Champagne wishes and caviar dreams...

There are lots of rich people in Northern California.
So many of them that you wouldn't even look twice if a $100,000 car drove up next to you. Every once in a while though, you come across someone who is really rich. The other day I came across one of those guys in traffic. This guy was over the top rich!!! He (and his chauffeur) pulled up behind me in this beautiful automobile.

This is the Mercedes Benz Maybach 57. The height of elegance. Unparalleled luxury. Champagne wishes and caviar dreams. This fine piece of machinery is available only to the elite of the elite. You don't buy this car to drive it. You buy it to be driven. If you can't afford a full time chauffeur, you can't afford this car. Look at the legroom in the backseat! Check out the reclining seats!!! Look at how beautiful the walnut burl is, smell the leather!

As for the price tag, if you need to ask, you can't afford it. For the rest of us curious onlookers who still want to know how much...

The prices start at $300,000.00

Through the rear view mirror I could see that the owner was in the back seat, perched right on the edge, looking about to see who was watching him.

I did what any sensible, God fearing, American man would do.


Luckily, $300,000.00 will buy you a great brake system and a collision was narrowly avoided. Unfortunately, the owner was temporarily knocked off of his perilous perch on the edge of his seat.
Hmmm, too bad. The poor chauffeur's face turned white, and it looked as if he needed to change his shorts. I laughed pretty hard (This is why I don't do "Christian" bumper stickers).

A while later I was thinking about the amount of money you have to make in order to buy that kind of car. Then I started thinking about what else you could do with that kind of money. Do you know how much good you could accomplish in this world with that kind of cash?

What kind of person do you have to be to indulge in that kind of excess?

Check this out...

Snap your fingers... go on, do it. Now, count slowly to three, and then snap again. Keep on going, count to three, snap, count to three, snap. Keep doing that while you read the rest of this:

Every THREE seconds a child dies of poverty somewhere on this planet.

That's every 3 seconds of every minute of every hour DAY and NIGHT. That's about thirty-thousand children each day. These are preventable deaths. These children are dying because of things like dirty water, no food, no shelter, no medication.
Every 3 seconds.
Doesn't that make you sick? Doesn't that turn your stomach? Don't you wish there were something you could do?

TAKE ACTION!!! Make your voice heard. Sign the declaration at http://www.one.org/, and let US lawmakers know that you want your tax dollars to help. Ask them to designate 1% more of the Federal budget to fight against extreme poverty.

Donate. Give generously to organizations like http://www.oxfamamerica.org/, organizations with a proven track record for making a difference in a real and lasting way.

Pray. Pray that America will be shaken from its complacency. Pray that "love thy neighbor" becomes more of a reality and less of a cute churchy slogan.



ben said...

Great post bro.

The Church that I used to work for was in "partnership" (read: leaching off of) with a much larger, longer established, membership owned and much richer Church called Torrey Pines Christian Church.
The area of Torrey Pines is nestled in the hills and dales of La Jolla, California which is home to some of the richest and most exclusive people on the planet...some of them go to Church at Torrey Pines.
I say all that to say this...

Recently Torrey Pines Christian Church decided that it was time to pool the congregations gathered wealth and resources for a worthy cause...a cause that each of the members of this Church could readily identify with and care about...a cause that would take no more but no less than $150,000.00...Mere Chicken Feed to the walking opulents that gathered to gossip around the espresso machine and pastry chef that stands in the quad on Sunday mornings...
What, pray tell, could rally these hermit-loner-eccentric-elitists together for a united cause where only their wealth would be the answer?
Perhaps the overwhelming teenage homeless problem in San Diego?
Perhaps an outreach across the Mexican border into some of the "towns" that have been built in the middle of garbage dumps and landfills?
Maybe even an outreach to the corrupt politicians in San Diego who can't seem to keep their hands in their pockets or their morals intact?

Nope, none of that.
They raised $150k to buy new pipes and keys for the organ that never gets played which sits in the chapel that no services are held in.


Thomas Costello said...

