Monthly Archives: December 2012

Cynicism: Who’s to Blame?

Was thinking about the issue of cynicism. There is quite a bit to be cynical ABOUT these days. But that is precisely the point of this post. While I shake my head and facepalm myself in embarrassment towards a lot of what goes on “out there” I wonder if it also possible that cynicism resides WITHIN me, the cynic as well. Before looking at this a little more I want to share a story from Andrew Byers book, “Faith Without Illusions: Following Jesus as a Cynic Saint.”

“Most of us do not actively seek to embrace cynicism. We fall into it. I fell rather hard in the sixth grade. It was 1986. That was the first year we had lockers, and their metallic clang and bang added a new hallway sound. Vocab quizzes replaced the elementary spelling tests, but most of the new words in our mouths were of the “dirty” variety, and we whispered them awkwardly for laughs and furtively wrote them on our desks in #2 graphite. Newly awakened hormones spawned a feral hallway energy distinctively unlike that of the fifth grade hall. Cliques of “cool” and “uncool” were beginning to solidify. You could almost smell the pungent aura of territorialism in the halls between each class. It was the last year of outdoor recess. It was the year Wanda Turner had a “period” (whatever that was). It was the year when the boys and the girls were taller than I. It was my first experience of corporal punishment in the school system. It was the worst year of my life.

And in that year I fell in love.

She and I were good friends, but she was in love with him. You know the one: the guy who had a bit of height on him, no acne and that roguish charm that girls find so irresistible. The role of quarterback was given to him without dispute for every football game at recess. When a girl became “It” in freeze tag, there was hardly any point for the rest of us boys to run—we knew who she would be chasing. He wore the latest Swatch for a timepiece, and as I recall he knew how to efficiently “tight roll” his denim pant legs just above his sneakers. And there was of course the gold chain glimmering in the V-shape imposed onto his tanned chest by the polo shirts. (They were definitely made by Ralph Lauren and not the imitation brands.)

I did not stand a chance.

Strangely enough, he and I were friends. In the previous year the teacher had sentenced him to move his seat from the back of the classroom in order to sit by the shy, squeamish kid who was too harmless to pose any trouble. That was me, and due to his spatial relocation we developed a bit of a friendship. But now, a year later, he had effortlessly secured as his girlfriend the one dazzling gem who had become the object of all my romantic hopes. One night he called me and confessed to cheating on her. (I was never sure what this entailed during the middle school years, but it always sounded so sinister.) The next day, his betrayal was the big scandal, and my chance had come to rise to the surface as an alternative suitor. All day long I stood by the distressed damsel as a valiant guardian against all male evils, repeatedly hinting to her that should she choose to “go with” me, she would never have to face the pain of mistreatment again. By lunchtime it seemed as though the entire sixth grade class was involved in this thrilling imbroglio. Then at the end of the day, through the clang and bang of the hallway lockers, she broke the news to me with laughter that it was all staged—our classmates knew about my (supposedly secret) crush, and they just wanted to see how I would react to the fictional scenario. The spectacle I had provided went beyond their grandest expectations.

For years to come I was a romantic cynic. There are much darker adolescent tales out there than my unpleasant little introduction to teenage romance. The story is provided to make the point that cynicism often arises from painful disillusionment—when the rug gets violently jerked out from under us, when the wool long pulled over our eyes is yanked off. The moment of the defining injury is often abrupt, having the effect of an explosive collision that tosses us into some pit. When we open our eyes after the impact, we find ourselves in a dark place staring up into a light we once enjoyed—and to which we feel we can never return. Sometimes the painful disillusionment is not abrupt but subtle, gradually developing within us over time like the imperceptible infiltration of a slow-working virus. Then one day it occurs to us that we have become all too familiar with a darkness we never knew took us over, and we barely recognize the light. Then again, was it really “light” from which we fell? Disillusionment is the dispersal of illusions. What we violently collide with before the sharp plummet into cynicism’s pit is usually a disturbing reality. If the downward movement is more gradual, then our cynicism has resulted from accepting a series of disquieting truths over a period of months or years. Cynicism arises from an embrace of reality. But since illumination often hurts, it can become an embittered embrace of reality. 1 eventually recovered from my bout with romantic disillusionment. (And I should point out the fact that the young teenage girl in the previous scene is now serving Christ nobly on the mission field.) There is a form of disillusionment that is much more potentially devastating than that of crushed romance, though. What if we are disillusioned by the church—that one safe harbour of community on which Christians are told to rely when all else comes crashing down? What if we become cynical toward the faith that is supposed to sustain us through all life’s trials? Even worse, what if the object of our disillusionment is not the thirteen-year-old dream girl we adore, the spouse we treasure, or the church that (supposedly) nurtures us, but the God we worship?”

