I’ve been busy for a couple of weeks writing captions and placing the artwork into the manuscript of my book The View From Down in Poordom: Reflections on Scriptures Addressing Poverty.
As I promised here at the blog in an update a few weeks ago, the book will be on the market sometime this millennium, and in fact some months before summer comes around (Lord willing and if the creeks don’t rise).
My friend the Rev. Keith Head, a retired preacher whose multiple gifts and talents include artistic talent, came to the book project in December, further delaying publication.
But I was perfectly willing to wait for Keith’s artistic contribution, which will dress up the book considerably. Readers do like books that come dressed up with pictures to go with the words.
What follows is an excerpt of a chapter titled “Poverty: A Synonym for Suffering.” The chapter is a reflection on John 5:2-9, in which Jesus healed an invalid who had been suffering from pain and neglect for thirty-eight years beside the healing waters of a pool. (See Chapter 5 from Eugene Peterson’s Message Translation here.)
So with no further ado, here’s a timely Super Bowl-related snippet from The View From Down in Poordom:
Years ago, the makers of a best-selling beer premiered a long-running TV commercial during the Super Bowl. The ad opened with an overweight (wouldn’t you know it) character sitting alone in the bleachers of a football stadium, crying into his large cup of beer. This set the scene for the announcer to explain that the poor football fan was “suffering” because his beer lacked flavor. The ad ended, of course, with the poor “victim” of bland beer relishing the taste of the advertised brand and being relieved—praise God, America!–of his “suffering.”
The list of ways in which the suffering of people in the world is diminished by advertisers and other forces in popular culture would be a long one indeed. When I saw the ad for the first time, I wondered what people suffering from terminal cancer thought about it–or the old folks in nursing homes suffering from neglect and isolation.
Or, for that matter, the poor people in America who buy cans of cheap dog food for themselves every week because they can’t afford cans of corn or beans.
I suppose on one level, the beer ad was as cute and harmless as it was intended to be. Yet on a deeper level, I’m thinking it was so awful and tasteless that it probably managed to desensitize millions of people around the world to the real suffering of hurting people–that is, people whom we’d rather not see or deal with.
As long as we sports fans have our sports, plenty of tasty cold beer, and snacks enough for an army, all is right with the world.
Or so we’ve been programmed to believe. It’s far easier to reduce genuine suffering to a cute joke to sell beer than to care for and comfort someone who is truly in misery.
But somehow I don’t think Jesus would be amused.
Again, that’s only a snippet from the book’s essay about poverty being another word for suffering.
So wait till you’ve read the whole chapter–and the whole book–before you react to this teaser.
And I do hope you’ll be reading the whole book as eagerly as you, like me, may be watching tonight’s Super Bowl with a few beers, chips and dips.
In sweet moderation, of course.