I want to pass along a couple episodes from shows that have been rattlin' around in my head.
The first is called, "Island Time," from the show This American LIfe. It's about the current state of Haiti and our (Americans) involvement versus some of the Haitian nationals involvement. The show left me wrestling with the wisdom/folly of supporting agencies and people who are in the business of helping the poor. And it makes me wonder: Does anyone know a sound way to support very poor people (like people groups dealing with AIDS and starvation) without paying for a missionary or aid worker's plane ticket or 401(k)? I guess I want to grow up a bit in my giving. It's clear enough that as Christians we are to sell all we have and give to the poor, but I find it hard to give to organizations or people who are paid well to care for the poor, especially after hearing this show. On top of raising these questions, the show highlights Americans who are there doing some really good work. The good ones are not presented as the rule, but the exception, which lines up with what I saw and heard from all sorts of missionaries when in Latin America in 2000. Hear it by clicking here.
The other show I listened to tonight. It's called, "Land, Life and the Poetry of Creatures," from another NPR show, Speaking of Faith. It features one of my oft-quoteds, Wendell Berry, and Ellen Davis, a biblical scholar whom I knew nothing about until tonight. Davis said that as she began to read the bible with "agrarian eyes," she found "there was a huge gap between the kind of exquisite attention that the biblical writers are giving to the fragile land on which they live and the kind of obliviousness that characterizes our culture...in respect to our use of land."
I've noticed the same thing in reading the Old Testament. The land and its care is all over the place. I noticed it most recently, and for me most powerfully, in reading of the Year of Jubilee in the book of Leviticus. In this passage (chapter 25), God grants the land a Sabbath rest(!), and establishes distributive justice by ensuring that none of his people become too rich/powerful/corrupted by thinking the land they have accrued is truly "theirs." Verse 23: "The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants. Throughout the country that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land."
Which gets me back to the radio show. Davis talks later in the show about the way city dwellers can become more agrarian in our mindsets. She recommends being conscious of the sources of our food. I think, and I'm sure Davis and Berry would agree, that this food-source-consciousness is a crucial step in the redemption of our land here in America. And here's a link for that show.
You can download the podcast from both shows at the iTunes store.
I really am curious how others give to the very poor in the world. Please share.