Can Christians love the Church in an era of deconstruction, politics, COVID, and BLM?
So many Christians are angry at the Church. Not just the Church but their local churches as well. Can Christians love the Church in an era of deconstruction, politics, COVID, and BLM? Producer Chris Staron decided to take a look inside one small congregation to see how Black Lives Matter, COVID, the 2020 Presidential Election, and more have impacted one community. How are people in Jackson, Wyoming responding in a time of dissension and deconstruction in the body of Christ?
Special thanks to Ray McDaniel and Karl Klemmer for talking with Chris for this interview.
What the richest town in the United States can teach us about the rich young ruler and the potential evils of wealth
Jackson, Wyoming is a small tourist town in the middle of nowhere. It is just a few miles south of Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone. Millions of people pass through each year as tourists. It’s a vacation hotspot. But for those who choose to stay in this region, Teton County is anything but a vacation. Rising income inequality and housing costs have created a hostile environment for working people. The median home price in Jackson went up 47% in 2020 alone, rising to $2.2 million while wages remain stagnant.
We’ve been talking for the last few episodes about myths of the American West, how cowboy myths about a lone rugged individual have shaped the US. Now it’s time to understand how cowboy myths have impacted American Christianity.
Our guest today is Justin Farrell. He’s a sociologist and professor at Yale. His book is Billionaire Wilderness. In it, Farrell recounts his studies of the ultra-wealthy. What makes them tick? What are they afraid of? Why do they dress the way they do? And what draws them to the far western border of Wyoming?
Read the story of the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-27). What do you think of Jesus’ warning about wealthy people entering the kingdom of God?
Many of the tax avoidance practices discussed in this series are legal (except pretending to live in one place while living in another). Do you think that legality and morality are tied together?
Are these practices moral?
What types of friction do you experience in your own life?
How would more money change the level of friction you encounter?
How would less money change the level of friction you encounter?
Do you think that friction is a valuable thing to pay attention to in our lives?
What is the role of empathy in a Christian’s life?
How do you use money to benefit yourself as opposed to others?
How the ultra-wealthy use government funds to finance their backyards
Some of the wealthiest people in the world live (or pretend to live) in Jackson, Wyoming. That includes some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Digging into the property tax records, we discovered that one of the most successful actors in film history pays less in property tax than a single mom living on less land. What gives? Why are rich people paying less in property tax than working people?
The answer has to do with a thing called a conservation easement. A conservation easement is essentially an agreement between a landowner and the government that says, “I promise I’ll keep my property from certain kinds of building projects”. In return, the government gives the landowner massive tax benefits on the federal and local levels.
In this episode, Chris digs into the history of these instruments to understand what they are and how they are impacting rural Wyoming and the rest of the country.
UPDATE: The original version of this episode contained an error that has since been corrected. The original version stated that getting an $800,000 tax deduction was essentially the same as getting an $800,000 refund. That is incorrect. My apologies.
John D. Rockefeller was a shrewd businessman. Even to the point of breaking the law to get what he wanted. His Standard Oil company was eventually broken up using the Sherman Antitrust act. But his money kept influencing society. On this episode of the Truce Podcast, we take a field trip to the National Elk Refuge and Grand Teton National Park to see how one wealthy family strong-armed Congress into declaring federal land. And we see how this kind of leverage is used in the modern Christian church.