Some thoughts about the “Third World”

After being in Kenya for two weeks it dawned on me what it is like living in a place where there was no effective police force, no running water that was safe to drink, no garbage collection and waste treatment, and you had to be careful not to eat raw vegetables. Everything seems to be “locked down” behind walls topped with barbed wire or broken glass and locked gates. Everywhere there are fires burning trash, much of it plastic that emits an acrid smoke. Kenya is more “advanced” than many of the other African countries, and it is proud of its new highways. This advance, however, is accompanied with vehicles billowing dark clouds of diesel exhaust fumes. It is ironic that the materials of the so-called “first-world,” meant to make life better, collide with the realities of the “third world” poisoning the environment.

But my thoughts are not so much on the environment as it is on arrogance of the so-called “first world.” Before the so-called “enlightenment” out of which modern society with all of its wonders emerged, everywhere was pretty much “third world.” Now I do not want to be hypocritical here; I for one am not a “third world” sort of guy and I do enjoy all the benefits of science, medicine, technology, and municipal structures. What strikes me, however, is that the greatest achievement of the human race, the one great collaboration between the divine and the human, the Word of God, with all of its profound spiritual depth, knowledge of God and the human condition, with all of its literary excellence, towering above anything the “first world” ever made, is a third world document. Think of it, where would the world be without the foundational cosmological pillars of the first 5 books of the Bible, the poetic grandeur Isaiah’s prophecies, or Ezekiel’s strange and wonderful visions? Jesus lived and moved in conditions that we would consider primitive in the extreme! He slept under the stars many times, and when he spent the night inside, it was on a mat lying along side of a dozen snoring men. I wonder if there was even something as convenient for Him as an outhouse our great-grandparents used. St Paul, the cosmopolitan Roman Citizen, probably did not have it much better as he braved travel by land and sea. For a scholar like him, books were precious, libraries scarce, information hard to get. The Bible is a third-world document.

The great arrogance of our time is that human culture is advancing intellectually, spiritually and morally along with all of its scientific and technological advances. Actually, the irony is that the more we advance in science and technology, the more intellectually obtuse we become, the more superficial we are spiritually, and the more morally bankrupt. Nothing the West ever produced or will produce is anywhere near the value of that great product of the third world, the Bible, the Word of God. Spiritually, I would like to consider myself a third world type of guy!

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