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God’s Un-American View of the Poor and Why It Matters

Discussion in 'The Ancient Way - Eastern Orthodox' started by gzt, Dec 3, 2017.

  1. gzt

    gzt The age of the Earth is 4.54 ± 0.07 billion years

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  2. Tom Farebrother

    Tom Farebrother Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Just took a brief look at this, will read more tomorrow. It brings to mind reading some of Kurt Vonegut’s novels years ago and getting the impression that the poor are despised in US culture. Not sure how true that is
     
  3. Jesus4Madrid

    Jesus4Madrid Orthodox Christian

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    Interesting and provocative. And very debatable.

    Why is rational self interest opposed to generosity? Is it against my self interest to love God first and love my neighbour second? I should think loving God and obeying his commandments are the most rational things we could do.

    And of course this utopian idea is highly problematic: “Imagine a fifty-year cycle in which the accrued wealth of all was re-distributed. The cards are re-shuffled and the game of Monopoly can begin again“

    Taking from those who have, against their will, in order to give to those who don’t has another name: theft. That is a sin.

    It sounds like Father Freeman is inveighing against Ayn Rand rather than rational self interest. As such, he is fighting a straw man. He doesn’t seem well schooled in Adam Smith, who in The Theory of Moral Sentiments wrote that as social creatures, we are endowed with a natural sympathy – today we would say empathy – towards others. It is perfectly rational to be virtuous and virtue requires our being empathetic.
     
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  4. FireDragon76

    FireDragon76 Evangelical Catholic Supporter

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    That is good reading, and very insightful. Sin is not just individual but also structural.

    Pop Christianity in the US is hardly Christian, since it has a nasty habit of draining compassion out of people. I think part of that is down to Puritanism and the focus on the individual as being isolated and determined by God to either be a "good pot" or a "bad pot". There is a basic fear and insecurity that is part and parcel of how capitalism works in the US, and deep down it is religious in origin. "What if I'm a loser?" is the big fear. The fear is being a nothing, having nothing to show for you life, no "fruit".

    This is not the religion of the Savior who came only for losers.
     
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  5. Lukaris

    Lukaris Orthodox Christian

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    I am on break at work and started to read this then the centuries old caste system of India popped in my head and a Haitian coworker once told me that the rich in his society care little for the poor. America its positives & negatives towards poverty and I think it rates satisfactory overall. I think it’s ongoing moral and spiritual decline will undermine its virtues further.


    Partalndisclaimer: o may have reacted prematurely will further check this out. A different article popped in my head or maybe I’m a little off today.
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2017
  6. ArmyMatt

    ArmyMatt Regular Member Supporter

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    I think of St John Chrysostom when I read stuff like this. where the wealthy freely gave out of their abundance, and the poor received with gratitude. both classes of people were satisfied and saved because of their actions.
     
  7. gzt

    gzt The age of the Earth is 4.54 ± 0.07 billion years

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    First, this is a thought experiment, so it's the rules of the game and therefore not theft. Second, I don't know if we can agree with your definition of theft - as those things aren't really theirs. See for instance St Basil: St. Basil on stealing from the poor His suggestion is that wealth itself is theft.
     
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  8. Jesus4Madrid

    Jesus4Madrid Orthodox Christian

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    St. John Chrysostom suggests compulsory redistribution by a government is of no moral value:

    “Should we look to kings and princes to put right the inequalities between rich and poor? Should we require soldiers to come and seize the rich person's gold and distribute it among his destitute neighbors? Should we beg the emperor to impose a tax on the rich so great that it reduces them to the level of the poor and then to share the proceeds of that tax among everyone? Equality imposed by force would achieve nothing, and do much harm. Those who combined both cruel hearts and sharp minds would soon find ways of making themselves rich again. Worse still, the rich whose gold was taken away would feel bitter and resentful; while the poor who received the gold form the hands of soldiers would feel no gratitude, because no generosity would have prompted the gift. Far from bringing moral benefit to society, it would actually do moral harm. Material justice cannot be accomplished by compulsion, a change of heart will not follow. The only way to achieve true justice is to change people's hearts first - and then they will joyfully share their wealth.” St. John Chrysostom on the poor from On Living Simply XLIII.
     
