Homelessness, poverty, inadequate health care, rising health problems, debt, racism, worsening class/cultural divisions, insufficient personal savings, over-crowded penal systems, lack of mental health care, deteriorating public infrastructure, under-funded and failing public education. This is a long, although not exhaustive, list of the problems we all face in our lives, either directly or indirectly. If not the only source, wealth inequity is a major root cause of them all. Every one of them is correctable by a more equitable distribution of the nation’s, and in the global economy, the world’s wealth.
Consider the following facts, based on most currently available information (mostly from 2018):
• Over the past three decades, the most affluent families have added to their net worth, while those on the bottom have dipped into negative wealth. Their debts exceed their assets.
• The top 1% of America’s richest people own more than half the national wealth held in investments. This is why a booming stock market doesn’t necessarily translate into prosperity for everyone.
• Most of the wealth of Americans in the bottom 90%, comes from their homes, the asset category that took the biggest hit during the Great Recession. This same 90% holds more than 75% of the nation’s debt. The poorest people are the deepest in debt.
More net worth in the hands of every family allows them to address their needs, prepare for the unexpected, and afford to do the things that give their lives meaning and stability. The lack of financial flexibility and resilience has been amplified by the on-going pandemic crisis. Correspondingly, less wealth in the hands of the few super-rich individuals allows our communities to more adequately address public responsibilities.
The section on Poverty and Income Inequality in the United Methodist Revised Social Principles 2020 states: As United Methodists, we follow in the footsteps of our founder, John Wesley, who sought to improve the lives of those who suffered from debilitating conditions such as poverty, starvation, illiteracy, imprisonment, slavery, addictions and disease. We decry the widening gap between the rich and the poor and the concentration of wealth in the hands of ever smaller percentages of the global population.
We reject religious teachings that view the accumulation of wealth as a sign of God’s favor and poverty as a sign of God’s disfavor. We confess that we have not always heeded the words of Jesus, who preached good news to people living in poverty, taught that they were not far from God’s coming reign, and challenged the rich young man to give up all that he had to follow him (Luke 6:20; Matt. 19:23–25).
One of the most direct impacts of wealth inequity is lack of affordable housing. FUMC is a founding member in the Justice Matter organization, which has as one of its initial and continuing priorities, the increased availability of affordable housing. Your participation in this part of congregational life is one way to be personally involved in addressing wealth inequity. We will be sharing more on this topic in posts yet to come.
Believing that all people are unique and beloved children of God, Lawrence First United Methodist Church affirms that all persons, without exception, are welcome to participate fully in the life of our congregation.