Three months ago, in September 2011, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) released a new study on income disparity and economic stability. While this may not seem like the kind of thing that I might be prone to discuss on a site that deals with Christian theology and culture, I would argue that the findings of this report are extremely significant for a Church that is seeking to bear witness to the realities and the justice of the Kingdom of God.
So let’s start by taking a look at the report. According to the study, countries whose wealth was distributed more equitably between the poles of wealth and poverty tended to experience stronger and more consistent economic growth over a sustained period of time. In other words, countries with a sizable and strong middle class tended to experience consistent economic growth that was accessible to broader portions of the population.
By contrast, in countries where there was a greater economic disparity between the wealthy citizens and the impoverished citizens, economies tended to experience more frequent recessions that lasted longer and plunged deeper. So, in other words, countries with weak middle classes tended to experience greater economic instability, which in turn produced hardships for all levels of society.
So why should this concern us? Because over the past 30 years, the income gap in the United States is growing at an alarming rate. Thirty years ago, the wealthiest 1% of all Americans controlled just over 30% of the national wealth. But today, that same group of people now controls 40% of the nation’s wealth. So as the United States enters a period of time where its income gap is growing and its middle class is weakening, we, as Christians, need to ask some very serious questions regarding justice. For in times of deep recession and economic hardship, it is not the wealthy that bear the weight of the burden. The wealthy, by virtue of their economic power, tend to have the resources in reserve to sustain themselves in periods of hardship. But the poorest of the poor, a group that we are called to defend as Christians, do not have the economic reserves to sustain themselves in these periods of instability.
So the question is: how do we as American Christians defend the poor among us when the system that we live and breath within is currently being managed in such a way as to concentrate wealth within a miniscule segment of society?
 Interestingly enough, this same phenomenon appears to occur even within the United States itself. According to the most recent 2010 census data, the 10 states with smallest average income gap had an average unemployment rate of 6%. By comparison, the states with the highest average income gap experienced an unemployment rate of 8.9%, which is almost 50% higher than the states with lesser income gaps.