I was raised by parents who lived through the Great Depression. My father had to hop the rails for 9 years looking for work and food. My mother was part of a divorced family who struggled to make ends meet in the segregated South of the 1930’s after my grandfather left for work one day and never returned. My grandmother ran a boarding house while my mother ran barefoot with black children along the dirt streets of her hometown in Alexandria, Louisiana. Growing up, I never missed a meal or lacked anything. Like many parents who grew up in the poverty of the Depression years they made sure their children would never suffer as they did.
Over the years, I have come to realize that people who live the closest to the edge of anything have formed a theology of life the rest of us miss growing up in a lifestyle where every need has a solution. We fail to accumulate these skills of life-discernment because we live within the cushioned illusion of possessions, a never-ending supply of everything and an over confidence in self. These illusions are created in Western cultures where hunger does not normally visit our home and terror was always considered to be “over there”.
A theology of life crafted in the insulated comfort of a local Starbucks will lack the depth of reality needed to address the real issues of life. Craft your response to the poor by sharing the meal they are forced to eat. Develop your concept of Christian pacifism while imagining that extreme violence is knocking at your door. Draft your theology of God's mercy when you have suffered your greatest failure. These are the places where honest answers are discovered and where the credibility of our faith is established.