During our time here Thomas John Achen will be providing us with a daily bible study. Not your average, run of the mill, read through of a certain verse but a in-depth look at the bible through the eyes of a man who has spent his whole life within the realm of what many of us know as the "Third World". It is easy to read the stories of the Old and New Testaments from the relative comfort and safety of many of our homes or places of worship and not see the application in our daily lives. Here, reading many of the stories found through out both books of the bible can be eerily similar to reading the newspaper.
In the Old Testament book of 1 Kings chapter 21 verses 1-15 the story of Naboth, his vineyard, and King Ahab is told (for those unfamiliar with the story here it is) . In the story Ahab goes to Naboth to try and get his vineyard in order to make a garden for himself. Ahab offers what he believes to be a fair trade. He will give him other lands in exchange for his vineyard. Naboth refuses. Then, in what may be perceived by us to be fair, Ahab offers him the value of the land in money.
In both offers Ahab fails to realize how valuable the land is to Naboth. Ahab sees the land as a commodity something with a price that can be exchanged either for money or for something of equal value. He never once stops to think about how this land may have been in Naboth's family for generations. Or how Naboth's vineyard brings jobs and industry to the area. Or how Naboth may just be attached to this land because it is his own. Ahab sees none of this. In the end Jezebel sets up Naboth to be stoned to death leaving the land free for Ahab's use.
This is a story that has occurred over and over and over again through out history. In the past fifty years this story has become increasingly prevalent with the rise of Globalization and, as Thomas Friedman put it, the flattening of the world. More and more, foreign companies from the developed nations of the world come into developing nations to set up industrial plants, manufacturing centers and huge agricultural mega-farms. They see the land as a commodity and the people as expendable. It is how our nations have increased in power and fortune and how we have increased our comfort levels and material wealth.
Here in India one of the most pertinent examples of this situation comes, sadly, from an Atlanta based company and favorite soft-drink of mine, Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola has several factories throughout India that have been set up to access large amounts of water which are free. They set up huge pumping systems that take in up to 900,000 liters of groundwater per year. The most drastic example of the huge implications this process creates on the surrounding community is in Plachimada, a small town found in Tamil Nadu, the state directly to the east of Kerala. Here, Coca-Cola has used so much of the ground water that the surrounding farms and communities have no water with which to live. While the plant is still able to pump water the wells and systems of the local community are unable to reach the little water that remains. In addition to this, the small amount of water that is recycled from the plant is highly contaminated and unusable for the nearby populations.
It is hard to hear this and to apply it to the story of Naboth and his vineyard. In a land where everything is new to my senses all I want from time to time is something simple and familiar, a bottle of coke. I am not writing this to get on a soap box or to say I am different from anyone in the US or anywhere else. I play just as much a part in this whole situation as anyone else. However, in looking to the bible, the Development Gospel, we must at least take the time to question these practices and see how we can change them.