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New Minimalism and Poverty

Updated: Mar 28, 2023

The term minimalism is quite trendy. Many have heard of books and methods such as Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up or Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. Many of these authors are inspired from experiences. For example, Ryan Nicodemus, co-author of Everything Remains and co-star of Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things, describes his journey to minimalism as an escape from the chaos and lack of control he felt pushed into. The motivation to minimalism as a means of self-reflection and growth addresses and often resolves extreme consumerism, financial struggles, unhealthy attachment to items, environmental impacts and more. Colin Beavan, author of No Impact Man explains, “The same thing that is not making us happy is also causing the degradation of our habitat.”


Although these movements are good, needed, healthy approaches, much of minimalism is superficial and relates to only a small percentage in the world. It dismisses the struggles many go through to provide basic essentials. Much of the working poor are defying helpful financial management or are unable to make rational decisions in order to progress out of poverty. As a result, the poor grab on to what they wish for, what makes them happy and what they feel they need in the present moment. In America, Christians are one of the first to judge those decisions. Rather than explain countries outside of 1st world living, Hans Rosling emphasizes the importance of splitting those "developing" countries into 4 levels, with 1 being most primitive. In level 2 countries, many prioritize flat screen televisions with more cell phones than clean drinking water. Once a year, in east Tennessee at the Bristol Raceway, those without health care seek critical treatments. While waiting in line and camping out for days, they entertain themselves with remote control toys worth enough to cover a medical visit. These choices suggest for many sanity is priority over survival. In an effort to remove attention away from the pretty, “Instagramable,” minimally-designed rooms (often seen in million dollar spaces), focus is needed on the attitude behind the distraction of consumption.


John Wesley preaches using 1 Corinthians 7:35 about the problem of dissipation clogging our hearts. For those distracted like Martha we must continue with a "clean heart, and renew a right spirit within us by the Son of God.” John Wesley Hughes spent his life idolizing the poor viewing them as the most honest people. Abraham Lincoln famously quoted, "God must love the common man - He made so many of them." The works of these three intelligent scholars create an envy for those with less making room for a new difference between the impoverished and the poor.


New minimalism focuses on the spirit behind satisfaction in order to achieve contentment. Kyle Chayka, author of The Longing for Less: Living with Minimalism describes new minimalism as contentedness. “It is not about consuming the right things or throwing out the wrong; it’s about challenging your deepest beliefs in an attempt to engage with things as they are, to not shy away from reality or its lack of answers.”


Christian Americans have transferred the same consumer habits from brick and mortar to the multimedia space. Listening closely to 20th century figures, there are warning signs of destruction related to overconsumption. In an unpopular speech by President Jimmy Carter titled “Crisis of Confidence” Carter attempts to persuade Americans to understand the underlying issues with the economy supporting both Paul and John in the New Testament. He explains, “in a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We’ve learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.” Now in the 21st century, while an effort is made for dwellings to become clearer and cleaner in order to add value, the digital space simultaneously becomes more cluttered with nonsense, crowding the minds of the most vulnerable and creating an economy funded by our attention.


Sources:

D’Avelia, Matt“Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things” https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3810760/


Arthur Jones and Daniel Weinberg, The Changing Shape of the Nations Income Distribution (Washington, DC: United States Census Bureau, Current Population Reports, 2000) http://purl.fdlp.gov/GPO/gpo17815; Will Hutton, “Log Cabin to the White House? Not Anymore,” Guardian, April 28, 2002. Income equality is greater in the US than any other industrialized nation.


Hall Smith, Jyl. In Poverty Blindness: A Case Study of Christians Perceptions of Hunger in Dayton, Ohio, Asbury Seminary graduate, Dr. Jyl Hall Smith conducts a thorough study of the unfortunate perspective of the church both showing and removing compassion for locals in poverty.


Rosling, O., Rosling, H., Rönnlund, A. R. (2018). Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World--and Why Things Are Better Than You Think. United Kingdom: Flatiron Books. Rosling categorizes developing countries into 4 levels. Most of humanity fall into level 2-3.


Remote Area Medical by Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2180503/ A documentary on the annual three-day "pop-up" medical clinic organized by the non-profit Remote Area Medical (RAM) in Bristol, Tennessee's NASCAR speedway. The documentary tells the stories of the individual’s desperation for medical attention as well as the perspective of the doctors and dentists volunteering their expertise for the benefit of those most vulnerable.


Chayka, K. (2020). The Longing for Less: Living with Minimalism. United States: Bloomsbury Publishing.


Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/jimmycartercrisisofconfidence.htm


Corinthians 7:30-31 (MSG), 1 John 2:17 (MSG)




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