our success in the marketplace of more” (149).  Remember the Olympic medalist Lauren Williams (who lost her race, by the way)?  Big house, big truck, big dog.  Is that really what life is about?  Is that really what we want to define us?  Is that what people see when they look at us, not our Christian values and God-driven love for people, but our STUFF?  Is that what WE see when we look at others?

I agree with Sine when he writes, “Not only does this imperial global economy claim to define what is ultimate, I believe it is increasingly colonizing the imaginations of peoples all over our planet to buy into its notions of what constitutes the good life and better future” (69). I was watching the Olympics on TV last night, and a commercial came on for Lauren Williams. As she talked about her life after the previous Olympic games where she won a medal, she made this statement: “Big house, big truck, big dog. That’s what makes me, me.” I was floored! She actually defined herself not by her values, her family, or even her accomplishments. She defined herself by her STUFF!

Claiborne writes, “Jesus did not set up a program but modeled a way of living that incarnated the reign of God, a community in which people are reconciled and our debts are forgiven just as we forgive our debtors” (159). We (at least, Presbyterians) are so program-oriented. I’ve been trying for two years to erase more than twenty years of program-mindedness. It’s about living, not structuring a program. Living, and living in community, is what draws people in…but that’s only because we’ve already gone OUT to live and move among the people we want to draw. I constantly wonder how to challenge my home church to reach out to the community in a visible way. We like to write checks, being a rich church, and we like to think we’re open to anyone who comes through the doors (yes, even the homeless!). But we don’t actually go volunteer as members of the church at the Rescue Mission down the street. We write checks to them, but we’ve never been inside. The idea of simplicity is simply outside the realm of experience of the majority of my fellow church members, some of whom actually define themselves by their zip code! What would it look like if we, as a community (albeit a large, rich one) were to attempt the practice of redistribution in our context?

Amusing article. I’m not sure what there is really to comment on. I loved the suggestion at the end about inviting celebrities to phantom charity events and watching them look confused. I was offended by pretty much the whole section on erotic capital. Only a man would write stuff like that and think he’s inside the female mind, even a mind like Paris Hilton’s. I do think it’s interesting the distinction between “young Hollywood in all its narcissistic stupidity [and] regular working people condemned to a life of eternally nonfabulous boredom” (336). We love to hate celebrities like Hilton precisely because we both envy and despise them for being so rich, so nonchalantly wasteful, so…very, very rich. Our lives seem petty in comparison, until the moment of self-pity passes, and we realize that we do not serve Mammon. Suddenly, my heart breaks for Paris Hilton, with her millions, her amassed stuff, her famous for being famous for being famous public image, and her subsequently empty, empty life. Jesus talks about abundant life, not big bank accounts. Let’s not forget the difference.