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Fr Greg, I wouldn't turn back the clock at all. I raised the issue about some of those who supported, significantly, the suffrage movement for motives that differed from the humanitarian impulse of the likes of Susan Anthony and others. I linked those darker motives of moneyed interests to show that the powers who represent industry and commerce pursue an agenda that cohere with one trite political interest or another. At one point, Mammon will sponsor a liberal, democratic impulse. At another, it will profit from reactionary energy.

So I do not disagree with a woman's hard-won right to vote, nor with her right to demand equal pay for equal work, and promotion for excellence. But I continue to protest for a living wage for families, and I resist the current corrosive agenda against intact families -- including all attempts at reconfiguring the home and distortions of the meaning of the home.

In the same manner, no one can sanely suggest that the outcome of the Civil War -- the abolition of slavery -- was anything but a good thing. Nevertheless, I can certainly protest the War itself, and other motives for prosecuting that war. Industrialization and finance were certainly the victors who raked in the spoils in the aftermath. Moreover, the shameless political pragmatism of the abolitionists came out into the clear after Emancipation: the greatest abolitionists were shown to be at least uncaring for the newly liberated slaves, if not outright bigots.

People like William Lloyd Garrison were revealed as just another crop of the usual "heartless lovers of mankind."

I think, too, that you will find the same sort of revelation if you look under the rocks of the current legislators of liberation.

Fr. Jonathan, I tend to agree with virtually all of your second-to-last comment above. It reminds me of Peter Maurin referring to Communists as the spiritual sons of the Bourgeoisie.

However, I have to wonder about your reference to women's "suffrage" which I take you intend broadly, concerning not only women voting, but also, their large scale entry into the workforce, etc.

To what extent would you turn back the clock on this issue? And, if you would like to see women once again without rights to voting, property ownership, work, etc. how would you protect them from predatory fathers and husbands? Isn't one of the major problems with traditional Islam the status it assigns to women?

No worries.

MJ, please pardon my distemper. I do not like the bellicose tone that's being shouted, stupidly, on all sides as the economy continues to decline -- and why? obviously from the idiotic shouting match in Congress going on.

You are reasonable and not bellicose, and for that reason alone you are in the minority.


You took from my comments more than I ever intended to offer. Granted, the quote was rather long, I copied it from the web and I should have only quoted "...the rich whose gold was taken away would feel bitter and resentful; while the poor who received the gold from the hands of soldiers would feel no gratitude, because no generosity would have prompted the gift." I guess I included it all as I felt it would have little context as a half-sentence alone. I am not nor have ever been a Tea Party member nor ever been to one. I was just trying to offer an insight from a great Saint whom was being discussed regarding those who might act "crass" (your word) about their stewardship, no more. I've seen the same thing, and when I read your blog, the quote came to mind, I thought it might explain their poor behavior. Forgive me if the statement implied to you all that you felt you needed to respond to. My quote regarding those who possess an "attitude of resentment of a certain socio-economic milieu" was directed at those whom you mention, but not in defense of or support of them, only as a mere label. I thought the St.'s statement stood on its own merits, I do not necessarily support or despise those who might use the quote to support a "neo-con" position nor was it intended to that, only offer an insight to the current conversation, nothing more. Again, my mistake for not being more clear and for making my intro statements too brief.

MJ, I've already defended religious fundamentalists from their leftwing detractors here, and in a number of other posts on these pages.

You quoted a nice paragraph from Chrysostom in support of your proposition that wealth should not be forcibly redistributed. While I am sure that Chrysostom would not have endorsed such a thing, the fact remains that his words, which you quoted, were delivered more to underscore that almsgiving cannot wait on the State.

This is self-evident. However. these very words do not at all rule out benevolence on the part of the State, or the construction of social "safety nets." The Roman government long gave out large doles to the poor: perhaps these doles were ineffective in the long run, but Rome was loathe to interrupt them for fear of the crowds.

