"Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger" by Ronald Sider is one of those really difficult books to read. Not in the sense that the content matter was too difficult, but in the sense it was too painful and revealing. The book offers Sider's sweeping look at the issue of poverty in our times. The book is absolutely jam packed with disturbing statistics and stories that illuminate the issue of poverty. The lens through which Sider approaches this problem is through the lens of following Jesus. Quite simply, if you follow Jesus, then you must be concerned with the poor. And for us Christians in North America who have more resources than we probably realize, the issue of poverty is our issue.
As I read this book I became easily overwhelmed. After awhile, my mind became numb to statistic after statistic and story after story of devastating poverty for much of the world's population and obese abundance for a small portion of the world's population. It is so hard for me to imagine that so many are suffering. I live in America and every day I see images that communicate to me that so many have even more than I do and that I am insufficient unless I have more. Books like this one help to tell the truth about our world and destroy the American mindset that what we have is insufficient. Sider concludes the book with a call to conversion: both on a individual and corporate level. In regards to the call for corporate conversion, I understand that it is sinful systems and institutions that cause a lot of the problems and that these structures must be changed if true repentance is going to happen. I am just now learning some ways to engage these "powers," but for right now, it seems too big of a task to wrap my mind around.
In regards to individual conversion, Sider basically calls us to a life a simplicity. We need to live more simply so that others can simply live. I understand that changing structures is where the problem will be solved, but I think it is important for everyone who is serious about this to begin to change on an individual level. Sider gives a list of practical suggestions for living more simply that I really liked, so I thought I would share them here:
1. Question your own lifestyle, not your neighbor's
2. Reduce your food budget by gardening, substituting vegetable protein for animal protein, joining a food co-op, fasting regularly, opposing the flagrant use of grain for making beer and other alcoholic beverages, and setting a monthly budget and sticking to it.
3. Lower your energy consumption by keeping your thermostat at 68 degrees or lower during winter months, use public transportation, bicycles, carpools, and feet for transportation, wash your dishes instead of using a dishwasher, use a fan instead of an air conditioner.
4. Resist consumerism by laughing regularly at TV commercials, make a list of dishonest ads and boycott those products, etc.
5. Buy and renovate an old house in the inner city.
6. Reduce your consumption of nonrenewable natural resources by resisting obsolescence (buy quality products when you must buy), sharing tools, appliances, lawnmowers, etc. with others, organizing a "things" closet in your church for items used occasionally.
7. See how much of what you spend is for status and eliminate it.
8. Refuse to keep up with clothing fashions.
9. Enjoy what is free.
10. Live on a welfare budget for a month.
11. Give your children more of your love and time rather than more things.