Other than wondering what the jock is doing these days (possibly a miserable failure?) or if the girl is doing OK and whether we should wish ill fortune upon them, the important point that Byers brings out here is the psychological aspect of cynicism and not so much the reality “outside” of the cynic. The interiority not the exteriority.

I’m not suggesting that the rug does not get pulled out from under us. That we don’t suffer from painful disillusionment. Rather, that “light” from which we fell….is it REALLY light or is it a false high expectation? Either way, there is both a reality/exteriority side and a psychological/interiority side to cynicism. If this is the case, then maybe the “problem” of cynicism to some extent resides with(in) us and not others and because of this, is something that can help us to understand our own (displaced) anger towards others.

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To Support or Not Support: That is The Question

My Facebook bud, Eric Reitan, makes some poignant observations about giving to an organization that you don’t morally agree with on an issue. In this excellent post, he talks about giving to an organization such as the Salvation Army even though he disagrees with their stance on homosexuality. You can read that here (please copy and paste as I am having issues posting a link):

http://thepietythatliesbetween.blogspot.ca/2012/12/the-salvation-army-homosexuality-and.html#comment-form

What I really like is his clear demarcation between a hate group whose CLEAR AIM is to discriminate and oppress and something like the Salvation Army who clearly has another goal in mind such that what we would say is that comparing the Salvation Army to the KKK seems to be a little on the extreme side.

As an aside, as bad as the KKK are, I’m sure they would not see their own actions as being oppressive or discriminatory. That is, whatever this or any group does, it seems to me they do it out of a sense of how they see “the good life”–as we all do. Ultimately though, we’re going to need some basis for our understanding of the good life, which is ultimately found in God’s story. And so, discrimination and oppression are going to be in antithesis of that story and thus, we may have to correct a brother out of love. I say “brother” in the sense that we are all children of God. That is, that God loves each and everyone of us with infinite love and so God loves the KKK [as persons whose image they are made in ] as much as he loves the Christian. The Gospel (and God’s love) seems to relativize our sin, and agendas and relationships in this regard. Not only by not scaling our sin (one sin is worse than another) but even when, in our sin, harm is done to us, this is not of ultimate importance. As a matter of fact, my take on God’s relation to the world is such that what happens here doesn’t have the same sort of impact on God as it does on his creatures. The world and its happens are of relative importance to God. god is not “shocked” as it were. God remains aesthetically satisfied within Godself. But that’s for another discussion.

Either way, given that Reitan draws a distinction between hate groups and those that are not hate groups, I wonder if there is not something slightly askew here. Let’s look at this in another context ie., slavery. What if, say, the Salvation Army in a round about way, that is in an indirect way knowingly supported slavery? Yes, we still would not label them a hate group, in the way Reitan means it, but we certainly wouldn’t support such an organization with our resources.

Now, I’m wondering if something akin to this is what is going on here only in the case of homosexuality, it would seem to be a little more than indirectly (they would actually never support laws or policies and would seek to overturn them if they conflicted with their religious conscience) not supporting homosexuality (“civil rights”) and or homosexual “lifestyle” for lack of a better word. That is, in the basic humane ness of everything else ie., shelter, food, clothing they’ll support LGBT persons, but not those aspects which include homosexuality especially as they conflict with their own policies.

