by Tom Rose
There is a growing body of literature that berates Americans for their high standard of living while so much of the world lives in poverty. The thrust of this literature is that it is decidedly immoral for Americans to enjoy expensive automobiles, spacious homes, nice clothes, and good food in the midst of the dire poverty that many people in “Third World” countries (the Less Developed Countries) must endure.
“Is it not immoral,” the authors of this literature ask, “for Americans to enjoy so much when others have so little? Look at all the energy we consume with our air conditioners, big cars, and high style of living! Aren’t we taking an unfair share of the earth’s limited resources?”
Within the last few years a number of Christian writers have also taken up the banner of the LDC’s. One such writer, for instance, charges America and other Western nations with unfair trade practices. Not only does the West supposedly erect trade barriers to keep out manufactured goods from the LDC’s ~ thus keeping them as suppliers of raw materials — but we refuse to pay them “fair prices” for the raw materials we do buy. Finally, it is claimed, we charge “excessively high prices” for the manufactured goods we sell.
The Christian critics, and the secular-oriented activists from whom our Christian brethren get their theme, have suggested various plans of action:
1. Live the simple life, they say. Sell your large home. Move to a smaller one, an old house that you can fix up. Sell your car. Use a bicycle or walk. Live in a Christian commune where costs and appliances can be shared.
2. Take affirmative action: Give political support to increase foreign aid (except military aid) and funds given to world relief organizations like the United Nations. Support private secular and Christian relief groups. Boycott and apply political pressure on large corporations whose policies take “unfair advantage” of the poor in LDC’s. Strive for political and economic reform in countries whose “militaristic regimes”, abuse and grind down the poor. [One Christian writer, for instance, mentioned (on the same page!) the countries of Chile, South Korea, Cambodia, and South Vietnam. Chile and South Korea were charged with having military regimes that torture and grossly maltreat their citizens. But nothing was said about the mass genocide and inhuman subjugation imposed by the bloodthirsty communist regimes in Cambodia and South Vietnam! This discriminatory and shocking obtuseness to blatant moral evil of the grossest sort only serves to make knowledgeable people question the critic’s orientation and motives.]
What is the proper attitude for serious-minded Christians to take concerning poverty and starvation in the LDC’S? And what can Christians constructively do to alleviate and cure the problem?
I think it is necessary to dismiss the guilt feelings conjured up by these critics.
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