WACO—The rich need rescue as much as the poor—just a different type, Gerald Britt, vice president of CitySquare, a social service and social justice organization in Dallas, told the No Need Among You conference.
Wealthy people don’t realize they are just as impoverished as the poor, but in different ways, Britt told the conference, sponsored by the Texas Christian Community Development Network and Mission Waco.
Before joining CitySquare in 2004, Britt served as senior pastor of New Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in south Dallas. In his 22 years in church leadership, he interacted frequently with other pastors who preached to wealthy white church members. Some of those pastors suggested to Britt what he should preach to his underprivileged congregation.
After a handful of those conversations, Britt realized the rich needed the gospel just as much as the poor—but it makes a different set of demands on their behavior.
‘Gospel of the projects and the penthouse’
“There is a gospel for the projects, but there is also a gospel for the penthouse,” he said.
So, Britt made a deal with pastors of affluent congregations.
“I preach the gospel to the projects,” he proposed to them. “You preach the gospel to the penthouse. I will talk to them about personal responsibility, education and work. You talk to them about greed and arrogance, and we will see where we get.”
Britt acknowledged problems among the working poor, such as drinking, smoking and gambling. However, he also noted problems like greed, entitlement and a mentality of superiority among the rich.
Preachers and social workers should expose the egregious sins of the rich and call for a change in their relations with the poor, Britt insisted.
“Our work is to turn on the headlights so that men who try to hide in dark places of selfishness, materialism and greed have no place to hide,” he said.
The rich do not adequately care for the poor in part because society largely avoids them, Britt said. Public support and assistance for the poor meet immediate needs, but they are charity—not the best way to alleviate poverty, he asserted.
“If we are going to just serve people in poverty, then philanthropy and charity are OK,” he said. “But if we are going to get people out of poverty, then that means there is going to have to be a dramatic, fundamental, radical reorientation of things in order to really meet that need.”
Society as a whole—and the rich in particular—looks down on the poor and does not want anything to do with them, Britt said.
“We have so stereotyped them that we have now become comfortable saying that we don’t want to see them,” he said. “We seek to make them invisible, as invisible as possible. … We leave them behind every day and don’t want to hear from them.”
Level the playing field
Britt called for a level playing field between the rich and the poor. If the poor don’t have access to healthcare, the rich should start a clinic for them, he suggested. If children from a foster care home need counseling, the wealthy should make sure they provide it. Everyone deserves equal opportunity to succeed, he insisted.
“The only thing we want is for the playing field to be leveled, for the rules to be clear and the same for everybody, and to provide access and opportunity for everybody,” he said. “We will never make it as long as the playing field is not leveled.”