"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, February 04, 2006

The First Followers of Jesus

Jesus is Placed in his Mother's Arms

See the complete set of paintings at Church's "Anti-War" Paintings Draw Fire

"'Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker' (Prov. 14:31). But the hard question is, how are the poor to be helped - by charity or by justice, by voluntary contribution or by legislation? In the book of Acts we read of the first Christian communities: 'There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them...and distribution was made to each as any had need.' Acts 2:44-45...Human nature is sinful, and therefore the virtue of the few will never compensate for the inertia of the many. Rich people and rich nations will not voluntarily open their eyes to see the biblical truth that the poor have ownership rights in their surplus. This they will see only in retrospect, after their surplus is taken away - by legislation, hopefully, not by violence. Given human goodness, voluntary contributions are possible, but given human sinfulness, legislation is indispensable. Charity, yes always; but never as a substitute for justice. What we keep forgetting in this country is that people have rights, basic rights: the right to food, the right to decent housing, the right to medical care, the right to education." - William Sloan Coffin. Since these goods are rights, it is fitting that they should be provided by government, whose job is not merely to execute criminals, but to defend the rights of those who have no other protection. This job cannot be carried out effectively by private individuals, but must be organized and systematic since it is a question of social duty, not individual impulse. To put the matter succinctly, "Charity is a matter of personal attributes; justice a matter of public policy. Charity seeks to alleviate the effects of injustice; justice seeks to eliminate the causes of it." This is what the fundamentalists have lost touch with - justice as a matter of society as a whole as embodied in government. If it's Old Testament dispensations you need, you might want to take a look at the words of Isaiah, whose conscience was stricken far more by social sin than individual sin.

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