Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Corvette in the Church Parking Lot

Let me start this essay with the admission that I love Corvettes and think they are really hot cars, especially red ones and especially those from the '60s.  Buying one when we have excess money (as in too much for our own good) is what my husband and I joke about.  (Although I have to say BMW Z3s are awfully hot, too.)

However, I drive a 2002 Honda Accord, a popular, dependable, stable car.  This morning I parked in the church parking lot and started walking to the sanctuary, when a scarlet beauty caught my eye.  I walked past a stunning, gorgeous, pristine red Corvette. 

Then I went to my class, where we watched the last of the Beth Moore series on the Patriarchs.  I have written about Beth elsewhere; while it's easy for people to take pot shots at her, I like her very much and find her studies (or at least her lectures) amazing.  Beth is probably a size four, and she, darn it, just wears the cutest clothes!  In a moment of inexplicable tackiness, I mused, "I wonder where she gets her clothes?  Nieman Marcus?  Certainly not WalMart."

These two observations at church this morning have me thinking about materialism in general and branding in particular.  Branding is a big deal now; I don't quite get it, but it seems to be about the identity we want to make public.  Does Jesus need our branding?  Does Jesus need brand names? 

It's easy for me to say that Beth Moore should not buy those beautiful clothes.  She'd look just as good and teach the Bible just as well if she bought her clothes at Sears and had her hair done at Great Clips--right? (Would it matter?  Would she have the same audience?  And whose fault would that be?  Hers or the audiences'?)  It is easy for me to say, "That guy who is driving the Corvette probably worships his car and should sell it and give all the money to the poor." (Now, who was it who said that in the Bible?  Jesus said it to the rich young ruler.  Judas said it about the woman penitent before Jesus.  Hummmmmm.)  I don't have a Corvette to sell and give the money to the poor.  I don't play the lottery so I'll never be tempted to waste the millions of dollars on myself.  Only if my novels draw the attention of Hollywood would I ever make much money.  (Unlikely). 

So, I can laugh at myself for my self-righteousness in deciding how other people should use their money.  I am a free market conservative; people are motivated to make money for themselves and that is a good thing.

Yet . . .

I don't think our economic system is dictated by scripture, whether you take a left or right stance.   Either one can cause us to avoid the real question to the individual human heart--who owns you and your resources?  Yourself, or the government (seems like the government more and more).  I can't judge the Corvette owner, and I'm probably more than a little jealous, but does anybody really need a Corvette when there is so much privation in the world?

On the other hand, can we really help people?  A friend and I were discussing that point this morning about mutual acquaintances who have gone through thousands and thousands of dollars and have nothing to show for it.  Now those people are in very severe financial straits.  Would giving them money help?  Only temporarily.  The real question is not whether we should help those who are in real poverty (I don't think very many Americans fit that category, sorry) but how to do so.  

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