If the reluctance of throwing any spare change in the bucket is an indication of anything, though it isn’t an indication that the Salvation Army is a hate group it certainly seems to come pretty close in his mind, though not as directly as the KKK but indirectly to some large extent. At the end of the day, I wonder if the best thing to do would simply be for Reitan to not support the Salvation Army and support some other charity of his choosing. A charity where he would not have the internal conflict.


Co-habitation and Marriage: Do You Need a Marriage to be Committed?

Was thinking about marriage. I read a comment on a Facebook page once that said this:

“I find the insinuation that couples aren’t committed unless they are married both specious and insulting.”

That was in reference to this article here (again, please copy and paste as I’m having a hard time creating the link):

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/15/opinion/sunday/the-downside-of-cohabiting-before-marriage.html?pagewanted=all%3Fsrc%3Dtp&smid=fb-share

This person also said this:

“I appreciate that the overall point of the article was that cohabitation should not be seen as an obvious first step towards commitment, and that couples who live together with the hope that cohabitation will lead towards commitment may be disappointed. However, there appeared to be an underlying suggestion that the ultimate sign of commitment is engagement or marriage. This inference was based on a number of factors, not least of which was the fact that the article was entitled “The Downside of Cohabiting Before Marriage”, not “The Downside of Cohabiting or Marrying Before Commitment”. I agree with the author’s overall point that it is risky to cohabit without either commitment or a clear and mutual understanding of the nature of the cohabitation. However, I also feel that a marriage without true commitment is risky, as is making any significant decision with a high switching-cost without a full understanding of the facts – in this case the intentions of both parties. The author concluded with the notion that “[i]t’s important to discuss each person’s motivation and commitment level beforehand and, even better, to view cohabitation as an intentional step toward, rather than a convenient test for, marriage or partnership”, and I can certainly support that. However, the implication that cohabitation is not a commitment and marriage is can be seen in lines such as the following:

• “Research suggests that at least some of the risks may lie in cohabitation itself.”
• “Women are more likely to view cohabitation as a step toward marriage, while men are more likely to see it as a way to test a relationship or postpone commitment, and this gender asymmetry is associated with negative interactions and lower levels of commitment even after the relationship progresses to marriage.” In my mind cohabitation is not a risk; cohabiting without a mutual understanding of its terms is. Furthermore, a relationship does not have to “progress to marriage” in order to be committed, nor, in many cases, is marriage itself indicative of commitment. Many couples marry because they think they should or because they face societal pressures to do so, yet lack a true commitment to one another. I’m certainly not suggesting that the point of the article was that cohabitation is bad and marriage is good. However, it expressed that cohabitation is not a commitment and should not be seen as such, and implied that engagement or marriage is seen as the ultimate commitment towards which relationships should progress. That is what I find specious and insulting.”

Let me start off saying that first we’re not going to argue about whether the article said something or not but the idea of co-habitation per se. When I’m speaking of co habitation I’m referring to, for the most part, “modern co-habitors.” Whether thinking of an arrangement in the vein of “Sex in the City” types or “Friends” types (career oriented types) to welfare or social assistant types who co-habitate for economic reasons, the idea underlying both species is the plan to NOT marry. Essentially, in the view of this person, three points seem to be at work:

A. Marriage doesn’t automatically translate into commitment.
B. Cohabitation doesn’t automatically mean (translate) that one is not committed.
C. Cohabitation is not a risk, but rather, cohabitation without a mutual understanding is a risk.

