nickels, dimes, America, & Jesus

Here s something I ve been delinquent with, so it s about time I got to it. Lisa and I had to travel down to Louisiana this spring to close up her granny s home. She had died a few years ago but it had taken things this long to develop to the point where we could finally take care of things. On my way down there I bought the marvelous book, Nickel And Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, written by Barbara Ehrenreich. It is a good book. I swallowed it whole. The best summary can be found on the back cover:

Millions of Americans work full-time, year-round, for poverty-level wages. Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them, inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised that any job equals a better life. But how can anyone survive, let alone prosper, on six to seven dollars an hour? To find out, Ehrenreich moved from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, taking the cheapest lodgings available and accepting work as a waitress, hotel maid, house cleaner, nursing home aide, and Wal-Mart salesperson. She soon discovered that even the lowliest occupations require exhausting mental and physical efforts. And one job is not enough; you need at least two if you intend to live indoors.

My favorite quote of the book comes from a passage where she relates going to a Christian tent revival meeting somewhere in Maine just to escape her cramped apartment on a Saturday night, and to her it sounds like the perfect entertainment for an atheist out on her own. Here s the quote:

The preaching goes on, interrupted with dutiful amens. It would be nice if someone would read this sad-eyed crowd the Sermon on the Mount, accompanied by a rousing commentary on income inequality and the need for a hike in the minimum wage. But Jesus makes his appearance here only as a corpse; the living man, the wine-guzzling vagrant and precocious socialist, is never once mentioned, nor anything he ever had to say. Christ crucified rules, and it may be that the true business of modern Christianity is to crucify him again and again so that he can never get a word out of his mouth. I would like to stay around for the speaking in tongues, should it occur, but the mosquitoes, worked into a frenzy by all this talk of His blood, are launching a full-scale attack. I get up to leave, timing my exit for when the preacher s metronomic head movements have him looking the other way, and walk out to search for my car, half expecting to find Jesus out there in the dark, gagged and tethered to a tent pole (p. 69).

I found it a sometimes sad, sometimes funny, sometimes fascinating but always shocking book. I think we need to hear her scathing critique on popular forms of Christianity that neglect the issues of justice. You ve got to read it.



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