10/13/2006

Imagine! "We can do good things for the poor whenever we wish."

The question then is, why don’t we wish?

Simon Mein has written “Cultural, Biblical and Theological Musings” on “Social Responsibility and the Church.” His musings leave the conclusions to us, but the clarity of his essay leads in only one direction: the Church indeed has a social responsibility to the poor, one out of which we cannot easily wiggle. If we do not take that responsibility on, it is because we do not wish to, even knowing God's preference for the poor, although God, as Louie Crew wisely notes, "loves absolutely everybody."

The Gospel for this Sunday, (October 15, 2006) concerns the Rich Young Man, who goes away saddened that he cannot sell all he has and give it to the poor. It appears he cannot be perfect. Yet Jesus loves him, knowing, one supposes, that the test will be too great and there will be weeping at the failure.

Not all the tests are too great, however, and Canon Mein reminds us of that fact. Suppose the test for the Young Man of unhappy memory was not whether he could give up all that he has, but rather that he could proclaim that “the poor,” and poverty did not have to be part of the natural order of things? What if the Young Man had been able to say, I cannot be perfect, but I can refuse to make peace with a world in which poverty is natural and ordinary. I can work for the end of poverty?

I have always assumed that Fr. Jake, of Fr. Jake Stops The World, was a young man. Then I met him, and behold, he is. Up in the corner of his blog is the banner for One.Org, the campaign to make poverty history. It is this sort of effort that Simon Mein’s essay finally points to - the effort to take the call of responsibility seriously. He asks, “if history shows the ubiquitous presence of poverty, what about those who follow the teachings of Jesus: if it is part of the order of things, what of the church as a new order?”

The Church has not been terribly clear on the matter, and Simon’s essay rightly points to the Church’s abandonment of the understanding of both poverty and the radical inclusiveness and care found in the New Testament.

Near the end of the essay he soundly condemns the extremes of this abandonment: “The more extreme evangelicals did not hesitate to interpret economic crises and natural disasters, (like outbreaks of cholera, frequent in the first half of the 19th century,) as God’s judgment, just as their successors see God’s punishment in AIDs and the hurricane Katrina.Unhappily such views are still widely current among the far religious right with some mega- churches trumpeting as the Christian blessing the acquisition of great wealth, a kind of anti-asceticism, which can rest happily in the thought that the poor are always (to be) with us.”

In all the mutterings about the internal struggles in the Anglican Communion, it becomes all the more important to keep our eye on Jesus, who, loved the Rich Young Man, but could not keep him from grief, and love the outcast, the poor, the marginal, and called them blessed. This essay will provoke new appreciation for the upcoming “Toward Effective Anglican Mission” which moves beyond our petty quarrels to the matters of social responsibility and the church’s part in it.

Read Simon’s essay HERE.

2 comments:

  1. It is worse than that! They are teaching, "God helps those who help themselves." It isn't biblical, but they are scrambling to prove that it is. Then they can turn their noses up at those on public assistance for wasting tax dollars from those who work for a living.

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  2. Mark: I sent this to your "poetmark" address and it came back. Here it is again. Harvey
    Don't know if you are still at this address, but here's hoping.

    I'm grateful for your blog, even if 100,000 or so discerning people have said that ahead of me. Informative, on the mark, sound: that's you.

    And I think, contrary to what I feared earlier on, that you reflect where the majority of folks in our church are coming from. When I was at St. Andrew's in Ann Arbor, Chandler Matthews was elected to the vestry. All I knew was that he was vice president for financial things at the university, that he sat in back at 8, and that he dressed like a banker. For several months he said not a word at vestry meetings. Then, when all kinds of nit picking reasons were being given as to why it was too risky for us to underwrite the expense of the Shelter Assn. leasing two houses as places for homeless women to live, he piped up. "Of course we should do it, that's what churches are for." That kind of thing is the backbone of what we can become as a new, progressive reality.

    And I find clergy on board too, due to the informative and sound nature of web places like yours and the Episcopal majority's and turningthingsupside down.

    The Sixties wasn't a phase. It cut us loose for what was ahead.. Thanks for articulating what the preludium is pointing toward.

    Love, Harvey

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