Inequality

As followers of Jesus we desire shalom for all. Encountering poverty, we feel a call to act. What can be done so that people are not living below the poverty line? That is an important question, but that is not the only line that matters. Just as crucial in shalom seeking is lessening the gap between the haves and the have nots.

The greater the gap of economic inequality the less shalom there will be; the smaller the gap the greater shalom will be.

Conventional wisdom might be that the richer a nation the greater the level of well-being would be, but that is not always the case.

Researchers combined various measures of well-being, such as life expectancy, literacy, infant mortality, incarceration, mental illness, addiction, social mobility, obesity and homicides, and found that, amongst developed nations the ones with the highest level of well-being were those with the lowest levels of economic inequality between the richest 20% and the poorest 20%, and those with the worst levels of well-being were those with the highest levels of economic inequality.

And it is not just the poor that suffer the negative impact of inequality—all across the income spectrum people experience less shalom in societies with high inequality. I explore all of this in more detail in a blog—including how greater experience of status competition and shame are part of the reason for the decreased indices of well-being in high in-equality societies.

This reality calls for response from followers of Jesus—to work to lessen inequality and work to lessen the shaming impact of inequality.

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How Economic Inequality Harms Societies, Richard Wilkinson

A Ted Talk that displays how well-being in a society has more to do with its inequality level than with its overall wealth.

 

The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger By Richard Wilkinson & Kate Pickett

This book demonstrates that amongst developed nations the ones with the highest level of well-being are not the richest ones, but those with the lowest levels of economic inequality between the richest 20% and the poorest 20%. And those with the worst levels of well-being were not the poorest but those with the highest levels of economic inequality. The book, unlike the Ted Talk, also explores why—what it is about inequality that fuels greater suffering by all.

 

 

 

Wealth Inequality in the United States

 

This short video displays graphically how large the inequality gap is in the United States.

 

 

 

Undoing Damage of the Inequality Gap Through Kinship


With as the inequality gap grows, social evaluative anxieties and shame grow with it. Father Boyle talks as powerfully, and engagingly, as anyone I have heard on the power of kinship to dismantle shame and disgrace. Listen to this Ted Talk or this On Being interview and allow him to feed your imagination of how we can undo damage of the inequality gap through kinship.

 
 

“Lessening Inequality Through Business—A Honduran Story” 

by Mark Baker

This short video recounts how Jacobo’s passion to follow God’s call for justice in Isaiah 58 led to surprising changes in his factory—surprising to Jacobo in the way honor and dignity played a key role, and surprising to the skeptical factory owner that profit sharing actually lead to increased profits.

 

Employee Owned Businesses

This website, by an organization that Nathan partners with, gives brief explanations of various features of employee co-ops and employee stock owned businesses, and a wealth of information through the FAQ’s section.
 

 

Community Wealth Building

A rich trove of resources on themes related to

the inequality theme and alternative models of businesses.
 

 

 
Work of Our Hands: Faith Rooted Approaches to Job-Creation, Training, or Placement in a Context of Concentrated Poverty. Randy White, Editor

This book, edited by the director the Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary’s Center for Community Transformation, gives many examples of churches, non-profits and businesses doing what the subtitle of the book states. It includes numerous tips and lessons learned and will introduce you to some business owners who have some of the values described in the above blog.