Building the Good Life for All:
Transforming Income Inequality in Our Communities
By Shannon Jung
We hear a lot about the gap between the economically secure and those just getting by. What we wonder is “How can we transform the income gap in our communities?” We know that this is the sort of neighborliness Christ commended. How can we build the good life for all? A new book shows how congregations can do that.
Sometimes that neighbor is working hard to get by but seems to be falling behind and going further into debt. Some of these people are members of our congregation or group. Many times a single expense (doctor’s bill, car accident) will shatter a tight budget and force a family to choose between food or medicine or a house payment.
We see the devastation that natural disasters can wreak on vulnerable communities. Yet income inequality can leave communities vulnerable as well – to hunger, poverty, homelessness, and disease. What can we do about this?
Shannon Jung, seminary professor at Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Methodist schools, begins to answer that question. The book entitled Building the Good Life for All: Transforming Income Inequality in Our Communities focuses in on those who are working but find themselves struggling to get by. (This includes those with poverty-level incomes as well.)
Jung contends that our own happiness depends not on the quantity of goods we have stored up, but on our efforts to love our neighbor. Indeed, our own flourishing is tied into the flourishing of our neighbor. Thus alleviating suffering and enabling long term well-being is spiritually uplifting for the receiver but even more so for the giver.
Building the Good Life for All demonstrates that churches are already making a difference by enabling all our neighbors to enjoy a good life; this enriches our spiritual life. We are interdependentSo, what the body of the book contends is that this effort is already underway, and that Christians could enrich themselves by joining them or initiating similar efforts in their communities.
This book is being used by adult Christian education groups in churches. Each chapter has a list of discussion questions and the last chapter encourages churches to develop or extend their own work. There is a video series to accompany the small text (115 pages) that is just out from WestminsterJohnKnox Press. wjkpbooks.com/BuildingTheGoodLifeForAll
Shannon Jung is a Presbyterian pastor and professor who has taught at Concordia College (Moorhead) and Wartburg and Dubuque Seminaries and Saint Paul School of Theology. He has also served smaller churches in three states and is devoted to the mission of the church in alleviating hunger and suffering. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.