Build Bridges Not Silos

A recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal bemoaned the fact that the economic crisis might cause America to lose it position of geostrategic dominance in the world. I wrote a response to the editorial on their blog. I think that the rest of the world may be breathing a sigh of relief as they look forward to emancipation from American domination.
We have lived by Manifest Destiny. Somehow or other we concluded that we, out of all the people on earth, have been singled out by the Creator to dominate the world and its resources. Theologically, I cannot conceive of a Creator who would single out one people, one nation at the expense of all others. Christianity and in fact Judaism have always had an inclusive dimension to them. All too often we characterized Christianity as inclusive and Judaism as exclusive. Not so. The Old Testament has some beautiful images about all peoples coming to the holy mountain, to the heavenly banquet.
As dominators par excellence Americans consume over 25% of the world’s resources. We claim that our wars have been wars to bring democracy and some have; however, most of our military might has been used to garner control of resources in various places around the world. The illegal, immoral preemptive war in Iraq is a prime example. We are not bringing democracy to the Iraqis. We are lusting after their oil and water. We are using Iraq to establish American hegemony in the Middle East. In Guatemala, we toppled the regime in order to protect American interests (United Fruit Company) in bananas after the government had nationalized much of the land.
The current economic crisis should warn us about the dangers of greed. The bible sure does. Jesus issued a stern warning about amassing more and more and building more silos. When we have to ask, “How much is enough?” we already have more than we need.
As Christians, we are called to jubilee. We are called to rest and Sabbath. We are called to sharing so that all might have life and have everything they need (Jn 10:10). Our conspicuous consumption is at the expense of others around the world. Billions live on less than $2 per day while we appropriate their resources to support our bloated lifestyles. US foreign aid is approximately .13% of our GDP—that is less than 1/5 of 1%. The World Bank and other international financial institutions strangle development in poor countries by keeping them in debt. In many underdeveloped countries paying off debt consumes almost the total national budget. The Education for Justice web site contained the following report:
The Jubilee USA Network reports: “After receiving debt relief, the Tanzanian government was able to waive fees for primary school, putting nearly 2 million children back in school overnight. Debt relief has enabled Burundi to build 1100 primary school classrooms and Nicaragua to invest an additional $54 million in health care and $121 million in education in the past year alone.” They go on to report: “The expanded debt cancellation called for in the Jubilee Act would cost just $100 million a year, a tiny fraction (.000001%!) of the $700 billion now approved to be spent bailing out Wall Street.”
As Christians, we are called to forgive debts, not just sin debt but real money debt. We are called to practice jubilee. All that we have comes from the Creator and exists for all to share equitably.
We are called to build bridges, not silos. We are called to make sure that people have what they need in order to live—food, clothing, shelter, education, and medical care. Contrary to some campaign rhetoric, this is not socialism. This is Christianity.
The income gap between the haves and the have nots in America and around the world is increasing. This is the fuel of terrorism. Instead of spending trillions to wage a military war on terror, we need to divert a large portion of our military budget to humanitarian and peaceful pursuits here and abroad. Currently, 52% of our budget goes for defense. By reducing this amount drastically and spending the money to alleviate poverty and human misery here and abroad, we can eliminate one of the root causes of terrorism. (We will eliminate another root cause of terrorism when people realize that we are all from the same stardust, from the same Creator. The Creator is inclusive, not exclusive.)
Let us build bridges over our troubled economic waters. Let us figure out how to apply biblical principles to our personal lives. We also need to apply biblical principles about love for the enemy and care for all (the common good) to our national politics. The greed that is at the root of the current financial crisis must be trumped by the dignity of human persons and the common good.

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