Let me say first, I hate poverty.
Even though Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, and the like all say it is a no brainer, I do not like the ‘One’ Campaign. It vastly oversimplifies the problem of poverty and carries a far greater cost than we realize. Here are some of my reasons for not signing on with all of my Hollywood friends in supporting the ‘One’ campaign:

1. It blames rich nations for poverty. It comes with the assumption that the poorest nations of the world are that way through no fault of their own. The blame lies squarely on the shoulders of the rich nations who made them that way. It is my belief that their poverty stems primarily from poor leadership decisions, corruption, and religio-cultural systems not prone to economic growth. The problem is not that we do not give enough aid. The problem lies squarely on the shoulders of the leadership of these countries. It is our choice to help, and not a cause if we don’t.
2. The cost is much greater than we have been told. The 2 percent total that the United States is being asked give is close to 50 Billion annually. The one campaign would have you believe that this would be a cost we would never feel, but we know it must come from somewhere. When you sign this petition you are encouraging your taxes to be raised in order to compensate for that difference. With our current tax code we could expect 1 percent of our entire income to go toward this problem. I am not saying this is an unreasonable amount, I am just pointing out that the ‘One’ campaign says little about the cost for the average American. The end of a ‘One’ ad I saw recently states “We are not asking for your money, we are asking for your voice.” This is only a partial truth.
3. The governments of these countries are far to corrupt to be entrusted with debt relief and monetary aid. The ‘One’ campaign has provisions to only provide aid to governments deemed not corrupt, but in Sub-Saharan Africa these governments are few and far between. Cracking down on corruption in those nations without military action as the ‘One’ campaign suggests would be next to impossible.
4. The private sector almost always does it better than the government. Why not let private charities of our own choosing tackle this problem rather that the US government?
5. The ‘One’ campaign robs us as Christians of the ability to do what Christ called us to do. By putting this on the shoulders of our government and letting them mandate that we give to the poor, we lose our freedom to give to the poor as we see fit. We lose the joy of giving to a very worthy cause when it is given through our income taxes every two weeks. Where is the personal responsibility in all of this? The Bible calls us to be cheerful givers…are you prepared to look at your taxes and smile. Not likely.
6. The ‘One’ Campaign offers no spiritual hope. As a Christian this is the reason that I care about poverty. I hate poverty but even more than that I hate spiritual poverty. The ‘One’ campaign does nothing for what’s most important to me and to those people.

As a responsible Christian, I encourage you to not sign the ‘One’ petition. I encourage you all to fight poverty individually rather than asking our government to force us to do so. Realize that the ‘One’ campaign is asking for your money, and instead start giving that money now. Give your money to a responsible organization that will not only provide physical aid, but spiritual aid as well. The one campaign talks about making a difference, but we can give now. If you truly care about poverty…Put your money where your mouth is.

jimmy said...

Thomas, the whole of your reply addresses only three sentences about www.one.org in my post. My main point is this: Our society suffers from a serious case of complacency. We've become too comfortable, we're all about "looking out for #1", and screw everyone else.

But, I will reply to your concerns about www.one.org. I don't pretend that the ONE campaign is perfect. But if signing my name to that petition helps (even just a little bit) to bring a little relief to a child in poverty in sub Saharan Africa then I'm signing up! I'd rather sign than do nothing.

To say that "it's not the rich country's fault" seems a little too much like the Levite who crossed the street to avoid the wounded Samaritan to me. I'm not saying that it's the rich nations fault. If children are dying while we're arguing over whose fault it is then shame on us. WHO CARES whose fault it is, let's just focus on fixing the problem.

You said, "The ‘One’ campaign robs us as Christians of the ability to do what Christ called us to do. By putting this on the shoulders of our government and letting them mandate that we give to the poor, we lose our freedom to give to the poor as we see fit." Let's put this in religious terms. If my church spent the money I had tithed on things I didn't agree with I would definitely say something about it. I would tell the leaders where I thought the money should be spent. I would still tithe no matter what. AND I would still be able to give additionally to charities that I wished to support. You are only "robbed" of the opportunity to give IF YOU DO NOTHING.

You said, "Why not let private charities of our own choosing tackle this problem?" You also said, "The ‘One’ Campaign offers no spiritual hope." The following is from the www.one.org website: “ONE percent of the U.S. budget is $25 billion, and redirecting that much money would have to be done over time. Directed to honest governments, PRIVATE CHARITIES and FAITH BASED ORGINIZATIONS, this support would provide the tools and resources they need to really make a difference."

You said, "As a responsible Christian, I encourage you to not sign the ‘One’ petition." This strikes me as extremely arrogant. The inference is that if you DO sign the petition you are NOT A RESPONSIBLE CHRISTIAN. So let me get this right, if I disagree with you on this I'm not a responsible Christian? Is that really how you wanted that to come across?

I like one thing you said:
“If you truly care about poverty…Put your money where your mouth is."
Agreed. My personal favorites are

"Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins." James 4:17

Thomas Costello said...

I am sorry that I took that one part of your post and wrote so much on it. It has just been sticking out to me for a while and I felt like I have been hearing about it from everywhere. Everything from Live 8, to the make poverty history campaign has been barraging us from all sides.

