Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Living Simply

Today's global realities call for comfortable Christians to review their lifestyle. Guidelines for a simpler style of life cannot be laid down in universal rules; they must be developed by individuals and communities according to their own imagination and situation. A simpler lifestyle is not a panacea. It may be embarked upon for the wrong reasons, e.g., out of guilt, as a substitute for political action, or in a quest for moral purity. But it can also be meaningful and significant in some or all of the following ways:

  1. As an act of faith performed for the sake of personal integrity and as an expression of a personal commitment to a more equitable distribution of the world's resources.
  2. As an act of self-defense against the mind-and-body-polluting effects of overconsumption.
  3. As an act of withdrawal from the achievement neurosis of our high-pressure, materialistic societies.
  4. As an act of solidarity with the majority of human kind, which has no choice about lifestyle.
  5. As an act of sharing with others what has been given to us, or of returning what was usurped by us through unjust social and economic structures.
  6. As an act of celebration of the riches found in creativity, spirituality, and community with others, rather than in mindless materialism.
  7. As an act of provocation  (ostentatious  underconsumption) to arouse curiosity leading to dialog with others about affluence, alienation, poverty, and social injustice.
  8. As an act of anticipation of the era when the self-confidence and assertiveness of the underprivileged forces new power relationships and new patterns of resource allocation upon us.
  9. As an act of advocacy of legislated changes in present patterns of production and consumption, in the direction of a new international economic order.
  10. As an exercise of purchasing power to redirect production away from the satisfaction of artificially created wants, toward the supplying of goods and services that meet genuine social needs.

The adoption of a simpler lifestyle is meaningful and justifiable for any or all of the above reasons alone, regardless of whether it benefits the underprivileged. Demands for "proof of effectiveness" in helping the poor simply bear witness to the myth that "they the poor" are the problem, and "we the rich" have a solution. Yet, if adopted on a large scale, a simpler lifestyle will have significant socio-political side effects both in the rich and in the poor parts of the world. The two most important side effects are likely to be economic and structural adjustments and release of new resources and energies for social change.

—From David Crean in Living Simply edited by David Crean and Eric and Helen Ebbeson