Last year the congregation I attend announced that it would be holding a congregation-wide, weekend long retreat to promote fellowship. Good idea.
Well, except that the facility hosting the retreat, it was known at the time, charged around two hundred dollars to feed and house a family for the weekend. This meant, in effect, that the weekend of fellowship was for those in the minority portion of the congregation who could afford it. Bad idea. Really, really, bad idea.
Oh, there was no backlash. Nobody mentioned it in public. I heard no grumbling. But I was terribly bothered by it. It was so simple, so clear, so blatant. Did anybody organizing the event realize what it sounds like, what it means, when you stand in a pulpit and say that the whole congregation is invited, when most of the people know it is impossible for them, and those doing the inviting already know that? What exactly is the congregation implied to be in such circumstances? Those who can afford to be a part of it? And uh, parenthetically, isn’t this the opposite of what Jesus taught?
This a perfect example of how socio-economics works in the real world: money divides people, all of the time in a myriad of ways. But the example is especially disconcerting in an organization where nobody is supposed to be divided in any way. Even more worrisome is that when I mentioned this to a few people who could afford to attend the retreat, as far as I could tell the economics and the consequent divide hadn’t occurred to them at all. None of these people were mean or cruel people, but they were—and this is not an excuse—clueless. Those of us who enjoy power and privilege in a group small or large are likely to never notice the way we flaunt our position and lord it over others, and why should we? When all is well, when we have everything we need and most everything we want, what would cause us to stop and see the other side? What could cause us to question what we’ve always known? What would incite inquiry into that which seems so normal, so natural and so right to us? What, that is, except a heart and mind in a different, which is to say proper, place?
We need to stop and think. We need to think about the things we say and choose to do. There are numerous examples of the above case in point; little situations we probably don’t even notice, that drive a wedge between humans because of economics. We need to think about a Christianity that prides itself on following the Bible and striving to emulate the church of the first century. In that church, everyone had everything in common, and no one was in need. Those who had, sold what they had so that those who had not, could have. We need to think about how we don’t like to think about that little detail. We need to think about getting a clue.
And by “we,” I mean myself most of all.