However, most traditional marriage scholars like Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher summarize:

“If the great theme of marriage is union the counterriff of cohabitation
is individualism. In contrast, cohabitors, by and large, cherish their indi-
vidual freedom. Cohabitation is attractive as an alternative to marriage
not only because it is a tentative, unlegal form of a co-residential union.
but more broadly, because it accommodates a very different style of life.” concluded, Waite, Clarkberg, Stolzenberg”

Obviously, the commitment level in some marriages is not that high. Sometimes the union of the triune God is not reflected in marriages and so many of those marriages may end up in divorce and probably should.

However, I don’t think contrasting “A” and “B” seems to be warranted nor is throwing “C” into the mix (as a result) all that helpful either. The reason is that “all things considered,” cohabitation, while it may have some positive benefits, the whole enterprise is “postured” toward non-commitment. It is SEEN by society and co-habitors themselves as essentially temporary. Marriage is viewed as “different” by co-habitors and generally speaking, the whole idea is that as co-habitors they value marriage less. That is, it is NOT SUPPOSED TO BE FULL 100% commitment.

Now, for some people, one could say that cohabitation is a “brief stop.” But it is a brief stop to marriage or to break up (those who break up or divorce after cohabiting and then marrying is another question). For others, they don’t want to be married. They like the idea that they can have an easy (easier) exit. They like that there are no well-defined boundaries or responsibilities.

This is what makes cohabitation different than marriage. As Gallagher says:

“…these cohabiters view marriage as a bigger commitment than living together, and they do not feel ready at this time, or with this partner, to take on the larger responsibilities to a partner that a marriage represents. Cohabitors, in other words, have a shorter time horizon than spouses do. Even when Cohabitors have been together for long periods of time, they do not feel obligated to remain with this partner forever.”

It seems to me that there are reasons that people co-habitate and don’t marry. Whatever those reasons are, those two social arrangements are by nature definitionally different. Marriage definitionally says, “You will not be alone forever.” Co-habitation does not say that. It’s not meant to. Even when it is a step toward marriage because some of those folk enter into that relationship with a mutual understanding that they will get married (as pertaining to our Facebook commentator above) the idea is that there is a mimicking OF marriage to the core. That is to say, that they act and behave as marrieds do. However, cohabitation without marriage seems to be the rule.


Abstinence, Purity and good ‘ol fashion Morality

Church of the LaughJust want to make a few observations with this post about sex and abstinence and some of the views that Christians adhere to.

My facebook friend and acquaintance Stephanie Drury makes EXCELLENT observation(s) regarding evangelical culture and pre-martial sex and abstinence. You can read that here:

http://www.stuffchristianculturelikes.com/2008/09/45-purity-rings.html

Stephanie points out some of the real blind spots within evangelical culture but what I took away from reading her stuff on sexuality (here and elsewhere) are:

A. Sexual sin is highlighted over other sins. Christians scale their “spiritual health” according to whether they have sinned or stayed pure in this area or not. It’s a part of that “Doing things while avoiding relationship(s)” with both God and other people.
B. Sexually abstaining ought to be done from the heart–because one loves God. Not simply being obedient to commands and “white knuckling it.” Again, this is connected to A.
C. What is true purity? Is it being technically abstinent? No intercourse?
D. What about the grey areas? Black and white mean only two things, “Doing it or not doing it.” Is “copping a feel” of her boobie premarital sex? How about messaging his penis? This is connected to C.
E. People who remain abstinent till their wedding day, many times have awkward, painful, horrible sexual experiences.

I would like to add my two cents worth to engage with what is here and address some possible weaknesses and blind spots that might be lurking in the background. I don’t want to view this as a final engagement but rather an open discussion (even though we might disagree). Let’s look at these from last to first.

First there’s “E.” While this frequently happens on the wedding night or honeymoon, I wonder if this would be reason enough for couples to allow themselves to engage in premarital sex. In other words, do the negative risks and consequences associated with premarital sex out weight the negativity that may take place on the wedding night or the honeymoon?

