"The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Abandonment of the Poor

At the risk of being a bit stark, I would say that if you don't care about the poor, then you might as well stop attempting to call yourself a Christian. Of course, virtually all of our Christian brothers claim that they do care about the poor. But caring about the poor can't be merely theoretical. For many neocon Christians, their faith tells them that the best way to help the poor is not by actually doing anything to lighten the burdens of the poor. That, they fear, would only reinforce their sinful tendencies and further loosen the discipline that has brought them to their plight. No, much as it might wound their delicate consciences, they must increase those burdens so that the poor might build the character which is the true ticket to respect. In other words, we help the poor not by actually helping them, but by making their lives so miserable that they become like us.

Of course, many types of addiction are widespread in this society for rich and poor. Along these lines, I would like to suggest a definition for the poor: first, there are the economic poor, in the Gospels, those who hunger and thirst, the sick, those in prison, and so on. Secondly, there are those despised by the ruling society: sinners, publicans, prostitutes, who are not necessarily economically oppressed, but denied dignity. These two usually converge in our society. The self-righteous Christianity I've been critiquing here says that the poor are in the state they are in because they lack the motivation and self-discipline to raise themselves up. Drug addiction is part of the syndrome that causes their poverty. It results from repeated, morally culpable self-indulgence that leads to enslavement to drugs. Part of the good news that Jesus came to bring might be that the lack of dignity and self-esteem which drive the poor (and rich) to this enslavement is not only the result of personal sin, but also social sin that reinforces negative self-images in order to encourage an economically lucrative indulgence.

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