I finally saw Slumdog Millionaire today; several critics (like this one and this one) are predicting big wins for the movie at tomorrow’s Academy Awards. From the great “acting” of the little boys (they aren’t actors, just poor Indian kids recruited for the roles) to the triumphant love story, it’s a wonderful movie. One review said, “The prospect of an uneducated orphan from the slums of Mumbai winning a pot of gold on a game show that hinges on worldly knowledge is, of course, the stuff of purest fairy tales.” Yes, it’s almost impossible to believe it could actually happen—then again, Slumdog‘s own cast finds it hard to believe the movie is now a front-runner for major prizes tomorrow night. It just might win Best Picture, and I hope it does.
But what struck me while watching the film was not the acting, the cinematography, or even the irresistible music—it was the poverty. As my dad said on the drive home, the filth and disease of those Indian slums are replicated in every major city throughout the 2/3 world. A billion people around the globe scavenge for food, drink dirty water and wash their clothes in it, and accept lives of crime and prostitution just to get by.
That’s not news—you’ve heard all the statistics. Like me, maybe you even sponsor a child or write a check at the end of the year to help out in a small way and assuage your guilt over everything you can’t or don’t do. And like me, perhaps you watched this movie and wondered why you won the cosmic spin of the wheel and so many others didn’t.
I’m no smarter, more talented, or more worthy than the young women in Mumbai, Uganda, or Lima. I don’t deserve overpriced junk food anymore than they deserve to live off garbage. Why was I placed among riches when so many others beg for pennies? Why do I get an easy life when so many others suffer? Or as Paul Williams wrote (and took a beating for) in one of his Christian Standard columns, “Would someone please help me locate the Scripture that defines such inequity as acceptable?”
The only answer I ever come back to is Luke 12. “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded,” Jesus says, “and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
I can’t fix global poverty by myself anymore than an Indian “slumdog” can win a zillion rupees—both are the illusion of feel-good movies. But my daily life seems like a fairy tale to much of the world, and the marching orders are clear. It’s time to get busy.