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Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: Moving from Affluence to Generosity (1990)

by Ronald J. Sider

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1,6391210,907 (4.02)19
Do you want to make a true difference in the world? Dr. Ron Sider does. He has, since before he first published Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger in 1978. Despite a dramatic reduction in world hunger since then, 34,000 children still die daily of starvation and preventable disease, and 1.3 billion people, worldwide, remain in abject poverty. So, the professor of theology went back to re-examine the issues by twenty-first century standards. Finding that Conservatives blame morally reprehensible individual choices, and Liberals blame constrictive social and economic policy, Dr. Sider finds himself agreeing with both sides. In this new look at an age-old problem, he offers not only a detailed explanation of the causes, but also a comprehensive series of practical solutions, in the hopes that Christians like him will choose to make a difference.… (more)
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Here is an unforgettable discussion of the responsibility of the majority of American Christians in a time of world hunger. This is a thoroughly factual and profoundly biblical book. Few if any readers committed to the authority of the word of God will escape its compelling challenge.
  PendleHillLibrary | Jan 4, 2024 |
A much-needed book for today's Christians, especially those living in the West. Sider invites readers to compare their budgets and lifestyles not to their affluent neighbors, like usual, but to the poorest half of the world's people.

This book makes some very good, important points. The focus is on extreme, global poverty, and the large systems that perpetuate deep poverty; problems and solutions are both very big-picture.

Certainly, systemic issues need to be brought to light and remedied, but I think Sider downplayed how important "small" acts by individuals are, and how influential they can be.

Parts 3 and 4 were a bit difficult to get through - there were so many numbers/statistics that they all seemed to blur together after a bit. (And that's coming from someone who enjoys stats.) They also were somewhat repetitive and could have been combined/condensed.

I do wish the author had offered a few more options for giving more generously other than just his "graduated tithe" system, which seemed cumbersome.

He also is a proponent of "population control" in the form of higher education for women, family planning, etc. While I have nothing against education for women or natural family planning, I disagree that humans "should" limit reproduction as a norm. (And education for women should be happening for reasons other than population control!) I believe that children are always a blessing, no matter what circumstances they're born into. I don't think this means everyone needs to get married and have as many children as possible. But I wish Sider had emphasized that if all Christians were living in ways that honored God, children wouldn't be going hungry and the earth wouldn't be being destroyed at the rate it currently is. The solution is not population control, it's obedience to God.

There are many people in our churches today who have never really considered issues of poverty, and I think this would be an excellent resource for a small group Bible study, since members can encourage and support each other through making lifestyle changes, and perhaps choose one organization to generously support financially - together. ( )
  RachelRachelRachel | Nov 21, 2023 |
Do you want to make a true difference in the world? Dr. Ron Sider does. He has, since before he first published Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger in 1978. Despite a dramatic reduction in world hunger since then, 34,000 children still die daily of starvation and preventable disease, and 1.3 billion people, worldwide, remain in abject poverty. So, the professor of theology went back to re-examine the issues by twenty-first century standards. Finding that Conservatives blame morally reprehensible individual choices, and Liberals blame constrictive social and economic policy, Dr. Sider finds himself agreeing with both sides. In this new look at an age-old problem, he offers not only a detailed explanation of the causes, but also a comprehensive series of practical solutions, in the hopes that Christians like him will choose to make a difference.
  OCMCCP | Jan 10, 2018 |
The first half of the book is very dated as far as to statistics, wealth distribution, death from hunger rates, etc. I'm sure it is even more sobering now. The second half of the book deals with what the Bible says about wealth and possessions. Even though I "knew" this, it is certainly fodder for serious thought and leaves me with the question, "What am I to do now"? 225 pages, 4 stars ( )
  Tess_W | Apr 12, 2017 |

"Can overfed, comfortably clothed, and luxuriously housed persons understand poverty?" is how the book opens. The first chapter closes with this summary of what the book talks about:

"Imagine what one quarter of the world's Christians could do if they became truly generous. A few of us could move...to desperately poor areas. The rest of us could defy surrounding materialism. We could refuse to let our affluent world squeeze us into its consumeristic mold. Instead, we could become generous non-conformists who love Jesus more than wealth. In obedience to our Lord, we could empower the poor through small loans, community development, and better societal systems. And in the process, we would learn again his paradoxical truth that true happiness flows from generosity."


Sider gets much of the economics correct in this book, and I wouldn't skip over any of the more "technical" chapters. He is advocating not just confronting the system with our choices, but fundamentally advocating changing the unjust system itself. This is where he steps on toes, but my only concern was that I think some liberal-leaning Christians use this book to say things that Sider does not say.
For example, Sider understands the incredible potential for free trade to empower poor people in developing countries to move up the economic ladder. However, because the North (wealthy countries) uses its enormous leverage to negotiate trade deals in a manner that benefits the North rather than the South (poor countries) the poor don't get as large a benefit as they should. I know some misguided Christians who take this and begin advocating against free trade deals, not understanding (as Sider does) that some trade is better than no trade.

Sider, like James Halteman, calls for a more Book of Acts style community way of living. To help each other make consumption decisions and to find ways to better invest in our communities. Sider is basically talking about house churches and deep community. Of choosing to live at a lower standard of living so that your income can be given to others.

I struggle with thinking of these aspects as they relate to economic development.

Let's suppose that tomorrow all Christians in the U.S. lived more simply-- buying much less stuff, refusing to buy on credit, growing much of their own food, and sharing their possessions as needed rather than replacing items. This would have an immediate negative impact on U.S. GDP. Prices would fall, output would decline, and unemployment would rise. As much of the stuff we buy comes directly or indirectly from developing countries, the negative impact would be felt there as well. Christians would all be healthier and happier (and the environment would be better off) but what about the rest of the world?

It's plausible that, providing income remains constant, the decrease in consumption would increase private saving and national saving. As that occurs, money would flow abroad to foreign countries, funding investment opportunities there, lowering interest rates for poor people to borrow to start new businesses, etc.

This is a question not fully explored in any text I've read. I think the implicit assumption is that so few Christians would choose to adopt a simpler lifestyle that it's overall effects would be nil. We would essentially still free ride off the consumption habits of everyone else (and hence, still have jobs).

While I agree with 95% of Sider's book, I just struggle with the overall macroeconomic picture. Is it better to send your $10 to sponsor a World Vision child, or spend your money on stuff that the child (or her parents) manufacture in a factory where they live?
My basic answer is that one should be aware of the consequences of your choices. If you're spending $10 on a meal, are you aware that that $10 could go to feed a child somewhere else for a month? Are your repeated purchases of new electronics helping fuel the war and rape in the Congo, where the valuable raw materials are mined? No easy answers.

I give the book 4.5 stars out of 5. It's a book that I think every Christian should read. ( )
  justindtapp | Jun 3, 2015 |
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Do you want to make a true difference in the world? Dr. Ron Sider does. He has, since before he first published Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger in 1978. Despite a dramatic reduction in world hunger since then, 34,000 children still die daily of starvation and preventable disease, and 1.3 billion people, worldwide, remain in abject poverty. So, the professor of theology went back to re-examine the issues by twenty-first century standards. Finding that Conservatives blame morally reprehensible individual choices, and Liberals blame constrictive social and economic policy, Dr. Sider finds himself agreeing with both sides. In this new look at an age-old problem, he offers not only a detailed explanation of the causes, but also a comprehensive series of practical solutions, in the hopes that Christians like him will choose to make a difference.

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