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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. ArmyMatt

    ArmyMatt Regular Member Supporter

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    I think Fr Stephen's main point is that if God owns it all, then the rich are simply caretakers of what God has entrusted them with. it is certainly not a sin to be wealthy, but the reason the wealthy are given their wealth is to further the Kingdom with it, which includes helping the brother in need.

    so the issue is here we tend to think that the material stuff I have is my own and I am free to do as I see fit. and legally that's true. theologically however, it's all God's since He is the only one with rights to it as He created my stuff from nothing. and I think the point is if we, viewed ourselves as caretakers of our stuff and not the actual owners of it, we might use it more like God would have us use it. it's not like we can take it with us anyway.

    at least, that's my reading.
     
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  2. gzt

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

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    St Basil in his sermon on yesterday's Gospel (Sermon to the Rich):

    It suggests that, if you're rich, you've done something wrong.
     
  3. gzt

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

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    I mean let me put it this way:

    What if I told you material inequality, poverty, hunger, etc were evil and consequences of the Fall rather than what God created us to be like?
     
  4. Jesus4Madrid

    Jesus4Madrid Orthodox Christian

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    Did Job, Joseph and David in the OT do something wrong by getting rich?
     
  5. gzt

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

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    I think we can meaningfully distinguish between the structures of Bronze Age society and those of late Antiquity and today. We can also ask if they had much while others were wanting. In the case of Job, we have a farmer without much consideration of anybody else around him, his bounty is from God directly and we're told he's just with it. In the case of King David, we certainly wouldn't rule it out, as much of what he did "missed the mark" even if he was a man after God's own heart. There was certainly injustice under Pharaoh.
     
  6. Halbhh

    Halbhh Hubble telescope saw in empty sky....galaxies! Supporter

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    Good points, but "fruit"* isn't the word more commonly used for that in the U.S. but instead the word is "successful"!

    As in Trump being "successful", and not a "loser".

    And yeah, non-Americans, it's just as bad as it looks like.

    -----------
    What is the true fruit though? It's what Christ said in John chapter 15.
     
  7. FireDragon76

    FireDragon76 Evangelical Catholic Supporter

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    The implication is that if you are successful, it must because God blesses you and you are among his chosen ones, his elect. If you are a loser, you must be a bad egg, one of those pots the potter makes to throw out. And all to demonstrate his glory, of course. Hence why many Americans actually seem to celebrate inequality. Our system after all "works", the good people are rewarded and the bad sorts of people lose.
     
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  8. All4Christ

    All4Christ +The Handmaid of God Laura+ Supporter CF Senior Ambassador

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    Re: the book On Living Simply...I really wish it did have the references to the texts. There are some great passages but I can’t find the surrounding texts (such as one section about marriage).
     
  9. Almost there

    Almost there Well-Known Member

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    True. Problem is, we are "in the flesh".

    You are a 20 something male with raging hormones, and a Christian. You and your wife just had a fight.

    You've spotted a woman in a downpour walking away from her abandoned car and pull up to help. She climbs in and as she is talking, you notice she is, physically, exactly the body type you love, and she is extremely feminine in her mannerisms. You suddenly notice that as the conversation progresses, you are flirting with each other. You, a bit, and her, a lot.

    You are a bit embarrassed about how it is making you feel, physically. But she looks at you appreciatively and says you are her "knight in shining armor" and kisses you on the cheek, "accidentally" rubbing what you just noticed is her ample cleavage in a very revealing top against your shoulder - as she touches her hand on the outside of your thigh briefly.

    Etcetera.

    Thanks to the flesh, people don't always do what's rational.
     
  10. gzt

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

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    Yeah, there are much better collections both for that reason and the reason that even if you do find the text it came from it will probably not match.
     
  11. RDKirk

    RDKirk Alien, Pilgrim, and Sojourner Supporter

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    What this omits is the role of the historical role of Calvinist Protestantism and some other Protestant concepts in the US.

    While not a true Calvinist doctrine, what got mixed into the Americana mindset was a concept that if you are one of the elect, you are blessed; if you appear to be cursed, you are not one of the elect.

    The more modern idea of the "Israel Replacement" doctrine is wound into this as well: That the promises of God to Israel for material prosperity are now bequeathed to Christians...or even to America.

    And from that comes the Prosperity gospel preaching as well.

    So the bottom line is something very much in practice among American Christians like the beliefs of the Pharisees about righteousness and wealth: If you're not rich, it's because you're lacking in faith or righteousness or somehow not in right standing with God.
     
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  12. RDKirk

    RDKirk Alien, Pilgrim, and Sojourner Supporter

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    The author's point is that God (or if you don't believe in God, then the Bronze Age guy who came up with that law) recognized that long ago that human economic models tend over time to concentrate wealth into the hands of a few, regardless how egalitarian they may have originated (Ecclesiastes has something to say about this, too).
     
