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A difficult word. An incisive diagnosis. I struggle with these things. The following is my all too human (rather than Divine-human) thinking about all this: America is no longer a place where people count on the extended family to be there for you. We pursue vocational goals which weaken the ties. St. John Chrysostom also wrote about these things, about the best way (which was to give all and become a monastic) and the lesser way of living simply and giving generously. (paraphrase) But there really is only the Way. My wife and I have no children to take care of us when we are old. The word "treasure" ("do not lay up ... ") I've interpreted in terms of abundance as opposed to sufficiency. And added reseach into socially responsible investments. We are to provide for our own, and there are Proverbs about how to do that which would seem to give a fuller context to the way of relinquishment. Or are those Proverbs superceded by the Gospel? St. Basil cuts through all this with his exhortations to give all excess. O Lord, increase our faith and our love. Indeed, our American economic norms are opposed to the Gospel. And our Church has not spoken to this in a rigorous fashion. A renewal of the Church we read of in the Acts of the Apostles - with the Lord all things are possible. Lord have mercy on us. Lord have mercy on me a sinner.
‎"the thoughts of men are all miserable" (Wisdom 9:14)

I think I better understand you Fr Jonathan. If what you want is for a Churchman (at least a lay Churchman) to cry foul against usury, then you have my voice. Your fellow clerics will probably have to be driven to shame by the masses on this one. Those who don't rise to their chrism ought to be boiled in it.

There is, I think, perhaps I hope, a key stone in the edifice of the worst side effects of modernity to be found in usury. I have no idea how to oppose it, except to state that I do. It is coarse slavery via subtle arts.

David, thank you for expressing so clearly the worries that I (and many other readers here, no doubt) have.

Fr. Jonathan, thank you for clarifying your intent and your audience. I think I understand now. Still I worry that by every dollar that goes to the bank (to be rented out for usury), to retirement (to be invested in unknown corporations for unknown purposes), to insurance (ditto), and to the big box stores (ditto) I participate in (or at least facilitate) the economic oppression of my fellow man.

And Erik, thank you for reminding me of this unpleasant little ditty by Wilbur.

Unpleasant, but delightfully a propos and sharp like cactus in a rump.

Thank you, Greg, for saying what you (and anticipating what others) said.

David, I'm afraid you're right about the deep prevalance of our own consumption, and collusion with consumerism.

Reid, the concrete steps directed by the Forerunner to the soldiers and the taxcollecters were neither more nor less than precisely the goal of my article -- which was to quit participating in the economic oppression of our fellow man.

A secondary objective was that the Church -- in its wish to "be" the unified and faithful Church -- must take up its job as a complainer against usury (and other forms of like oppression).

I really wasn't talking about personal practices -- i.e., the purchases of necessary vs luxurious items, or the exceeding of simple economic contours in the face of increasing scarcity. That was not my area of concern, and to be honest, I don't think it is germane at this point. Many of us wring our hands over our family's consumption of resources, when that consumption is trifling when compared to the usage, waste, and corruption that is rife in other areas.

My goals were more pronounced. I merely (if that is fair to say) wanted to see Churchmen "girding up their loins like a man" again, like the Cappadocians and Chrysostom, who would have affirmed hard work and the freedom of the small market, but would have cried "foul" in the face of capitalism as we know it today.

Let's face it. You cannot call these Fathers -- any of them -- capitalists and be fair to either the term or the saints.

Reid, this is why I have said, "though I don't see a solution".

Even when providing for our family, I can certainly say that "getting my children into a good college" is not needful as folks would believe. A house with each their own bedrooms, is neither needful (in fact, a house apart from non-nuclear family is also not needful). TV, not needful. The Intarwebs? Not needful.

We are, all of us, consumers first, believers second. I wonder what is lost every time I get up in the morning and turn on my heat to make the house comfortable. After all, you could argue I don't really need a heater at all, living in southern California. My grandmother didn't have one growing up in Illinois and she turned out just fine. She would tell me how in school they would put off the writing assignments until the afternoon because the ink in the wells was frozen in the morning.

No one in my wife's family has a dishwasher..but I certainly enjoy mine. How many things to I love everyday more than I love the poor, more than I love Christ. Not in words, poem or prose, not in "feelings" or "intent", but in deed. Where is even the smallest work to prove my faith?

Am I raising a son who loves Pokemon more than Christ?

I have not even scratched the surface about how a military equal in size to the rest of the world isn't needful. Or our budding police state. Or property values, or retirement accounts, nor chairs with padding.

But man, I do love sleeping on my sleep number bed. And I am looking forward taking my son to play mini-golf this afternoon.

There is no lesson here (that is, in my comment, though there certainly is one in the original post).

The patron of your parish, St. John the Baptist, once translated his general call to repentance into specific, concrete steps for the soldiers, tax collectors, and others who came to hear him. Could you do the same for us, your readers? You speak of "complaining as the prophets complained," but I imagine that most of us are in greater need of "heeding as the hearers of the prophets did not heed." You certainly know something of using money in a fashion worthy of the Kingdom while providing for a family (failure to do which makes a man worse than an unbeliever). I would be grateful for any counsel you can offer.

Matthew VIII, 28 FF.

Rabbi, we Gadarenes
Are not ascetics; we are fond of wealth and possessions.
Love, as you call it, we obviate by means
Of the planned release of aggressions.

We have a deep faith in prosperity.
Soon, it is hoped, we will reach our full potential.
In the light of our gross product, the practice of charity
Is palpably inessential.

It is true that we go insane;
That for no good reason we are possessed by devils;
That we suffer, despite the amenities which obtain
At all but the lowest levels.

We shall not, however, resign
Our trust in the high-heaped table and the full trough.
If you cannot cure us without destroying our swine,
We had rather you shoved off.

-Richard Wilbur

Amen, and Amen, Father!

Also what Greg said.

Though I don't see any solution, this is certainly the largest part of the problem (my problem). It has taken me a while to see that.

What Greg said.

Thanks for this.

Well, we have a problem with "online Orthodox" fully committed to the American economic ethos. I wish this piece would be read by everyone in every parish we have this week.

Well said, Father and what is needed to refute the false teachings of the prophets of the so-called 'prosperity' cult.

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