A few weeks ago, I was visiting the town of Hingham in Massachusetts. There’s a shipyard in Hingham that was one of the centers of World War II ship construction. Now, that shipyard has been turned into a high end retail and commercial outlet. As I was walking along the street with a friend, I noticed large signs that told some of the story of the shipyard and the war, and we stopped to read them.
One of the signs showed a large ship in drydock, with a banner on it that read, “United War Fund”. Below that in giant letters were the words, “Let’s Give.” Another sign described how during wartime, everyone had food coupons for rations. Victory Gardens were grown in almost every house, to lower the price of vegetables. Conservation and recycling efforts were taken up in all type of things, including metals, paper, and rubber. Spare materials like home fences and car parts were donated, and communities united in tons of economizing initiatives. The whole goal was so that the troops would have everything they need. “Do with less so they’ll have enough,” read the sign. Everyone got together and lives austerity and poorer to share with the soldiers.
It was the War Effort.
And the War Effort ended up being the final step – after the Great Depression – of a big evening out of the huge wealth inequality in the US and the world that had peaked in the roaring 20’s.
But maybe we wouldn’t have needed the War Effort.
If we only had had a Love Effort first.
What do I mean by that?
OK, a little Old Testament history.
Back about 1000 years BC, the kingdom of Israel was one strong kingdom. It had become the sole superpower in the ancient Mid-East, as Egypt and Assyria were experiencing their own down times and recessions. After King Solomon, though, there was a family fight (what else?), and the kingdom was divided in two: the North and the South. Israel and Judah.
After some time, the North had become more developed and wealthy than the South. That’s in large part because the North decided to worship Baal, the prosperity god, instead of Yahweh. The king’s in the North didn’t want a religious center in the South, so they decided to go the Baal rout. And that was popular, because it meant that they didn’t have the law and its restrictions, like rest and sharing with one’s neighbor. So, by the time God sends Amos the prophet from the South to the North to warn them to change and turn back to God and their neighbor, and start sharing the wealth, the wealth difference between the two places is at an all-time high.
Amos is a sheep herder who is very familiar with livestock and cattle. So when he gets to the North, he sees just how big and fat the cattle are. He’s amazed at the difference, and it’s clear to him what to say to the North. He uses that as his analogy for the folks he’s warning: You are all fat cows. And when the cattle are fattened, it’s time for the slaughter.
Shortly afterwards, the Assyrians, who by then had recuperated their power, came and attacked the North. There was a massive loss of life, and nothing was left afterwards. No one has ever known what happened to the majority of the people from the North. The leftover rag-tag mix of people ended up becoming the Samaritans that you read about in the Gospels.
What was Amos’ message? If you don’t take up the Love Effort, if you don’t willingly make sacrifices for the poorer, if you don’t see them as your brothers and sisters to share your wealth with, then … you will have the War Effort. And what you have will be taken from you.
All the way back in 1990, Pope John Paul II wrote one of his many works for everyone to check out. He said that there is great wealth inequality between the North and the South in the world, and that it’s time for the wealthy North to make sacrifices, to make rations, to leave all excesses and live austerity – all so that the poor in the South, as brothers and sisters in God’s family, could have what they need. Now you know what he was calling for:
The Love Effort.
I’ll finish with this. When I go to South America, not only do I live with and see some of the poorest people in this hemisphere, but I see also the everyday folks in the cities and whatnot. And every time that I return, the first thing that I can’t help notice – no one in my shoes could help but notice – is how overweight the people in the North are. And standing at the door are the threats of terrorism and angry nations and people with powerful weapons.
Now is not the time to try to hold onto what you have and build defenses. It is not the time to try to preserve and protect the comfortable and prosperous lifestyle that exists in the North but is missing in the South. No, now is the time to change your life. Now is the time to make sacrifices, to make rations, to leave excesses in life and live austerity – to share with the poor in the South, as brothers and sisters in God’s family, so they can have what they need.
Now is the time for the Love Effort.
Let’s Give. Do with less so they’ll have enough. It will reunite Americans and our communities. The greatness of America will shine.
Because if you don’t make the Love Effort?
You will get the War Effort.
“Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are in the mountain of Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to their husbands, ‘Bring, that we may drink!’ The Lord GOD has sworn by his holiness that, behold, the days are coming upon you, when they shall take you away with hooks, even the last of you with fishhooks.” (Amos 4:1-2)