Sunday, November 3, 2013

Simple Logic?

Kevin wrote something on money that you should read. In his post he linked to a recent story about pastor Steven Furtive Furtick, who is in the middle of building a not-so-great home worth around $1.7m. He is on the record as saying that "Everything we have comes from God," a statement that sounds theologically correct but which is in fact nonsense.

The following is an investigative video done by NBC:


I want to draw specific attention to the 6 minute mark. Here we see Furtive promoting his book. He very simply explains that if you buy "Greater" then a poor child who doesn't have a backpack will get a backpack. Presumably, if you don't buy the book then the poor child will not get a backpack. Furtive acknowledges that some people see this as a "gimmick," but by his logic it is better for a child to have a backpack than to not have a backpack. Isn't it?

I think this simple logic is representative of popular Christian ethics. It doesn't matter that (or how) you earn $10m a year, as long as you give $1m to the church or charity. After all, isn't giving $1m to charity better than giving $100? Or $10? Or $1? Indeed, isn't the church blessed to have rich people in it so they can pump in loads of money?  Isn't it better that a poor child in Africa gets a pair of shoes every time you buy a pair of shoes, as opposed to the child remaining shoeless? And isn't it better that we give away a backpack every time someone buys our product than not giving away a backpack?

No, it isn't. This is why Zizek says, "Don't act. Think." Far be it from me to equate Furtive with a drug dealer, but this example from The Wire illustrates perfectly what I'm talking about. (It won't contain any spoilers.)

In Baltimore there is a drug dealer by the name of Marlo Stanfield. His crew sells heroin and cocaine on the streets, and he makes a killing out of it. In one episode we see him travelling around in a car, giving away $200 to every local child for some clothes and stuff like that. Most of the children are more than happy to take the money. "I'll take anybody's money if he givin' it away!" - a line said by one of the children and also by a local politician who is funded by drug money. One child, Michael, refuses Marlo's money, however, and walks away. The other children are incredulous, with one offering to take Michael's share on top of his own. This is free money. They don't have to do anything to earn it, and they can even put it to some good use. But Mikey is having none of it. He sees it for what it is - a power play.

But there is more to the story that is left unsaid. The $200 is not "free money." Michael's mother is a drug addict, a regular customer of Marlo's. She has pumped in untold amounts of cash to his business, amounts that have prevented Michael and his brother from having regular supplies of food; more than that, from having a mother. So what may look like "free money" has actually cost Michael far more than what the money signifies. Or rather, this money signifies far more than potentiality. This money has a story, and Michael is not its beneficiary but its victim.

My contention is that we often have the mind of the other children when it comes to this kind of thing. We act without thinking, and don't realise that we're caught up in something far greater and more complex than "innocent" gestures of generosity.

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