Rebroadcast: Extravagance

Life & Faith tackles a series of moral dilemmas around poverty and luxury, beauty and utility.

How can we act ethically in a world that contains so much suffering? 

One of our Facebook followers articulated the moral dilemma involved in devoting money to “non-essential” things when they commented on a Life & Faith episode about the Museum of the Bible, a $400-million project being built in Washington DC. They posted: 

“Surely it is better to spend the time, money and energy required for this project on putting what Jesus said into practice. What about feeding the homeless on the streets of DC.” 

It’s a fair point – but it’s also a slippery slope. 

If we’re truly paying attention to the poverty in our local communities and around the world, how can we ever spend money on a pair of nice shoes, an expensive holiday, or even our morning coffee?

For that matter, how can we justify art and culture? Is it frivolous to spend money on beautiful things, or to spend time making or enjoying art, rather than on feeding the hungry or curing someone of a preventable disease? 

John Dickson and Simon Smart join Natasha Moore for a discussion about luxury and poverty, beauty and utility, with reference to Peter Singer, effective altruism, the Met Gala, and the woman who poured perfume on Jesus’ feet. 

This episode was first broadcast over two weeks in August 2016.