Saturday, August 25, 2012

Is this Class Warfare?


You may have heard it said by Jesus that it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God (Matthew 19:23-24).  Would you call that an example of class warfare?  

There is a a lot of political rhetoric going around that raises the specter of class warfare.  People who suggest that the wealthy in America should bear a greater share of the burden, because they have more to spare, are accused of engaging in class warfare and of being envious of the rich.  Well, to be honest, sometimes I am envious of the rich.  I live in the middle class.  I have a good education, but my income doesn't cross the six figure-line, let alone the seven figure line.  But, all in all, I'm pretty content with the life I live.  But it's increasingly clear that those in the top 1% are doing much better than those below that number.  It's not just in the Obama years that the middle class has failed to make strides.  Things have not gotten better for the middle class for the last decade.  Wages are stagnant and the possibilities for moving up the economic ladder have become fewer.  Where public sector jobs once provided a good but not spectacular living, those jobs are disappearing.  The city in which I live has cut back its employees to levels not seen since the 1970s, back when the city was not even half the size it is today.  Companies have figured out how to do more and prosper with fewer employees, so jobs are fewer today than they were years before. 

So, where does this issue of class warfare come in.  Who's actually fighting the war?  Is it the poor?  Is it the middle class?  Or is it the wealthy?  Consider the Super PACS that are funding much of the current political "discourse."  Who is funding them?  The poor?  No.  The Middle Class?  No.  Unions?  Well, in part, but their numbers and their dollars pale in comparison with corporations.

So, what is this Class warfare?

As we seek answers to this question I turn again to Greg Garrett's e-book Faithful Citizenship.  He writes:

But we don’t like to talk about money or class in America. If you point out inequities in the system (as I just have), state the obvious fact that the wealthy control money, power, and politics, or even suggest that we have classes in America, you may be accused of something called “class warfare.” The term itself points out that power and resources are unequally allocated across the classes— that the very poor have little, the very wealthy have a lot, and are getting more. When it is used as a negative description, though, it typically means this: Please don’t point out that the very poor have little, and the very wealthy have a lot. Given that the very wealthy already occupy a position of power and privilege, their fortunes are hardly going to be jeopardized by someone speaking the truth. So why is it that they don’t even wish for the fact of their wealth to be noted?  [Greg Garrett, Faithful Citizenship: Christianity and Politics for the 21st Century, (Patheos Press, Kindle Edition;  Kindle Locations 2178-2179).]
Garrett asks a good question -- why is it that when those who don't live in the elite class ask about wealth their questions are turned aside as class warfare?  And, if you are a follower of Jesus, how should you respond? Or perhaps, I should ask -- as a follower of Jesus, if there a class war is underway, which side should you be on?

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