On Saturday I experienced a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. After spending the morning doing various things to serve our downtown community, members of our church went out and invited everyone they met to have lunch with us. Many came.Continue Reading...
Archives For Poverty
The denial and dissimulation of grace, though always a human temptation, became especially pronounced and systemic in the modern world. While it is common to refer to this development as the ‘desanctification’ or ‘disenchantment’ of the world, the key element in this process is the emptying out of the world’s divine referent. What begins to emerge is the idea of pure ‘nature,’ a conception that reduces material reality to a mathematical and mechanical core that operates according to ‘natural laws’ and can be appropriated by us as a resource for our own ends. As natural, the world does not find its origin or end in God. It does not bear witness to a divine intention. If it has any purpose at all, it is of a wholly immanent sort that can be understood–and exploited–through scientific and technological effort.
Norman Wirzba, “Agrarianism after Modernity” in J. K. A. Smith, ed., After Modernity (2008), p. 249.
Harry Brown (2009) is a remarkable film. It powerfully captures the sad conjunction of individual and societal sin that creates the dark reality of life in many urban centers around the globe. What’s missing from the movie are the twin themes central to Christian belief–grace and redemption.Continue Reading...
One of the presuppositions of our culture is that more is, well, more–that with greater material affluence comes greater happiness or fulfillment, a better life. This runs counter to the principle of askesis (Gk, “exercise” or “training”). The word is the root of our word asceticism–the forgoing of material comfort for the purpose of focus or spiritual benefit.
We are familiar with the frequently beneficial consequences of involuntary askesis. How many times have we heard as we have visited a parishioner in the days following a heart attack, ‘It’s the best thing that ever happened to me–I’ll never be the same again. It woke me up to the reality of my life, to God, to what is important.’ Suddenly instead of of mindlessly and compulsively pursuing an abstraction–success, or money, or happiness–the person is reduced to what is actually there, to the immediately personal–family, geography, body–and begins to live freshly in love and appreciation. The change is a direct consequence of a force realization of human limits. Pulled out of the fantasy of a god condition and confined to the reality of the human condition, the person is surprised to be living not a diminished life but a deepened life, not a crippled life but a zestful life. -Eugene Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant
Tom Stork at the Distributist Review outlines the internal contradictions that exist within the two main political groupings in our society: conservatives and liberals.
In short, liberals are aware of the danger of the unrestrained pursuit of wealth and are willing to employ the power of the state to ensure that wealth benefits the common good. However, when it comes to sexual ethics, the left advocates a laissez-faire attitude that totally ignores the harm to the common good that arises from unrestrained sexual appetite.
In similar fashion, the right is very aware of the detrimental effects of unrestrained pursuit of sexual pleasure but almost oblivious to the same danger that arises from the unrestrained pursuit of wealth.
Conservatives quite rightly point to the stabilizing influence of intact families and to the many benefits such families bring to the whole social fabric. They rightly are concerned that the selfish pursuit of individual pleasure harms others, such as children and abandoned spouses, as well as society as a whole. They likewise realize that when society allows free play to the passion for unrestrained sexual pleasure, people in general will begin to look at every relationship and transaction with solely an eye for their own personal pleasure. The desire for erotic satisfaction tends to color the whole of the life of society.
When it comes to the acquisition of wealth, an entirely different view exists:
Individuals want to get rich, only envious liberals and socialists want to prevent this. No matter how much the unrestrained pursuit of wealth may harm the common good, none of this matters. The effects of wage stagnation on marriages and families, the devastation of neighborhoods and cities by companies moving abroad simply in order to get the highest return on their investment with no regard for society—none of this matters. From being zealous for the common good and ready to place all manner of restraints on human conduct in the sexual realm, conservatives run to the other extreme and embrace a policy of laissez-faire when it comes to money. They even invent an ideology that pretends that the pursuit of private wealth somehow redounds to the benefit of all, despite much experience showing the falsity of this. It is hard to understand how conservatives do not see, or profess not to see, that the unrestrained and anti-social pursuit of money can do as much harm to the social fabric as the unrestrained pursuit of sexual pleasure. But conservatives do not see this. A disordered notion of freedom constitutes almost their entire approach to economic morality.
This contradiction is one of the reasons that I find it incredibly difficult to give my vote to either party. In reality, both of these political groupings represent values that I find to be profoundly at odds with both the teachings of Christ, the testimony of Scripture, and the reflections of the Church on ethical matters.
It is possible that, for the first time since I have been eligible to vote, I may this year refrain from doing so as a form of protest. It is difficult to cast a ballot and thereby affirm either the twisted machinations of a party obsessed with the devilish teaching of Ayn Rand or to a party so committed to sexual libertinism that it is willing to harm the very most vulnerable of those among us. What will it be? Will you choose Ayn Rand or Simone de Beauvoir?
What do you think? How do you reconcile the inherent tension in voting?