Also, there’s something to be said for learning and walking through new experiences together even as awkward and horrible as they may be. Such is the experience of this young lady in this blog:
http://learningtobeanewlywed.blogspot.ca/2012/05/wait-was-well-worth-it.html

She said:

“So when our wedding night came, well, it was awkward and painful. I won’t go into any details, I’ll just stick with those two adjectives. The good thing, though, is that I was with my best friend and a man who was 100% committed to me. My husband and I laughed together as we figured things out together. I didn’t have to be sexy or afraid. I didn’t feel vulnerable or unsure if I was making a good decision. When I have seen scenes in movies or tv of a couple losing their virginity or even just having sex together for the first time (scenes I am assuming are based on real people’s real experiences) it is nothing like what I experienced. And I what I experienced was my husband loving me, adoring me, enjoying being with the whole of me. He was giving 100% of himself to me. Only me. Always me. Looking into my eyes, wanting only me forever. It was truly beautiful. While still remaining awkward and painful.”

It’s all part and parcel of the marriage experience.

Let’s look at “D.” I really can’t argue against the soundness of this argument. Things are definitely not THAT black and white. As a matter of fact, I personally don’t have any problem with men looking at a woman’s body (and vice versa) and admiring it (thank you Jesus, right?) and possibly being turned on by it. I see this as the way we are wired. And though there is “sexual energy”that needs to be released, there are appropriate and inappropriate ways of doing that. Even still, with all the grey areas, can we really blame the evangelical culture for stressing “purity.” That is, keeping that area “out of bounds” for fear of consequences ie., emotional, physical (babies at the inappropriate time, STDs), and spiritual? I heard this analogy one time. Think of it like a game of football. The grey areas are the lines. If there REALLY ARE grey areas, then why play close to them? Why play the game close to the lines?

This leads in to “C.” Sure, purity isn’t simply a matter of doing or not doing SOME THING. It is more than that of course. But let’s look at this a little closer. Purity and obeying God is more than this one area but it nonetheless includes this area. Personally, I follow Mouw that there ARE imperatives that we AS CHRISTIANS are to follow. Those imperatives come in many differing forms found in scripture. But you won’t find Mouw ever saying that CHRISTIANS should do any external obedience out of rote, that is, in a mechanical way. Everything we do should be out of a loving relationship with God and each other. Everything should be done with the right motives. Christians shouldn’t be gaging their spiritual health against this one issue (“A” and “B”). However, there seems to be a question of public justice that is missing in the equation and hopefully this will cover A, B, and C.

Let’s think of it like this. Say you have a group of Christians who want to get an abstinence program into a public school. Now, let’s say they are successful at doing this.

As an aside, there have been abstinence programs that haven’t been presented that well and probably don’t work that well either. Even Catholics who are the major players in this arena will admit to this. Read about something like that here: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/simcha-fisher/is-this-what-abstinence-only-education-looks-like End of aside

Now, many of those kids are not Christians, and many of them go along with the program and it works well for them because there are other “support” systems in place ie., parents, schools, peers, churches, etc. The thing is, in this context this has nothing to do with some pietistic concern for purity. It’s simply a public JUSTICE issue as stated here: http://www.cpjustice.org/CapitalCommentary/SilverRingThing or it’s a public health concern (on both levels ie., physical and emotional). If this the case, I suppose the question is going to be asked if it is reasonable that we can bring Christian piety in the sense that Stephanie is using to bear on abstinence education. In other words, just as there are moral people who practice their morality out of some sense for their own health or because of a greater awareness of public health, people may/will refrain from certain activities for reasons along the same lines, ie., future goals, unwanted pregnancies, STDs, etc, many of whom I’ve met. If that is the case, then abstinence education programs may not be that unreasonable.


Private Charity? WWJD?

imageI was going to post a longer version of a response in a point by point fashion, but I think I’ll cover the gist of what Boyd is trying to say here (the link won’t work to Greg Boyd’s site. You will have to copy and paste in your url. Working on it.):
http://reknew.org/2012/08/shouldnt-preachers-rally-christians-to-fight-political-injustice-2/ In this post, Greg Boyd sees all earthly governments as inherently evil (as he has said in the past) and when you add into the mix the issue of Christians not doing their part, we essentially have incompetent Christians leaving it to evil government to help the poor.