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  9. gzt

    gzt The age of the Earth is 4.54 ± 0.07 billion years

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    Here's the deal with that - On Living Simply provides loose paraphrases and condensed versions of what St John says (the introduction explains this!). In several cases in the book, it's not clear what original text is being referred to and in some it seems there's a bit of editorializing on the part of the translator. This is one of them and it's the most egregious. Nobody has been able to find a Greek text matching this, and it's unfortunate, as it's a rather sharp text. So, uh, I need proof St John Chrysostom actually said this. A few people have looked and haven't found it.

    There's some further conversation on this from a buddy of mine here: Facebook and digital bumper stickers
     
  10. Lukaris

    Lukaris Orthodox Christian

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    I was surprised at how short the article was.

    From my little patch of America (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pennsylvania ) I see a society in economic, moral, and social decline. Our area is simultaneously virtuous, depraved, generous, greedy etc.One can easily observe charity
    to the poor, concern for drug rehab, drug abuse, brutal crime,
    shelters for abused, free clinics, gambling & alcohol addictions etc.
    Quite a menagerie; it is not Sodom & Gomorrah nor is it a shining city on a hill. It is part
    of a capitalist society and how much capitalism figures in this
    I do not know.
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2017
  11. Jesus4Madrid

    Jesus4Madrid Orthodox Christian

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    Well, I have the book and this is a direct quote from chapter 43. The author has provided abridged quotes from sermons. Yes, it would be nice to have the original, Greek text.

    To be fair, my quote should be balanced with others from this nifty book:

    “"The rich usually imagine that, if they do not physically rob the poor, they are committing no sin. But the sin of the rich consists in not sharing their wealth with the poor. In fact, the rich person who keeps all his wealth for himself is committing a form of robbery. The reason is that in truth all wealth comes from God, and so belongs to everyone equally."
     
  12. gzt

    gzt The age of the Earth is 4.54 ± 0.07 billion years

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    Yes, the book is what we're contending is misleading. I'm saying he didn't say that excerpt 43.
     
  13. Jesus4Madrid

    Jesus4Madrid Orthodox Christian

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    Do you say that because the quote challenges your presuppositions?
     
  14. gzt

    gzt The age of the Earth is 4.54 ± 0.07 billion years

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    No, because nobody has been able to produce it in the original Greek despite a fair amount of searching and despite the fact that actual scholars would have been remiss to exclude it from their collections and arguments about wealth. See the link from earlier. Look, I summarized my argument above already.
     
  15. gzt

    gzt The age of the Earth is 4.54 ± 0.07 billion years

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    but by the way here is something where we actually do have the original Greek available from St John Chrysostom which contradicts that first quote.

     
  16. actionsub

    actionsub Mike, he's just this guy, you know?

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    It's fairly accurate. What was long called the "Protestant work ethic" basically insinuated that if you were poor, you were lazy and/or sinful, and that God was punishing you with poverty. If you only worked a little harder, etc. you too could be prosperous.

    Just listen to any talk radio for about an hour and see how widely the poor are despised...
    "I don't make enough money at my job to pay for health insurance..."
    "GET A JOB!"
    "What part of 'I don't make enough money at my job' was lost on you?"
    "You're obviously not working hard enough. Get another job!"

    or that "People getting Social Security or Disability are stealing muh tax money..."
     
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  17. Lukaris

    Lukaris Orthodox Christian

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    The thing is it seems that many Orthodox immigrants to America in the late 19th to early 20th century became some of the most patriotic Americans. In our church several Syrian Americans were KIA in World War 2. My paternal Syrian grandfather fought in World War 1. Our church flies the Vietnam MIA flag next to the Stars and Stripes and commemorates its veterans at the cemetery every Memorial Day.

    If this American way is so alien to Orthodoxy why was it not alien to the old immigrants who embraced it?
     
  18. gzt

    gzt The age of the Earth is 4.54 ± 0.07 billion years

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    I don't think that really has relevance to the article? I certainly don't think the "American view of the poor" that Freeman is criticizing here is at all intrinsic to America or what the old Orthodox immigrants you're talking about fought for when they were fighting for this country.
     
  19. Lukaris

    Lukaris Orthodox Christian

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    Maybe you are right; I said I was possibly out of focus today earlier in the thread. I did not mean to impugn the article either way also regardless. Think I need some rest.
     
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  20. keith99

    keith99 sola dosis facit venenum

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    You clearly read farther than I. I did not get much past where he cited the Biblical model, God's plan if you will where every 50 years the vast majority of wealth, e.g. Land goes back to the original owners. Rather close to the opposite of a utopian idea, well unless your family is one of teh original land owners.
     
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