He who learns must suffer, and, even in our sleep, pain that we cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God. - Aeschylus

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Christianity Against Inequity

There are a lot of things that folks who are part of the Progressive political movement get wrong about Christianity.  But there's one very important area where they often understand Christianity better than their political opponents: how powerful its theology is for motivating social change.

That's why the Progressive movement has been so long engaged in an attempt to colonize Christianity, seeking to conquer it and use its theological resources for their political project of expanding and rendering more just the Imperium of Western Liberalism (called Conservatism in some places where Liberalism has become traditional).

They see that the teachings of Christianity are a goldmine for those who are greedy to rid the world of inequity.

The resources of Christian theology are profound and expansive for those who are seeking to address inequities in our societies, from the Old Testament Biblical witness regarding the way we should treat the orphan, the widow, the foreigner, and the oppressed to the Apostolic and Patristic witness regarding the way we should treat the poor, the children, the prisoner, and the elderly.

The Christian Tradition subverts the disorder of inequities resulting from our sinful attachments to wealth and clinging stingily to our own gifts.  This tradition of a radical call to give up what we have been given to help those who have so little continued in the practice and preaching of St. John Chrysostom on helping the poor and abandoning the love of wealth, and hundreds of years later in St. Dominic's act of selling his books to feed the poor (inspiring many others to help in the process).

It continues to this day, 800 years after the time of St. Dominic, in Pope Francis' exhortations to reduce our unnecessary activities because of the impacts of our global economic systems and environmental practices on the poor as well as touching their hearts and filling their hands.  From the beginning until now, Christian teaching has inspired many people to dedicate their lives to giving of themselves to help those considered the least among us.

The Sacred Tradition begins, of course, with Christ's teachings in the Gospels.  Christ commands those who are deemed the greatest to focus on addressing the needs of those who are deemed to be the least.  He enjoins the young rich man to sell all that he has and give it to the poor.  He proclaims that those who seek the first place of honor shall be given the last.

He served those who were outcasts because of their affliction of leprosy or blindness or hemorrhages, those who were prostitutes, and even those who were cooperating with the Roman Imperium that was oppressing His people in Israel.  He died on a Roman cross for the sake of loving those who despised Him among the people of Israel.

He, the Son of God, washed the feet of the one who would deny Him in public, those who would abandon Him in the hour of death, and even of the one who would betray Him to those seeking to put Him to death.

Christ is our moral exemplar, and He showed us that the moral obligation of the person gifted with great strength is to lift up those who were not gifted with such great strength.  He taught us that the moral obligation of the person gifted with great wealth is to give it sacrificially to those who do not have great wealth.

In the same way, those who were gifted with mental health must care for those afflicted by mental illness.  Those who were gifted with physical health must care for those afflicted by physical illness.  Those gifted with healthy emotional dispositions must care for those afflicted by unhealthy emotional dispositions.  Et cetera and so on.

As we read in the Gospel of Luke, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."  From the Son of God who was given everything, everything was asked, and He gave it to us.

This is the quintessential response of Christ to inequity: He offers everything that He is so that we may be raised up in glory to be like Him.  To accept this, we too must take up our cross and follow Him to lay down our short lives of toil and worry so that we can then take up the new and eternal life of Love alone.

Christ's response to inequity is not the response of Western Liberalism which seeks to level the playing field so that it's a fair game.  Fair in this case means that the outcomes vary based on the strengths and resources of the individual, which means that the sleek and the strong often still rule the weak.  Under the reign of Western Liberalism, they have all the freedom necessary to dominate and manipulate their least brothers and sisters.

Christ's response to inequity is also not the response of the Progressive movement which seeks to cultivate a radical solidarity amongst us all without the necessary corresponding radical self-denial on the part of all; the Progressive Christ is a Christ for all without the Cross for all.  Only the sleek and the strong need the Cross, according to the Progressive Christ, for they are the unjust.

By contrast, the Christian response to inequity is to pour generously from the cup of our gifts into the cups of those who lack those gifts; the rain of love upon the just and the unjust alike.  We do this in imitation of Christ who poured out His saving blood for us, we poor and unjust sinners who cannot buy salvation and have not the strength to reach it ourselves.

The above picture is one that I took of an icon I purchased from the Holy Transfiguration monastery via bostonmonks.com.

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