The Byzantine government (i.e., the Christian empire) had a lot of taxes (real estate in particular) and was more socialistic than what we have today. Those who complain about the national government being socialistic have some reading to do.

Which brings me to my last point about your comment. When you talk about an "attitude of resentment of certain socio-economic milieu," I take it that you intend those who resist any sort of increase in taxation.

When it comes to taxation increase, we are not talking about anyone in the middle class, but those who are rather well off individually -- but in particular, those corporations who do not pay taxes hardly at all (e.g., General Electric, which paid not a cent in federal taxes last year).

I do not understand why the usual Tea Partier is so sympathetic with large corporations -- many of whom are the real agencies behind the corrosion of natural law that Tea Partiers are (and should be) fond of. Who funded women's suffrage, mainly to escape the bottom line of the "decent family wage"? Who funded abortion in the early years, mainly to preserve a more homogenous (i.e., "white") working class of men and women (who were not so confined to their families)? Who is funding the cultural normalization of homosexuality, and the redefinition of the family, mainly to siphon off more and more income from private savings?

Who is benefitting from such all out libertinism? You will find, mj, much to the distress of many good-intentioned but horribly naive Tea Partiers, that libertinism is even more profitable to the Chamber of Commerce than it is to the anti-Christian liberal.

Ask Madison Avenue what it thinks of Natural Law, and which politicians it supports.

No one is talking about forcible redistribution of wealth. Those who wave the "Don't Tread on Me" haven't the first clue as to what real oppression or persecution is. They should ask anyone who has grown up in real Stalinism. They should ask any of our martyrs.

In regards to Chrysostom and the "crassness" of those who give generously but wine in the process, he offers us this insight:

"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 from 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

Maybe St. John truly understood the hearts of men better than we know. While this may appear off topic, I believe he expresses simply and concretely where such an attitude of resentment of certain socio-economic milieu might arise, and I believe this may also explain the rise of the "tea party" movement of which you often reference and why they sometimes behave in the ways that they do. Just a thought...

That said, the buried proposition of the poem is that the Fathers seemed pretty confident in interpreting certain "natural" events as responses to wickedness.

And that wickedness was "social," to be sure, like domination of the disenfranchised and oppression of the weak. But it was also more individual behaviors of which it is usually impolitic to denounce.

Well, certainly Chrysostom is sympathetic with Christians who have more than a little concern for their neighbors.

True: he has no sympathy for Pharisees, or anyone who invokes the name of God to justify any of their actions -- whether political or socioeconomic opportunities.

I'm not sure who you mean here. Yes we are surrounded by Philistines who shill religious wares ... and yes, many of them are guilty of simplistic opinions.

But I cannot ignore the fact that rightwing people in the Church are personally just as -- if not even more -- generous to the poor as are people on the left. They may be crass about it, but they statistically and anecdotally, they are usually very willing to get their hands dirty doing so.

Of course, this may be truer of the more blue-collar/hayseed folk with whom I am more familiar: I am far less confident about the rather recent phenomenon of the neo-con nouveau riche, who have become the object of a lot of acrimony from your and my milieu.

Perhaps some of that antipathy is deserved: perhaps, even, a lot.

Nevertheless, I defend the Christian fundamentalist sensibility for charity much more confidently than I do the mainliners. I like to think that we in Eastern Christianity do fairly well, but sometimes I am not so sure. What I am sure about is that Easterners are much more difficult to quantify in their behavior, and that is probably a good thing.

St. John Chrysostom would have no sympathy whatsoever with anyone who digresses from Christian doctrine or Christian behavior.

I trust that my little poem's ironies did not obfuscate that point: the trick to scanning my poor offering is to ask yourself of this (as with all poems) just who the "I" is.

In fairness to St. John Chrysostom, I am pretty certain that he is far more sympathetic with the "liberal" secular and more-or-less religious folks who at least have some concern for their neighbors than with the latter-day Pharisees who, invoking the name of God to justify their political and socioeconomic ambitions, manifestly do not. These latter fall under the condemnation of St. Paul: "The Name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you."

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