Hope In An Age Of Hunger
“So what happens now? Another suitcase in another hall…” These are the lyrics from the chorus of the song sung by Eva, in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, “Don’t cry for me Argentina”. These words sprang into my mind, as we came to the end of another attempt at Living Under The Line.
At our first attempt three years ago, my wife and I just about managed to keep to the R60 budget but the second year we failed! This year I’m afraid we modified our target restricting ourselves to a modest breakfast and evening meal only and reflecting on how others cope when they have to manage on this amount daily. But is it really about surviving the three day target? If we are thinking this way we’re missing the point.
Prior to Living Under The Line, I had been helping a local NGO evaluate bursary application forms. One of the requirements was that the applicants must be from a rural area and one of the points to consider was financial need. Many of the applicants stated that they were living with Grandmother, as their parents had died. In addition there were often a couple of aunts and uncles living in the house as well as the additional siblings.
Grandmother was able to get a state pension of R1260 and child support subsidy for two children. That amounts to a total income of R1860. If you do the maths, that works out to R10 per person per day. These stories brought home to me the reality faced daily by so many in our country.
At the same time I had been re-reading the book, “Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger”, written by Ron Sider back in 1978. For me, the challenge of Living Under The Line was more of an opportunity to examine our own lifestyle. I began to recognise that my wife and I have adopted a lifestyle similar to those in our community. We spend our money on: our home, food, clothes, possessions, entertainment, cars and holidays.
We have a greater affinity with the affluent rather than with the downtrodden and the oppressed. We have accepted a middle-class culture and have ignored Jesus’ radical teaching with regards to money and possessions. We have not even chosen to live simply, so that others may simply live.
People with money can always buy food. Hunger affects only the poor and as they usually live a long way from where we live, we are not always aware of their need. What a tragic picture! Affluent Christian communities amassing wealth while millions of people hover on the edge of starvation.
Ron Sider sums up the first chapter of his book with these words:
“But if the Christ of the Scripture is our Lord, then we will refuse to be squeezed into the mould of our affluent, sinful culture. In an Age of Hunger, Christians of necessity must be radical nonconformists. But nonconformity is painful. Only if we are thoroughly grounded in the scriptural view of possessions, wealth and poverty will we be capable of living an obedient lifestyle.”
What do you think?
-Roger Wood is a retired educator presently working as a volunteer with Common Good. He and his wife, Jane, are members of the Common Ground Constantiaberg AM congregation.