Victims of the Nepal earthquake clear rubble in Kathmandu. (The Guardian UK)
I’d like to present to you a tale of two worlds. The first is pictured above. You’ve probably seen pictures of this world before. On April 25 a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the small Asian country of Nepal. As I write this on May 4, the government is listing more than 7,360 people killed. This is likely to rise.
Nepal is a small, poor country. The government does collect a lot of money from folks applying for expensive permits to climb Mount Everest and other peaks in the region, but for most of the everyday people, life is a bit of a struggle. Also, the infrastructure there isn’t great, and that’s resulted in a bit of a delay in getting much needed relief supplies and personnel into the mountainous country.
But I’m wondering, what have you really seen on the news about it here in the United States? For the most part of I’ve seen a few little blurbs here and there, most of them about rich Americans who were in country on Mount Everest at the time. Maybe once per day you see a 30 second bit updating the death count. We look at that, shake our heads, and move on.
Next I would like to present a world represented by this image:
This is a picture from the airport in Las Vegas, Nevada, over the weekend. So many people with private airplanes arrived to watch the big boxing match Saturday night that they had to shut down the airport terminal for a time. They ran out of places to park them. According to the International Business Times, sports books in Las Vegas were estimating a revenue of 400 Million dollars from the fight.
Think on that for a minute. One of the boxers bet 750,000 dollars on himself. Luckily for him, he won.
Is there something wrong with living in a world where a few people have that much obscene wealth to throw around and risk on a boxing match, of all things, while the horrors of people suffering in Nepal and elsewhere are turned aside with a shrug? For me it conjures pictures of ancient Rome, with the rich and privileged gathering to watch blood sport in the arena, no doubt tossing around obscene amounts of wealth in wagers, while everyone else living in the “Pax Romana”struggled to get by.
The more things change, the more things stay the same, eh?
For Americans, we live in one of the most, if not THE most, richest countries ever to exist on the planet. Our system of prosperity has done an amazing job of of adding wealth to us and our allies, maybe about 1/3 of the world’s people. Meanwhile, the gap between us and the other 2/3 of the population has grown at an astronomical rate.
Meanwhile we continue to produce large amounts of weapons to protect our system of prosperity. We then try to make money off of that, selling these weapons to other countries. Then we have to make more weapons to protect ourselves and our prosperity from the people we sold the weapons to. Yeah, that makes sense. And now, some of the less well off 2/3 are starting to get their hands on some of these weapons and feel like they need to defend themselves from us.
And we spiral down further. Money, wealth, greed, hate, resentment, occupation, weapons, violence, war….sometimes it seems we dig ourselves deeper everyday.
Take that 400 million dollar figure. How much would it help if just a percentage of that money were to head to Nepal, or other places where it’s so desperately needed. And don’t say it wouldn’t matter because of corrupt governments that sop up the money. While that does happen, there are plenty of organizations, religious and secular, who could make miracles happen with that money. In fact, they’re making miracles happen already, how much more could they do?
I guess my point is, how much more could WE do if we spent HALF as much money and effort on world issues like hunger, poverty, and inequality as we do on sports betting, electronic gadgets, and the horrible beasts that are our political campaigns for office?
Perhaps Gandhi said it best:
The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.
For me, it is why I decided to toss my lot in with the itinerant, weaponless preacher from Nazareth. A man that declared that there was a different way, a better way to live. A man that said that it was possible to defect from the imperial narrative of wealth, violence, and power and enter a world where all people, regardless of race, gender, age, creed, wealth, social status, disability, or sexual orientation were all children of the creator and deserved treatment as such.
That message, that world, that Kingdom of Jesus that presents such a sharp contrast and hope for all is here right now, not waiting in mansions and streets of gold after we die. We just have to reach out and grab on.
People often ask me why I went back to church. People ask me why after years of doubting wrapped in a blanket of pain and confusion, I went back and embraced The Way. This is why I did it. I wanted to be part of a better story, a better narrative. A story that rejects violence, obscene wealth, greed, hate, and inequality.
I have found that story. I heard the voice of the Nazarene say “Follow me. Leave the rest of this behind and follow ME. Follow me on the path of grace.”
I’ve come to find out that I’m not really very good at it yet, following him, but I think I’m getting better. I feel better, I feel changed, I feel transformed.
And now, I ask all of you as you trod this path with me, can we help these people, these folks in Nepal, in Africa, in Baltimore, in Ferguson? Can we make our message more than just about sin, death, and heaven and more about Good News for people today on earth?
What if we just tried, just to see how it goes?
Miracles just might happen.