Are you in touch with reality? Am I? Here’s one way to test:

Do I live a simple life?

Evidence that most Americans are quite detached from the reality of the world around them: The Barna Group reports that “the vast majority [of Americans] say they ‘live a simple life’ (84%).”[i]

We say this, yet a few statistics tell a different story:

  • “America controls nearly 20 percent of the world’s wealth” (p 122). Yet we’re only 4.5% of the world population.[ii]
  • “One billion people in the world do not have access to clean water, while the average American uses four hundred to six hundred liters of water a day” (p 122).
  • “Every seven seconds, somewhere in the world a child under age five dies of hunger, while Americans throw away 14 percent of the food we purchase” (p 122).
  • “Nearly one billion people in the world live on less than two American dollars a day” (p 122).
  • “Another 2.5 billion people in the world live on less than two American dollars a day” (p 122).
  • “More than half of the world lives on less than two dollars a day, while the average American teenagers spends nearly $150 a week” (p 122).
  • “Americans spend more annually on trash bags than nearly half of the world does on all goods” (p 123). [iii]

But then, if we operationally define “simple” in terms of television watching, maybe 84% of us do live a simple life. “According to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day (or 28 hours/week, or 2 months of nonstop TV-watching per year). In a 65-year life, that person will have spent 9 years glued to the tube.”[iv]

[i] http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/12-faithspirituality/19-american-spirituality-gives-way-to-simplicity-and-the-desire-to-make-a-difference; retrieved on 3/27/09.

[ii] http://www.census.gov/main/www/popclock.html; retrieved on 3/27/09.

[iii] All stats except population are from Rob Bell’s Jesus Wants to Save Christians (2008). References for each statistic are included in JWSC. You can find similar info in The End of Poverty (Sachs), Part 1 of Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger (Sider), Red Letters (Davis), and many other sources.

[iv] http://www.csun.edu/science/health/docs/tv&health.html; retreived on 3/27/09.


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