Arrogant or not I stand by my statement that I think the responsible thing to do is not sign that petition. If you have signed it all ready...thats fine. At first glance I thought it sounded great too. But I think if you really look into it there is some stuff we need to be careful of.
Right now we have the freedom to use any amont of our income to support the charities that we chose. I do not think it is the responsible thing to do to ask for a larger collective with completly different values from our own to take more money from the collective and rob us of our voice. If you hate poverty I am with Jimmy...do something, but don't take away my voice but forcing me to give my money to your charities. When that extra one percent is removed we have no say as to what becomes of it. The fact that it is going to faith based organizations scares me even more. A lot of these poorest nations are heavily muslim. Do you think that in our politically correct world we will see these nations filled with Christian aid workers. I would expect them to be muslim...It is the government we are talking about here.
I feel that the one campaign and all those "not asking for my money" are just giving those who sign a false sense of accomplishment. Signing that petition does nothing. It is the money that you will be forced to give a few years from now that will actually make the difference. Instead give now to the places of your own choice. If you do not currently give to this cause you have no place to force those who do to give to a separate cause. If you do I would call that irresponsible.

You have done nothing until you give!

Thomas Costello said...

One more thing.

Jimmy you said:

To say that "it's not the rich country's fault" seems a little too much like the Levite who crossed the street to avoid the wounded Samaritan to me.

I don't see this at all. My point was that it isn't rich nations fault. The levite didn't push the samaratain into the ditch. The robbers did that. I agree wholeheartedly that we as people should help them out of poverty, but to blame us is absurd.

Anonymous said...

Holy freaking cow, Thomas! You sure came back to the blogging world in a big way. Welcome back! Jimmy, since the attention to the ONE campaign and reading the book "Searching for God Knows What" I have become increasingly aware of the selfishness and competition in our society. It's all about getting attention and approval from other humans. It is very sad. I ask myself all the time, "If you didn't buy this, how many lives could you save by giving it away?" I agree with Thomas about the need for people to give willingly instead of the government doing it, but are people really giving? We are so consumed with MY money mentality. I think the best thing that could happen to most of the American population would be to loose all of their material possessions. One of my favorites is the blood:water mission (http://www.bloodwatermission.com). $1 provides 1 year of water for an African.

jimmy said...

He's been in stealth mode Gina. He's been flying under the radar until something pisses him off enough to comment. It is good to have you back Thomas. I miss our figh... I mean, discussions.

Thomas, I know I'm not going to change your mind on anything but I want to respond to the Levite comment. I realize that the Levite didn't push the Samaritan into the ditch but he had the power to help and he did not. Whether his rationale was, "it's not my fault, I didn't hurt him", or, "I'm too busy doing the Lord's work" the fact is the Levite was part of the problem, not the solution.

Since we've started this volley I've been scouring the websites of ONE, Make Poverty History, and others like them to fact check and make sure I've got the story right. I have yet to find where anyone says that Africa is in the position it is in because of something that the richer countries have done to them.
As a wealthy country we are in a position to help, and I believe we should.

Thomas Costello said...

I think we should help too. So lets do it now and not beat around the bush and say with one voice that we intend to help in 2010...(when if ever the united states will reach the 2 percent in african aid.) Give now and stop trying to pass legislation that will force you to give 5 years down the road. Thats a lot of '3 seconds' from now.

Roman said...

Something Thomas said really stirred me. That he didn't want the government to give to Muslim charity organizations to help aid where it is needed, that it is best to make sure it all goes to a Christian sector...that just shows a complete lack of faith. The bible is riddled with God using people of many faiths and cultures for the greater good. He had people from the far east come to see Jesus, giving gifts that probably later helped Joseph afford to escape his family to Egypt ...that is just one example of this. Christ calls us to do the greater good, I don't think he would care which way we do that as long as it is done. And to be honest, can we really trust all of the Christian organizations? Like Ben's post...they had a "cause" to raise $150,000 for an organ...is that what Christ wants in the world? Better organs? If a Muslim group raised $150,000 for an orphanage, or starving children, or any good cause...Christ would bless them--Christian or not.

The only thing I don't like about the Make Poverty History adds is that you see these celebrities say "GIVE GIVE GIVE" (even if they aren't saying it) or that "You can make the difference", but they don't seem to take much action themselves. They do have those Maybachs and probably a few of them. If they took only $250,000/year of their earnings--which to most Americans is still a damn good earning, and donated the rest, that alone could save millions more than what is being given right now. Those comercials just seem like they are trying to get good publicity and nothing more.

Riana said...

Couple of loose points:

Maybe because the US was not part of the "scramble for Africa" it is maybe sometimes forgotten how things were done, resulting in consequences still felt today. The European companies happily mined gold, diamonds, etc., paying pitiful salaries to locals. Yes they also brought education and medicine. I, for one, rejoiced when De Beers had to return diamond rich land back to a very poor group of people, who were the original inhabitants.

