Ronald J. Sider would rather not be known as a one-book author—over the last two decades he has written over a dozen books (Genuine Christianity being his latest). But he is most remembered for his first book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger. Its haunting title alone transformed the way many North American Christians—mainline, Catholic, and evangelical—viewed their worldly possessions and the plight of the poor.
Over the last two decades, the book has moved through several editions and has been translated into half a dozen languages, and this month it is being reissued in a twentieth-anniversary edition that contains some significant revisions. "The times have changed, and so have I," says Sider. Here the Yale-educated Ph.D., who prefers to describe himself as a simple Mennonite farmer, explains how he has changed and where he still stands firm. Sider is president of Evangelicals for Social Action and professor of theology and culture at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Why did you write Rich Christians?
I wanted to juxtapose the reality of world hunger and the massive amount of biblical material on God's special concern for the poor with what Christians were doing, weren't doing, and could do.
You succeeded in making a lot of us feel guilty! I had no interest in trying to psychologically manipulate people into some kind of false guilt. That's wrong. But sin is a biblical category. Given a careful reading of the world and the Bible and our giving patterns, how can we come to any other conclusion than to say that we are flatly disobeying what the God of the Bible says about the way he wants his people to care for the poor? While 85 percent of Americans claim to be Christians, ...