Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Is Entitlement a Bad Word?
Psalm 82 begins:
God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
“How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
I’ve been thinking lately about the attitude of entitlement. Entitlement is a buzzword that raises all kind of red flags whenever it is mentioned. Post Katrina, many people blamed the troubling situation in the Gulf Coast region not on inept responders but on a culture of entitlement. The argument goes: Many in our society have become so dependent upon assistance from other sources that when all that support gets yanked away, they collapse. If they were just more independent and lived more self-sustaining lives, they would not have been in such trouble.
Entitlement is also on the minds of the Missouri Conference of the United Methodist Church, specifically, the Conference Congregational Development Team. One of that team’s stated goals is “reducing the sense of entitlement, which has begun to suppose that if a church is building an addition or adding a new worship service, the funding should in part be from the annual conference in the form of a subsidy.” (That is quoted from a letter from Congregational Development that a colleague shared with me recently.)
Here are some of the questions I have been pondering:
- As Christians, how do we distinguish “entitlement” from “rescuing the weak and the needy”? Why do only the rich and powerful use entitlement as if it is a bad word?
- As United Methodists, how do we distinguish “entitlement” from “connectionalism”? Why is a local church wanting money from the conference “entitlement” but the conference wanting money from the local church “apportionments”?
I welcome any insights you readers of the Rainbow might offer. I’ll write more on this topic in days to come.