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Progressive Revival

A couple of years ago a group of Princeton students went on a Habitat trip to Mexico. They learned about Mexican culture, relished being away from the pressure of the Princeton bubble and, of course, built houses.  One of the most memorable parts of the trip was the fierce debates the students had as to whether Habitat, and groups like Habitat, were band-aids that keep an inherently unjust society able to hobble along without addressing any of the root causes of the extreme poverty experienced by a large percentage of the population.  

The passing of Millard Fuller, the founder of Habitat for Humanity, reminds me of that perennial question and the ongoing debate between those who feel called to do work of “charity” meaning direct service to those in need, and those who feel called to do “justice” work, meaning the structural changing of society.
Both sides can be dismissive of the other. Those involved in justice work can feel that those in charity are only prolonging the problem by offering artificial fixes; while those involved in charity believe that the justice seekers only think in big ideas and do not care about the desperate immediate material needs of those whom they purport to serve.  
I never met Millard Fuller, but he seemed to bypass this polarity by addressing both sides of the issue.  He certainly supported the philanthropic efforts of service and charity as evidenced through the million homes that have been built under Habitat’s direction.  But he also looked at systemic questions of poverty, questioned the charging of interest on the poor, and spoke of the “economics of Jesus. ” 
He added another dimension by introducing the question of how we live our own life, and whether our manner of living reflects our convictions about the transformation of the world we are seeking. Reading David Water’s commentary in the On Faith section of the Washington Post I came across Fuller’s Theology of Enough.  Waters pulls this moving quote: 

“God’s oder of things holds no place for hoarding and greed,” he wrote. “There are sufficient resources in the world for the needs of everybody, but not enough for the greed of even a significant minority.”

It reminds me of that saying – live simply so that others might simply live.   
What Millard Fuller’s life may teach us is that those of us who strive to dwell in God’s kingdom on earth as in heaven can simultaneously serve others, work for justice, and live in a way that reflects our values in the here and now. 
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