When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint.
“When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist.”
In a time when a Christ-like Pope, who is the religious leader that all the world so desperately needs right now, can’t criticize the social-sin side of capitalism without being labeled (attacked, that is) as a liberal, a socialist, or a Marxist, or characterized as some kind of naive, economic stooge who doesn’t understand the free-enterprise system . . .
Here’s what I propose are some basics in Christian Politics/Economics 101 to mull on:
Jesus wasn’t born homeless, into this unstable world in a stable, in order to give the world liberalism, conservatism, communism, socialism, libertarianism or any other “ism” as we in the modern world know all those economic and political “isms.”
Political “isms,” as we in the modern world know them, didn’t even exist when Jesus walked in a Roman-owned and -operated world.
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Economic and political “isms” are constructed, maintained and sustained by us, the sin-tainted men and women of this broken, messy world, and by leaders who–whether they are chosen or self-appointed–sin their way to their power, their control and the riches and privileges they enjoy, while promising us promises that we, if we get to elect them, want to hear.
They know and we know they will break their promises to us, and yet we go back for more of their promises every time.
Unlike your favorite Democrat or your favorite Republican, your favorite liberal or conservative, Jesus didn’t break promises and would condemn all our contemporary politicians and pundits with the intense vigor that he always mustered in condemning hypocrites.
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Democrats and liberals and Republicans and conservatives and all the power brokers and holders promise to hang the moon for us, as if the moon and the stars and the earth that God hung for us weren’t enough.
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It doesn’t matter if they are liberal, conservative or capitalist or socialist–they who have leadership (i.e., power and control over money and resources and human lives, too) lie.
They lie usually by omission, by what they are NOT telling us, rather than what they are telling us.
Jesus was no lie.
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Jesus didn’t come into this world to run with those political packs that we pick and choose to live under, and that we support with our votes and dollars and meaningless bumper stickers on the chrome of our shiny cars.
Jesus wasn’t “a” liberal, “a” conservative, “a” anything except “the” savior and “the” redeemer of the world, and, in addition, the non-violent, truth-personified prophet from the Godhead, fighting and vocalizing against the forces of oppression and power and control and money and speaking on behalf of those who had no power and control and money.
Jesus was not a liberal or conservative because all the people involved in all those political and economic arenas are sin-filled to such an extent that they will say or do most anything to keep their power and money and our support.
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So remember this: Jesus didn’t come to give the world anything whatsoever like that which the modern-day, non-eternal Republican or Democratic or Socialist or Tea Partiers might be trying to sell to us and the world at this particular point in time in world history.
If anything, Jesus came to give this messy, broken-up world of messy, broken-up people a “Love Party” for the ages, and no politician or pundit can give the world that for the ages.
Only Jesus came to initiate a “Love and Grace Party” (i.e., the Kingdom of God) for all people in all places for all times.
Or what might be called an eternal “Love and Grace and Peace Party.”
Whatever you call it, it sure as a toot wasn’t your American or any other country’s modern-day political party.
Peace be with you and peace on earth, good will to all.
*What follows is only a portion of what Pope Francis actually said in criticizing “unbridled” capitalism in his nearly 300-page document that was entitled “The Joy of the Gospel.”
It seems to me that the critics of his criticism of capitalism miss the point of the entire document, which is that forces, including but not exclusively economic forces, at are work inhibiting joy and the joy of the gospel in the world today. Click here to read and make your own judgment without help from those who fear any criticism of capitalism.
Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.
Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “throw away” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.
54. In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.
No to the new idolatry of money
55. One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.
56. While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.
No to a financial system which rules rather than serves
57. Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics and a rejection of God. Ethics has come to be viewed with a certain scornful derision. It is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and power relative. It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the manipulation and debasement of the person. In effect, ethics leads to a God who calls for a committed response which is outside the categories of the marketplace. When these latter are absolutized, God can only be seen as uncontrollable, unmanageable, even dangerous, since he calls human beings to their full realization and to freedom from all forms of enslavement. Ethics – a non-ideological ethics – would make it possible to bring about balance and a more humane social order. With this in mind, I encourage financial experts and political leaders to ponder the words of one of the sages of antiquity: “Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs”.
58. A financial reform open to such ethical considerations would require a vigorous change of approach on the part of political leaders. I urge them to face this challenge with determination and an eye to the future, while not ignoring, of course, the specifics of each case. Money must serve, not rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and to the return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favours human beings.