Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Hankerin' for an Argument

A friend of mine lent me a book that he really enjoyed. I've been wanting to read it for two reasons: First, I saw the author give a talk at an event and it was mind blowing. It took me weeks of pondering it before I felt normal again. Second, my friend who lent it to me is someone for whom I have a great deal of respect. If he liked it, it's gotta be good.

And it's good.

The book is Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. It's somewhere between a memior and really good explanation of Christianity. I'm half way through and I'm finding it hard to put down.

Of course, I'm a little surprised that I like it as much as I do. Because the author appears to be pretty far on the left side of the political spectrum. In one section he said:
"Satan, who I believe exists as much as I believe Jesus exists, wants us to believe meaninless things for meaningless reasons. Can you imagine if Christians actually believed that God was trying to rescue us from the pit of our own self-addiction? Can you imagine? Can you imagine what Americans would do if they understood over half the world was living in poverty? Do you think they would change the way they live, the products they purchase, and the politicians they elect? If we believed the right things, the true things, there wouldn't be very many problems on earth."

I get his main point. That we believe trivial things for trivial purposes and that leads to weird results. I agree with this. But I'm bothered by the underlying assumptions. The assumption that poverty can be fixed by the actions of the wealthy. That if Americans were more "in tune" with what's really going on we'd behave differently and that would cure the world of it's ills.

I'm guessing, but I think his prescription is this: the wealthy sharing their wealth with the poor solves the poverty problem. I think that usually makes the poverty problem worse.

I don't have any idea what Americans would do if we believed less trivial things. But what I actually think would do a better job of fixing the poverty problem would be exporting the liberties we have here to everywhere and making everywhere less encumbered by stupid human rules. How much poverty exists becuase of liberty crushing government? How much are those governments propped up by the good intentions of wealthy people who send their money to the dictators?

I wish I could have a discussion with Donald Miller. I wish I could convince him that some of us in the non-left camp are very concerned with world poverty. But as for me, I happen to believe that the best way to achieve it lies not with the modern liberal bent, but with the promotion of freedom. I want to convince him that the source of wealth, in this broken world, is something entirely unexpected. I'd like to try and convince him that emergent phenomena are God's pre-programming in us to get something that He wants. And that wealth is created out of an emergent phenomenon.

I'd try to convince him that if you really want to help the poor, it's a good idea to look at what has actually worked and what hasn't. I think God is a bigger believer in the power of freedom than I am. He made us free despite the fact that he knew it'd cause all this pain and suffering. And He's constantly talking about the evils of bondage and the promise of freedom. So I happen to think that when He's in charge, it will look almost exactly like the libertarian utopia... except it'll have God in it reminding us not to impose any other rules than his. It was, after all, the Israelites who demanded a King, despite protestations from God that it wasn't necessary. I think God still thinks that all of our governments are unnecessary. And I agree.

All of this being said, I might be wrong about the assumptions that I'm reading into the author. But I see them all over the place in this book, and it drives me crazy.

And I still can't put it down for how much I'm enjoying it.

1 comment:

John said...

wait until you get to the chapter (i think chptr 13) about the confession booth. It wrecked me for weeks.
Glad you are enjoying the book.

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