My husband and I are both migrants to Minnesota, so we've had some assimilating to do in this place. When Will was part of a church choir during his first few years here, he was puzzled one Sunday when suddenly many of members were missing. When he questioned where his fellow tenors were, others murmured "It's MEA." He thought it was a virus of some sort, perhaps an intestinal thing you don't want to ask too much about.
MEA in fact is short for Minnesota Educators Association (I think), but the acronym is assigned to the weekend in October when their annual conference is held. Although I have yet to meet a teacher who actually goes to the conference, all schools in Minnesota get a four-day weekend out of it. Churches and Sunday Schools know to plan on a large-portion of their congregations being gone.
While I have no objection to a fall break -- it's a lovely time of year, why not enjoy it? -- it does make me consider another exotic disease to which my congregation is quite prone, and which plays some part in this weekend as well, namely, affluenza. The travel plans that go with this simple 4 day weekend are often quite elaborate. And those who do not go anywhere often simply assume that Sunday school is just "off" for the weekend.
While there is no doubt that some portion of my congregation is very well off (and some are decidedly not so comfortable financially), I don't think we're all that unusual in American Christianity. Because we're surrounded mostly by people of similar means, we don't think of our privileges as being extraordinary. And because we're barraged with images of very comfortable, even luxurious, lives on TV, we think there's always room to move up. I'm not sure we really hear ourselves addressed when Jesus talks about the poor, even though we know that, on a global scale, we are.
But unless we admit that we are rich, we never get to asking why we make some of the choices we do. Why, for example, do we assume that our children need the best? It's taken as a fact of life that you should get the best schooling for your child, the best you can afford. But is that necessary? And is it Christian? What could be done with the money spent on tuition (or on the mortgages of houses in the 'best" school districts) to assist those for whom "adequate" is unattainable? We value education, we say. But mostly for ourselves. And the kinds of education that our culture doesn't reward with better pay (like, for example, knowledge of our faith, or peacemaking skills) are at the bottom of the list, the "extra" to be added on after all the other necessaries of the good life are taken care of.
I say this with a great deal of trepidation -- my children have yet to enter school, and I myself benefited mostly from parochial and private schools (and a lot of scholarships) over the years. But if anything, my adult life has taught me that there are lots of things that money can't buy, and some wonderful things -- like community -- that can be greatly degraded by the presence of too much wealth.