Affluenza and Injustice
When I saw the term on the TV today, I thought it was some sort of typo. Then, after it was repeated, I thought is was some sort of joke.
According to Wikipedia, affluenza is a term used to describe the feeling of worthlessness that the wealthy feel as they pursue more. Recently, affluenza (not a recognized disorder) was used in the defense of a teenager who stole a couple of cases of beer, drove drunk, and killed four people.
The defense went something like this – because of the sense of entitlement and proneness to irresponsible behavior associated with affluenza, this teen did not have a sense that what he was doing was wrong. Rather than jail, the teen got probation. And a year in a California rehab facility. The response to the ruling has been overwhelming outrage.
Why are we outraged?
God is just. God does not show favoritism.
We were created in the image of God. (see Created in God’s Image)
Even though the image we bear is broken, the injustice of this decision resonates within us. We may express it poorly or violently or angrily (that is our brokenness taking over), but we know that the absence of meaningful consequence is wrong.
The halls of justice are supposed to be blind, aware of the intrinsic worth of all people.
But it seems that in this case, the halls of justice showed favoritism – grace based on the financial status of the accused.
People have worth because they bear the image of their Creator. They are loved by their Creator. Regardless of wealth, status, or power.
Our outrage is caused by the overt declaration that one person be afforded more value based on wealth.
Why are we surprised?
While this example is more in our face because it is so overt, the fact that so many in our culture are surprised by this seems curious.
Ascribing worth based on status, wealth, or what you produce is an ingrained part of our broken culture.
Consider Hollywood. The people who act for us and get paid a lot of money to do it. When ‘stars’ speak, we allow them to shape our political thoughts, spiritual direction, or where we spend our time and money. They have been given this status as influencers because of their wealth.
Consider athletes. We could go through news item after news item of professional athletes that break laws and get leniency because they are ascribes special status due to their wealth and prominence.
Consider churches. Followers of Christ do this with our pastors. We establish kingdoms of personality rather than establish the kingdom of heaven. Think about who you download on iTunes and then think about why.
We are a culture that corresponds the worth of the person to how much they have or produce.
James called showing favoritism in the Church based on wealth evil; allowing ourselves to be exploited by intentionally diminishing our significance because of what another has. James 2:1 – 7…
My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?
The affluenza defense is an example of the standards of the world being unjust.