Ronald Sider had lunch with Robert Putnam, American sociologist, and Putnam asked him an important question:
Is our economic inequality a sin? What do you think and why?
Putnam is appalled at the radical lack of equality of opportunity in the U.S. today, and he wanted to know if evangelical preachers would dare to say what his pastor said when he was a teenager. Putnam told me that back then, in the midst of Martin Luther King’s great campaign against segregation, his devout Methodist pastor dared to preach that “racism is a sin.”
Professor Putnam asked me, as an evangelical, whether evangelical pastors today would be ready to declare today’s great economic inequality of opportunity a sin. That’s a great question…..
So how should we evaluate the extreme inequality in income, wealth and power in the U.S. today?
- American economic inequality today is greater than at any time since 1928 — just before the Great Depression.
- In 2004, the richest .1 percent had more income than the poorest 120 million. If you divided the total U.S. income among 1,000 people, the richest person (one person!) would have as much income as the poorest 387!
- Between 1993 and 2007, more than half of all the increase in income in the U.S. went to the richest 1 percent. Between 2002 and 2007, 66 percent of all increased income went to the richest 1 percent. And in 2009-2010, 93 percent of all the increased income in the U.S. went to the richest 1 percent.
- The richest 1 percent of Americans own more than the bottom 90 percent.
- Over the last three decades, the average annual income of the richest 1 percent has jumped by $700,000 while the average Joe has actually lost ground.
- The poorest 20 percent had less income in 2009 than they did in 1979.
- More than 46 million Americans are in poverty.
Today there is much greater inequality and less equality of opportunity in the U.S. than in “aristocratic” Europe….
It is time for evangelical preachers to label today’s gross inequality what it is: SIN. If we believe what the Bible says about God’s concern for the poor; if we believe what the Bible says about justice; then we must denounce the gross inequality of opportunity and income in our country today as blatantly sinful.