I have lately been reading “Wealth and Poverty” by George Gilder. He makes a few interesting arguments in his book, but one that I want to focus on specifically. Gilder is an economic and political conservative who helped shaped the Reaganomics of the 1980’s. Specifically what I want to focus on is his view on “fair” housing for the urban poor. Gilder argues that all housing, no matter how fair or equitable the housing, that is for the poor will be ultimately unfair and breed inequality. Why? Because middle-class and upper-class citizens know that the urban poor are often single-mother households will high rates of delinquency. Because of the high rates of crime, the middle-class and upper-class move away from these areas to congregate in economically homogeneous areas in order to create better schools and areas where crime is not rampant. Thus, argues Gilder, there is no way for us to “fix” such a problem. In fact, Gilder does not see this as a problem, but as a type of sociological phenomenon that will happen no matter what the government tries to do.
What then is our job as Christians when we decide where we are going to live in the future? Should we join the status-quo as middle-class Americans and move in to a “safe” neighborhood? I don’t think so. I think our job as Christians is to move into areas where there is a large amount of urban poor and live among them. Learn about their struggles and their heartaches. I’m not sure that Christians understand this, but I am going to be make a bold statement: Our job as Christians is not to get the poor better jobs, better housing, and better lives. The fact is, there is little we can do to change the structure. Just like you can’t force someone to love someone, you can’t force the rich to give up their wealth. Gilder actually argues that such a prospect is futile because the rich have so many tax-shelters that you can never really take their money. In fact, when one tries to redistribute wealth, the richest are usually the least affected. Our job is to suffer with the poor, to learn how they get things done, and give them ways to live a full and contented life within their context. As we do this, perhaps we can help them more and more to be people who follow the way of the cross.