  13. Jesus4Madrid

    Jesus4Madrid Orthodox Christian

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    Your Bronze Age versus late Antiquity distinction is heroic but arbitrary. There is nothing in Church Tradition that would justify that.

    It is not enough to say that David (or Joseph or Job) was a sinner. For your thesis to be correct, you would need to show that it was precisely their sin that made them rich and that had they not committed those sins, they would not be rich. You haven’t begun to show this. And you’ve got a lot of pious rich people that you would need to demonstrate this for—Moses, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Solomon etc.

    Sin may help make some people rich. But it doesn’t follow logically that all rich got that way through sin.

    I actually think it is probably easier to make a case that if you are poor, you have done something wrong. I don’t necessarily believe that, but as a thought experiment, consider that we have plenty of stories in the Bible of how people like the Prodigal Son became destitute precisely because of their sin, and then became wealthy when they turned from sin.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2017
  14. Jesus4Madrid

    Jesus4Madrid Orthodox Christian

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    Liberal think tank The Brookings Institute suggests that if you are poor you have done something wrong.

    All you have to do in the US to join the middle class is to follow three simple rules:
    1. at least finish high school,
    2. get a full-time job and
    3. wait until age 21 to get married and have children

    Their research shows that of American adults who followed these three simple rules, only about 2 percent are in poverty and nearly 75 percent have joined the middle class (defined as earning around $55,000 or more per year).

    Three Simple Rules Poor Teens Should Follow to Join the Middle Class

    Brookings is not quite St Basil, but interesting anyway.
     
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  15. Jesus4Madrid

    Jesus4Madrid Orthodox Christian

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    Oh, so you mean sin isn’t rational?

    “15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.” (Rom 7:15)

    To fight against the passions, we fast, pray and give alms.
     
  16. gzt

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

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    Brookings isn't really liberal on poverty, but there are major empirical problems with their assertions (my day job is sneaking through, but note #1 and #2 are the ones doing all the work and #2 is nice work if you can get it...). However, my criticism on that aspect is neither here nor there - none of these things are sins not to have done.
     
  17. gzt

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

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    The distinction between subsistence farmers getting richer by having a good year in an agrarian society, a theocratic agrarian society with forced redistribution to care for the poor, orphans, widows, and aliens (while living on the edge of subsistence), and later societies such as ours which are built on usury can be meaningfully distinguished. If you're rather not do it like that, there's a traditional distinction between before and after the Gospel, when before only theft was punished while now being rich and not giving it away is (St Gregory the Great has a good remark about that!). But, sure, if you'd like to blame the poor for their plight, saying they're poor because of their sin, go for it. It doesn't mean that becoming rich is not the result of sin - see again St Basil.
     
  18. Gracia Singh

    Gracia Singh Newbie

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    If I may... Wealthy Christians voluntarily giving what they have to help their fellow Christian and non-Christian neighbor in need is Scriptural, virtuous, and good. But a nation-wide wealth redistribution system that functions like a kind of socialism is not, imo, a good thing. Socialist values and ideas have long been infiltrating the Catholic Church via liberation and social gospel theology. The result has been an uptick in liberal, unorthodox, watery Catholic theology, and a decline of moral and traditional emphasis in Catholic spirituality.

    Orthodox Christians, be careful. Liberation theology, socialist ideals, and social gospel theology has not been good for the Catholic Church. It will not be a good, wholesome, balanced thing for Orthodoxy, either.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2017
  19. RDKirk

    RDKirk Alien, Pilgrim, and Sojourner Supporter

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    Well, we do know that Solomon accrued his immense wealth through heavy taxation. However, it's not clear that's a sin, inasmuch as it's only what God told them a king would do, and the result of the northern tribe's tax revolt was their ultimate destruction.

    That's why the Mosaic Law set forth an economic revolution to occur every fifty years, and why individual debts were cancelled in their seventh year. The understanding of the naturally oppressive nature of worldly economic systems was not lost on them even then.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2017
  20. RDKirk

    RDKirk Alien, Pilgrim, and Sojourner Supporter

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    Any definition of economic class in absolute dollar amounts is spurious, especially with regard to the middle. Moreover, those rules are spurious unless they have been applied to persons from the same origins who have and have not achieved the "middle class."

    It's not at all clear that a poor kid in Brooklyn who manages to finish his substandard high school, gets a full-time substandard job, and manages to go another three years before gaining a family is going to reach the New York City middle class.

    And it's not clear that will happen more often than not anywhere.

    I would say, though, that when we find some young person in a poverty area who has done those three things, he or she deserves grant money for further training/education and a ticket to a better environment to capitalize on the wisdom already demonstrated.
     
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