There are a couple of points that I think should be noted.

1. There is the WWJD hermeneutic that Boyd works from. We’ll look at this a little more closely below. But suffice to say, Boyd seems to convolute things by talking about how much we don’t know about given situations (the ambiguity) that we are left with an almost paralysis with regard to the what we might do. Let me ask this: “What if Jesus actually were to “size up” a situation and then come away with the idea that government can play and indeed OUGHT to play an important role with regard to the poor, homeless and oppressed?” Admittedly, there is a truth to the ambiguity to situations, but what I will discuss below with regard to governmental involvement is really not affected by Boyd’s stance on this score ie., pitting the ambiguity question over against the governmental involvement question. Pitting ambiguity over against telling government what to do. It’s a category mistake.

2. There seems to be a smugness in this post because it is based upon a perceived understanding of the question of the homeless, the poor and the oppressed. Boyd tells us to, “Try to understand the issues surrounding poverty and everything else and make the best choices you can.” But that’s almost contradictory to what he said just above with regard to the ambiguity of situations, now all of a sudden, we are to try to understand the issues and make the best choices that we can. Hmmm…again, what if this were to include governmental involvement? I mean, is that to be ruled out?

OK…let me make the point even clearer. A number of years ago, Jim Skillen of the Center for Public Justice edited a book called, “Welfare In America.” In a chapter by, John D. Mason entitled, “Biblical Teaching and the Objectives of Welfare Policy in the United States,” Mason says under a section titled, “The Sufficiency of Private Charity” (quoted at lenght):

“The second argument I wi1l address is that of Marvin 0lasky. He reviews the American experience of private assistance concentrating primarily on the response to urban poverty in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries,” identifies the attributes of effective charity, and offers these historical insights as the basis for reforming welfare today. Olasky chronicles and systematizes the voluntary efforts of primarily non-employed middle-class wives to address urban squalor and poverty, stressing particularly their willingness to ‘suffer with’ the poor (personal involvement)—and to exercise, in the process a form of tough love by categorizing and assisting those who were truly needy. These efforts largely were fueled by earnest Christians and Jews who were submitting themselves to the regular teaching about the importance of sacrificial ministry to the poor.”

According to the attributes of effective assistance as practiced in
nineteenth-century America, the conditions of any poor individual or family were investigated personally to determine whether they were truly deserving. Where behavioral traits contributed to the poverty, changes in these traits were made the condition for assistance. In-kind assistance was preferred to cash assistance, and dolegiving and almsgiving were discouraged because they broke down independence and undermined character. Olasky offers us mnemonic list of seven “marks of compassion,” which include (in addition to the items already mentioned) the importance of helping the poor find employment and of establishing a right relationship with God.

Although Olasky sugests that in the years prior to the 1930s
assistance was wholly in the hands of private agencies and individuals, he in fact records a considerable amount of local government assistance. This must mean that in some situations, at least public assistance may bear the marks of authentic compassion, even though Olasky is at pains to argue that bad (public) charity drives out good (private) charity. And while he rightly emphasizes the beneficial effects of a voluntary response, he also shows, but with less emphasis, that there existed a number of limitations on the adequacy of this response. He speaks of a number of places for instance, of “compassion fatigue” in the face of overwhelming squalor and seeming hopelessness. He bemoans, particularly, the post-Civil War movement of the middle class away from the central cities, thereby breaking the spatial proximity that naturally encouraged volunteerism. The emerging reality of middle-class suburbanization strained existing charitable organizations, forcing them to rely upon greater professionalism in both fund-raising appeals and the use of hired employee in place of volunteers.”

