Between the title of Ronald J. Snider’s book; Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, and the subtitle; Moving from Affluence to Generosity, the perceptive reader should be able to grasp the basic thesis of this very influential work.
Sider’s basic thesis is this: Christians with more than enough means – primarily those in Western nations - must be working dilligently to live simply so that they can give liberally to those less fortunate all over the world. These exact words are mine, not the author’s, but I believe they accurately represent his main idea.
Sider employs a variety of means to drive home his point: stats, graphs, charts, more stats, quotes, anecdotes, mini-sermons, theologizing, and then some more stats.
Part One begins and ends with stats upon stats and ends much the same way. Sider’s goal was to compare most of the world, whom he refers to as “a billion hungry neighbors”, with most of the book’s readers, those dubbed as “the affluent minority”. A barrage of really big numbers are unleashed as Sider discusses categories such as illiteracy, health care, starvation, disease and population.
Part Two is more theological than numerical as God’s concern for the poor is drawn out. Biblical concepts such as the Jubilee Year and the Sabbath Day are discussed and viewed in modern economic terms. This leads into a chapter (5) on property and possessions in which Sider also details the dangers of wealth. Lastly, Sider also tackles societal structures that he sees as inherently evil and unjust.
Part Three of the book asks the question “what causes poverty”? Sider admits the answer is complex and that both sides – conservatives and liberals – are both right and wrong on the issue.
In the next chapter (8) Sider covers a great deal of ground – the chapter runs 46 pages – as he delves deeper into unjust structures. The topical range includes: market economies, international trade and debt, the environment, hunger, big business, discrimination and the effects of war on the poor. This is concluded with a call for rich Christians to repent.
Part Four begins to get more practical as Sider advocates less spending and more giving. He suggests several ways to achieve this. One of them has to do with forging more interdependent Christian communities to consolidate resources in order to free up capital. More real life solutions are offered at the end, primarily in the areas of public policy and conservation.
My next post will be some of my agreements with the book and down the road I will lay out some of my disagreements.