While preparing for class recently, I read an article by Walter Brueggemann “The Liturgy of Abundance, the Myth of Scarcity” which takes a Christian theological analysis to the notions of abundance and scarcity. This article roots the historical biblical concept of scarcity in pharaoh’s desperate need to maintain power over resources. This becomes important to consider because over 75% of Americans self-identify themselves as “Christian” according to the CIA with over 2 billion Christians worldwide. It is important to assess the dominant American theological paradigm guiding our collective social interactions around economics and resources.
As I read the Brueggeman article my mind immediately started wandering and making connections with a CNN article I had recently read on the Occupy Wall Street movement and its global shifts to Europe, Asia and Australia with focused protests surrounding corporate power, grinding poverty and government cuts. Brueggeman asserts that money has become a type of narcotic and consumerism specifically has moved beyond being a market strategy to become a kind of “demonic force” in American culture. The mindset of scarcity is a fear based social lens and belief system assuming that there is “not enough” for everyone of which Occupy Wall Street has taken direct issue with.
After watching the documentary “The One Percent” I became more aware that this mindset and social philosophical scarcity lens is deeply held by those holding the most wealth in society and has spread to the masses of people like a plague, including American Christians. At this very moment in history, the top 1% of the American population controls nearly a quarter of all income, which is the highest wealth control since 1928 according to the Stanford Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality (SCSPI).
As of 2007, the top ten percent of the American population held 73.1% of the wealth nationally, while the bottom sixty percent of the population held a mere 4.2% (SCSPI, 2011). The SCSPI also found that in 2000, the average CEO was making one thousand thirty-nine times the average worker pay, thus we can hypothesize this has only gotten worse.
These unsettling figures give credence to the Occupy Wall Street movement. From a global view, Occupy Denmark says they want more money spent on the bottom 99% of the population with a redistribution of wealth and less spent on wars. If we use Christian biblical theology as our historical lens, we know that before any wealth redistribution is considered death, wars, and philosophical warfare will ensue in order to maintain power, legitimacy and control by those holding this scarcity view.
As human beings we inhabit a beautiful planet, full of life and abundance; yet the masses of people, including Christians, have been socialized into a mindset of fear that has developed into a philosophy of scarcity. Many Americans are in a state of constant fear believing that there is not enough for them, let alone everyone. While the top one percent is flourishing economically, we find that 21.9% of American children are living in poverty and in 2007 alone 8,100,000 children under the age of eighteen went without insurance (SCSPI, 2011).
What is more exemplary of this scarcity mindset is that we find a national agenda attempting to deal with the issue of obesity in America, while literally children and adults around the world are starving to death because of lack of food. I believe this has a direct correlation with the scarcity mindset and the need to consume more and more to quench our unrelenting narcotic fix concerning money and resources.
Christians are to be a light to humanity of love, peace and compassion. Yet, as a nation overflowing with Christians, we exemplify limited and minimal national or global compassion with sharing of the rich abundance that we have so freely received by the grace of God, especially the wealthiest. Rather, we maintain this notion of “it’s mine”, “I earned it all by myself”, “if I give I won’t have”radical scarcity individualism that contradictions the very core of our faith tenants. This is a charge not only to Christians but to all faith traditions, as LOVE in action is the core of all of our collective traditions.
There should not be a needy one among us when we have the power to fill that need. If we acknowledge and become liberated in our thoughts, beliefs and philosophies to realize that truly our planet is a place of abundance of which we are responsible for its stewardship and care, we would freely uplift and empower each other out of this abundance. What the global economic crisis and now the Occupy Wall Street movement has most illuminated is that we are not isolated individuals, rather we are inter-dependent persons and what impacts some will eventually impact us all, including the wealthiest top one percent.
Let us overcome the myth of scarcity to which we are now collectively enslaved and instead walk in the knowledge of our collective abundance, not abundance for the top one or ten percent, but abundance for us all. Change is coming by demand in the form of a global unified voice that can not be denied. If we have not money to share; surely we have a piece of bread, a slice of joy, a cup of water or a plate of compassion to offer to our neighbor. Faith is not a title; rather it is a lived abundant reality.