I agree, aid to the government of the country hould be given on conditions of e.g human rights and correct spending. Aid we give as Christians: do we make the people suffer because of their goverments' faults?

I once heard (don't know if this is true), that the Western world produces enough to sustain the entire world. The waste of food by many countries are well known.

Oh, and why must my country's currency go to the dogs because Argentinia has a coup? This causes rise in medicine prices, food prices, fuel. For all of my government's faults, they did not cause this, why should we suffer?

What gives one an excellent insight into matters of poverty is to spend a couple of weeks in those circumstances. I spend a holiday in Peru - it has influenced my values forever.

150K U$? In Peru there are women battling to have a decent facility to do their weaving in. The articles sold will help to increase the living standard. This area has been declared as an area of "utmost poverty". There local authorities has indeed done what they could. 150K U$ would have helped to have the building finished before the rainy season, plus a couple of other large projects. (like running water, sanitation and medical care).

Thomas Costello said...

In response to Romans comment:

Maybe. Maybe I don't have the right kind of faith. It just seems to me that our odds are much better when our money from the united states people does not go directly into the hands of muslim charities. I think you could have faith in just about anything. Perhaps we should just have faith that god will multiply the little that we send to feed everybody, because he did that in the Bible. No matter how we tackle this problem we have to have a lot of faith. Our best bet is to do what gives us the best odds at tackling this problem and then have faith in that. We shouldn't be careless and have faith that our carelessness will get the job done.
You said Christ calls us to do the greater good, and I agree with that principle. My belief however is that the greater good here is solving the issue of spiritual hunger and spiritual poverty for millions and millions of people. Remember that Christ is water they will drink and never thirst again. Lets meet their needs and bring whats even more important than that...the gospel. Leaving this task in the hands of muslims would be absurdly foolish.

homebrewer said...

To someone who makes a million dollars a year, that Maybach is less than 3% of annual income. My car cost me over 30% of my annual income and it was used.

I would guess most people with a Maybach make well over 1 million per year. Many of them also give more to charity than I could in a dozen lifetimes.

dad said...

later I've got to go to the service stuff my face afterwards and disscuse the pipe organ.

jimmy said...

Coupla things real quick

FYI: When Riana speaks of "her government", she is writing about her home country of South Africa.

Dad, see you at church. Can't wait to see what you've got to say.

BTW, Thomas said that we should go for the record on the number of comments to a single post. The current record is 36 comments on this post:

Homebrewer: I hear ya. I have no problem with hard working, passionate, industrious people living comfortably. I have an acquaintance that is a very successful businessman. He started his career by buying the gas station that he worked at, as a mechanic, then turned the business around into a profitable venture. He realized that he had the ability to take a business that was losing money and turn it around. Currently he is a consultant doing just that for major corporations. He makes several million a year, and I’ve heard rumors that it’s closer to tens of millions per year. He lives in a very comfortable house, drives a $100,000.00 car, and is an extremely generous man. He gives to his church, he gives to charity, he is a gracious host and opens his home frequently, and he donates his time to help people in need plan towards financial stability. He could afford to pay cash for a fleet of Maybachs but he doesn’t. To me, if you can truly afford a super nice car like that, cool. Go buy yourself a $100,000.00 car and give the rest to charity. $300,000.00 just seems so gaudy and wasteful to me.

Hidden Valley Girl said...

Ben, about the pipe organ story . . . I think I threw up in my mouth a little bit . . . I have no more words to describe the shallowness of the demented "charitable" mentality of these folks . . .

Lorna said...

The original post made me laugh and cry. And I groaned at the first comment about the organ fund.

It's the same elsewhere too. In UMC in Tallinn they are trying to raise funds to buy an organ - that no-one (or hardly anyone) will appreciate.

Meanwhile their seminary library lacks even basic books. The whole of the ex Soviet union is crying out for pastors, and the seminary was originally started as the Berlin wall fell and in the days of Glastnov to meet the need of local people on fire for God, to get educated to spread the gospel and bring hope to the hopeless - and what do they do - raise funds for the organ! Grrrrrrrrrrr

steam let off now. Thanks

chris said...

I always have to wonder...what do you have to do to make that kind of money?

On the imaginary side, perhaps your near rear assailant tithes and gives 50% of his riches to the needy and sat front row in Philly at Live 8.

Oh, and as for the 'One' folks...I say get money from wherever you can. I'll pay more taxes. Heck, I'm having to pay $200 billion to kill people in Iraq, might as well pay $50 billion more to save a few in Africa. I've been to Africa...the US is embarrassingly invisible.