Trickle-down theology

Some of you are well acquainted with the language of “trickle-down” when used in the context of money and economics. Simply stated, trickle-down economics involves the idea that money in the hands of wealthy individuals is spent in ways that provide jobs to those below as if in a virtual waterfall, where the bigger a river is above the bigger a lake is below. In theory, say, tax cuts and increased profits for the wealthy in any economy will mean more jobs flowing down and growing more wealth for everyone else.

Count me as a skeptic where such a theory is concerned. I’m one of those folks who doubt the rich spend their money when, by nature of their acquired wealth in the first place, they more likely save it to invest in greater profits to come. I’ve seen plenty of wealthy spendthrifts in my day. They know how to save and invest far better than how to spend and consume. The river on top gets dammed up and one ends up with a bigger river on top and what waterfall remains trickles slowly into an evaporating lake beneath.

That’s my view.

I’m equally skeptical when it comes to what may be called “trickle-down politics.” That’s where the centralized powers share authority with those below in efforts to expand the local governance.  I just don’t see that ever happening. In fact, I see that as having cost the Democratic party this past election and a few ones prior.

One of the great ironies of American politics is that the Republican Party espouses trickle-down economics, which does not work, and trickle-up politics, which does. The Democrats work in reverse, and now are victims of their own failed trickle-down politics. The Republicans have built a successful party from the ground up, not from the heavens down.

Okay, and here’s where I’m another skeptic. I doubt that trickle-down theology works either.

Bigger river on top, perhaps, but beneath the dammed up waterfall lies a smaller lake below.

Waiting for God’s Kingdom of Heaven to trickle down to earth may take forever, or so it would seem. The high-powered churches are like institutional dams up top, and they work to enlarge the river above to supply their own energy needs and investment income.  They see the dwindling waterfall beyond, yet they loathe removing the dam for fear they’d run out of their own bigger river on top.

These churches simply don’t get it. Trickle-down theology doesn’t get it. So I’m a skeptic.

God gets it.

God gives us Jesus as an infant born into an impoverished family living in an oppressed region of a foreign occupied land inside an ancient and primitive period of human history. Why?

I believe it is because God understands that trickle-down doesn’t work. Trickle-up does.

Just as God’s mighty oceans form the basis for our weather patterns, causing our clouds to gather and our rains to fall and, yes, our inland rivers to then form and beautiful waterfalls to refill our oceans, so God came to us in the form of Jesus. Out of the ocean of God’s love we find ourselves nurtured not from the kings of this world but from the children of this world who represent God’s Kingdom trickling up. The last shall be first. The least of these represent the Christ who represents God’s oceanic wisdom and love. And the bigger the ocean below, the more rain falls to supply the rivers above and the waterfalls expand in circular success.

Works that way in economics.

Works that way in politics.

And, God knows, it works that way in theology as well. That is where I place my faith. That is the one place where my lengthy skepticism finally goes to die.


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