Maybe this is really obvious to other people, but apparently its not really helpful to go to a big stewardship conference when you are about $100,000 in debt. (at least it not if your me….)
There I’ve gone and said it. My family and I are over $100,000 in debt, and the end seems nowhere is sight. We live paycheck to paycheck, my husband works three part time jobs, I work one fulltime job. I try to tutor (although I’ve let that fizzle recently). We rent out our extra car, and we have wonderful people who we pay (not very much) to help us to take care of our 3 boy-boys. We try to stay off the credit cards, but when bills come they come. And maybe we could have put off having children, but every time we’ve had a child someone has been home (first two were during our summers at grad school and the third was when my husband was looking for a job by my new church) so we know we are saving a TON on childcare. We are done with that (we think) and I guess we could have not had kids, but honestly that so does not work for us. So we can’t really see what else to do……
Here is the part that gets me…We’re not alone. Most people my age are struggling with debt. I’m lucky that I have a job with benefits (which frankly is why we have 3 kids) but really, we aren’t really “making it” so to speak.
So when I went to the kaleidoscope stewardship conference, I really wanted to hear about the United States’ problem with debt, in the context that we pray and promise the forgiveness of debt. I wanted intellectual conversation, theological discussion. I probably would have settled for the fact if someone (besides me and my big mouth) had raised the issue…
What the conference was: A great bag of tricks and tools, and a new set of language to think about stewardship–a training for stewardship teams or world-weary pastors, a way to address money in (primarily) big churches or churches with undergivers.
What it discussed: Healthy financial practices–including giving, personal relationships, thankyous, ongoing stewardship (instead of a once a year thing), and some reflection about where people do put their money and why it isn’t church (instead). For thoughts about wealth and how it effects judgement read this fascinating article..
What it didn’t include:
ways to leverage Time and Talent as well as money, (much) theological discuss, what to do if you were in financial distress (or are already in debt), and the fact that we are moving on from institutional religion to something else in Christianity….
The story was pay your debts and then you can get on with your life…..apparently I will never be able to get on in my life.
I guess I pictured the conference to be more about this…
and less about this
If your interested in my theology of debt read my brilliant post about Ruth here!
But here is the long and short of it.
American’s Don’t God to Church (this report notes that “overwhelmingly, they think that religious organizations are too concerned with money and power, too focused on rules and too involved in politics.”)…ok so again an indication our “stewardship” approach should probably be more about sharing what we’ve got rather than raising money for the instituion….
All Americans have to deal with debt (sequester anyone??), ESPECIALLY those Millennial/Nones we (us religious people) are so desperate to connect with….
We pray for, Christ promises and we attest to the forgiveness of debts.
Anyone else notice that Christianity is dropping the ball here?
I vote we find a way to REALLY address debts and the feeling of worthlessness it induces (again read my Ruth post for more on this)
And since I’m one of those in deep debt. I pray we do it soon!
Graph from the fascinating article linked above
Sometimes I feel like we can really relate to Hunger Games. Luckily things aren’t quite as bad as during the depression, but for me student debt is a real and heavy weigh in on my life as I tot up the bills and work towards providing for my family.
My friend Charlie says student debt is palpable (we graduated the same year) you can see it weighing people down when they enter a room.
So, here we are, hunger games–who are we sending out as our sacrifice? Who are we going to watch struggle for entertainment. You know what happens in hunger games, everyone is hungry for something. Even the rich city people are always eating, eating, eating (then they throw up to eat more). Why? Because they feel empty inside.
Jesus addresses emptiness, not by telling people to deal, not by pointing out people’s faults, and certainly not by giving them false platitudes.
Jesus sits with people, Jesus meets people, gets to know them, and (always) calls people by name. Maybe that’s what everyone is hungering for–even those of us who hear their name called out by crowds, those who are followed by the paparazzi and have their lives on public display (Duchess of Cambridge anyone) really just want someone to REALLY know them, to REALLY be present with them and to REALLY call them by name.
If the Hunger Games are about the games we end up playing because we are feeling emotionally, physically and spiritually hungry (um…like we do in politics maybe), then Jesus is not about Games. Jesus is about reality, Jesus is about being the real you, Jesus is about the truth of the world, and the Real-ity of Re(a)l-ationships! And if we are asking who is going to be the sacrifice, the answer was, is and will be Jesus Christ, and we don’t need “God in the white house” to know that (did anyone else see that meme?). Because God is bigger than the white house, God is bigger than America and God is bigger than a world economic downturn. If you think we have control over where God is, frankly that is are humanity showing (oops)
If you don’t believe that, then there is no point in preaching the gospel in third world countries, because they are in no way on equal footing to our problems.
Say it with me, Jesus is about Love and graciousness (not being judgmental, putting our morals on others or creating the world for Christ). God is HERE, love is HERE, let’s act like it. And please let’s think before we say something about how “other people were raised” or what “real morals” are–God loved, talked to and did not make anyone feel bad about their mistakes, he forgave and gave them a chance to change. If Almighty God can do that, then we should at least try to do the same–Remember, no one convinced anyone of anything by yelling insults to them over the internet. People have been changed through true acts of lovingkindness (or hesed as its called in the Old Testament).