Thursday, August 25, 2011

Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger

Ron Sider's book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, is exactly the kind of book that you read that makes you feel really, really guilty.  So you might not want to read it, just for that very reason.  But (as Doris Janzen Longacre points out in her classic Living More with Less), what if we ARE guilty?

Sider's book is one that I read out loud to my husband.  It begins with the simple statement,
We usually compare our budgets and lifestyles with those of our affluent neighbors.   Part One invites you to compare yourself with the poorest one-half of the world's people.  
From there, Sider gets serious.  The book is deeply committed to an Evangelical world view, so people uncomfortable with Christianity might find a lot of his underlying motivations far from their own.  But the people who ought to feel the most uncomfortable -- and deservedly so -- are the wretches like me who say we believe one thing and then live another thing.

After I read this book to my husband, a completely unexpected thing happened.  My husband took the book to heart in a surprising way.  He knew he was no good with helping widows and orphans in the usual sense, so -- using a logic completely unique to my husband himself -- he decided his best route to service would be to re-enlist in the military.   I'm a peace-nik myself, but I'm the one who read the darned book to him, so I gave him my blessing.  He celebrated his 56th birthday by deploying to Iraq.  (Here's his own blog about the experience).

My guy called up Ron Sider to tell him what his book meant to him.  Sider is a pacifist, so I'm sure he doesn't get many calls of that type.  When my husband got to the part about re-enlisting in the military, Sider's aide asked, "Which part of the book is it that made you do that?  We'll take that part out!"

Here is Sider's advice on living a simpler life, at least one-third of which I admit I don't do (guilt, guilt, guilt . . . )
  1. Question your own lifestyle, not your neighbor's.
  2. Reduce your food budget (he lists several ways).
  3. Lower energy consumption (he lists several ways).
  4. Resist consumerism.
  5. Buy and renovate an old house in the inner city.
  6. Reduce your consumption of nonrenewable natural resources.
  7. Determine how much of what you spend is for status and eliminate such spending.
  8. Refuse to keep up with clothing fashion.
  9. Enjoy what is free.
  10. Live on a welfare budget for one month.
  11. Examine alternatives for celebrating holidays.
  12. Give your children more love and time rather than more things.


  1. Thanks for the recommendation. I'll have to look for this one. Have you read Peter Unger's "Living High and Letting Die"? A philosopher who reaches similar conclusions about what we owe the poor and how we ought to live.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation. I haven't read this book, but I'll put it on my list of future reads! -MM