Writing of the early l930s, he notes that charitable organizations had their own short term exigences as the better off also were affected by economic pressures and as groups devoted personal interaction had trouble adusting to masses at the door. Sadly, just as the Depression increased demand–from 1929-32–at least four hundred of the nations private welfare agencies went under. But the problems of supply were also the result of a long-term trend toward personal contribution.

Olasky’s numerous examples of sacrificial effort and good works, as American citizens struggled amidst the growing strain of industrialization and urbanization, serve us well–as does his helpful catalogue of the nature of effective response. Yet, despite his own agenda, his history also helps us understand why this nation started down the road to government overseen welfare programs. Voluntary efforts, he shows became insufficient to the need early in this century. This was due in part to what he terms growing “economic segregation” by which the nonpoor increasingly separated themselves geographically from the poor and thus lost sight of them and their plight. But he points as well to another, and even more important, cause of the decline in volunteerism:

‘Throughout the nineteenth century the rock on which compassion was undergoing erosion. The chief erosion was theological: the belief that sinful man, left to himself, would return to wilderness, seemed harshly pessimistic. Other erosion toward the end of the century was political and eoonomic, as Social Darwinists and Social Universalists both assailed the idea that personal involvement could make a substantial difference. The erosion for a time did not seem crucial, but the long-term effect was severe enough to make the twentieth century not the Christian century, as celebrants in I900 predicted but the century of wilderness returning.’

lf 0lasky’s argmnent here is correct, then contrary to his implication, the all-too-reluctant entry by governments into the fight against poverty was an essential step, because the religious foundations of the earlier volunteer efforts had become seriously undermined. As the newly dominant congressional Republicans began in early l995 drastically to reform the welfare system, Olasky and his argument became identified with the view that private charity in the nineteenth century offered a more effective and efficient response compared to government-mediated assistance and that the poor of the nation today would be served more compassionately by returning to the earlier arrangement. However, his own historical account offers contradictory evidence of the sufficiency of the earlier response. Indeed, the longer historical record shows that an effective response typically has combined private and public efforts whether we range back to Talmudic teaching about care for the urban poor around 500 A.D., poverty relief in the Middle Ages and under Luther and Calvin, or look to colonial New England, which modelled its provisions consciously on biblical teaching. On what basis, then, can one call today for moving to primary reliance upon private assistance…”

So here’s the thing.

WHAT IF CHARITY IS NOT SO CHARITABLE?

Boyd, like most of those on the religious left, bemoan the fact that those on the right, will speak up against some moral issue or another (other than the poor and homeless, etc) and then they say that God is MORE CONCERNED for the poor and homeless and the oppressed and THEN, on this perceived, understanding of the issue, they speak about the problem which is simplified and polarized(ing).

There are a lot of reasons for people not giving to personal charity. It doesn’t simply come down to selfishness (as noted in Mason’s essay). I find it strange that for all the talk against consumerism and capitalism that Boyd would rather people keep more of their own money so as to be able to give personally to charity. Yet, history seems to indicate that the more money folk have at their disposal, the more they want to keep to themselves. Isn’t this essentially what Boyd is complaining about with regard to the 97% from the Barna survey?

If Mason is correct, then personal charities experience “compassion fatigue” for various reasons ie., geographical proximity and let’s not forget, that they too have a criteria by which they judge someone as “worthy” of charity.

Now, ask yourself, the WWJD question. If it is the case that private charity can’t or won’t or (what have you) do the job, what would be wrong with government stepping in? In other words, looking at this issue we have:

A. The poor
B. Private Charity
C. Government

If private charity can’t “do the job” (well enough) are we to really say that Jesus would insist that Caesar not “kick in help” as a part of it’s God given calling and responsibility? If Jesus were to “try to understand the issues and make the best choices,” would Jesus not look at what Mason is saying and conclude that there IS a role for government in helping the poor? All Boyd sees is one answer: Private charity. And because of his anabaptist ideology, can’t bring himself to admit that government can and should play a normative role in helping the poor, homeless and oppressed.