First world problems

There is a most amusing book available called Middle-class problems. It suggests that if you’re middle-class then the big problems of your life are such things as your local café running out of croissants, which of course ruins your day. Or that your cleaner is ill, so you’ll have to clean your flat yourself. Or that your car needs servicing, so you’ll have to drive your wife’s car over the weekend. The idea is that the middle-class, having enjoyed an easy life, have no sense of perspective: there are far bigger problems in the world, but they seem unaware of them.

     This is to some extent true of the whole ”first world”, or industrialised nations. We live in countries that have solved such terrible problems as grinding poverty, epidemics, a high infant mortality rate, and so on. Even the period of totalitarian dictatorships and world wars, which the industrialised nations inflicted on the world, are but a distant memory. Life has improved in a great many respects.

     So we create new problems where there weren’t any. A good example is Brexit. Britain’s situation as an EU member was OK. Some people managed to turn it into a problem, and the result is Brexit, which has dominated the British media for two years now. in fact, no matter what happens, Britain will manage fairly well, because it is a first world country. Brexit is a molehill, not a mountain, compared with the problems many countries face. The same is true of Trumpism: things were going along quite nicely in the USA, then somebody said things were not all right, and the result was Trump. Still, there is no question of the American standard of life collapsing: it is a rich country whoever is in charge. Back in Europe, only the other day there were major, sometimes violent street demonstrations in France … about the rights of man? No. About racism? No. About global warming? No. About fuel prices. What a thing to die for.  

     Christians, too, need to keep a sense of perspective about problems within the church. The Finnish ”Pastors” group in Facebook was dominated at the weekend by a discussion about the precise timing of the church elections: as they were held from 11 am to 8 pm on Sunday (as prescribed in Church Law) and as mass is always held at 10 am (also according to Church Law), it caused a slight overlap. Many local priests felt quite annoyed that they would have to hurry the mass so that it finished by 11. Others worried that the election officials would not be able to take part in communion. The issue caused much debate anyway. Meanwhile there are churches in the Third world that don’t even have a church building to worship in, there are Christians being persecuted for their faith, and in first world countries there is widespread indifference towards Christianity, not to mention atheism.

     We all need to have a sense of proportion in life, so we can separate major problems from minor ones, and concentrate our efforts accordingly. 

Chris Montgomery

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