Monday, April 7, 2008

A Post on Religion, Politics AND Money together

[Sorry, this post is longer than I would like. Just read the first paragraph and give me your thoughts, unless you are REALLY interested]

I wonder if the problem with this country is not our prosperity. The good books says "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle..." i.e. wealth is an obstacle to the individual. I think maybe it's an obstacle to a country as well.

I have a lot of, so to speak, "random thoughts while shaving" on this topic (some contining on the line of wondering if the country paralels the individula):

1) Somebody told me they saw a sociological study on how people seem to have increased difficulties if they have either too much or two little money. The problems can be overcome, but "it is easier....". If the phenomenon does not reach to the level of the contry, it reacehes at least to the level of the corporation: The mom and pops company that is not doing so well, has an increades liklihood to engage in unethical practices; the corporation who sees the opportunity to make a lot of money over a short period likewise has an increased liklihood to engage in unethical behavior. It's better to have a healthy steady income. There is the proverb about becoming wealthy suddenly and destroying yourself.

2) As an individual, if you are healthy, wealthy and popular, there is an increased tendency to feel he does not need God or or his fellow. On a personal note, I can be close to intolerable when I taste success. My chances of avoiding damnation are "iffy" at best. Were it not for pain, failure, embarrassment, and the like, I'd be on the highway to hell. Somebody said "I believe in getting into hot water; it keeps you clean."

3) Early Rome, on the path to greatness is full of virtuous men. Note how once Rome became successful, the anecdotes from history turn from examples of virtue and self-sacrifice to examples of greed, backstabbing, orgies and the vomitorium.

4) Other than 911, the last successful attack on the continental U.S. from a foreign army, was some Mexican's thugs that who made a brief foray but ended up being strapped to the hood of Lt. George S. Patton's car. That was pretty minor. Before that, what? the war of 1812? America has not seen the grisly face of war on the home front since the 1860's and America has never suffered a bombing campaign to "break the will of the people."


Rodak said...

I cannot think of even one positive thing that Jesus has to say about money, when he is really speaking of money as material wealth. He sometimes used money as a metaphor for spiritual gifts and/or growth, as in the story of the unworthy servant, or the pearl of great price. But when money is money, it's a bad thing.
The thought occurs that there is a disconnect in this respect between the Old Testament and the Gospels. The Jews tended to believe that God rewarded righteous attention to the Mosaic Law with material rewards in this life. Money, power, possessions, in the OT are signs of God's approval and favor. In the Gospels, this is quite clearly not the case.
As for America, all of our wealth has served only to lead us into a descending spiral of cheap thrills and spiritual decadence, or so it seems to me. Britney Spears is a pretty good symbol of contemporary America.

Civis said...

Something we agree on. Cool.

It seems to me that Religous folk in the U.S. tend to take the Old Testament view. It might have its root in the so-called "Doctrine of the Elect." I recall in Psychology 101 (well, at LSU, they called it 1001) they talked about the "Just World Bias." Anyway, what I'm talking about is that there is a tendency to view the well-off, good looking and popular as being good, or at least to view the poor, physically unattractive, and sickly as being somehow blameworthy. Notice how often you will hear somebody imply that a person who is suffer must have deserved it.

Rodak said...

It seems to me that Religous folk in the U.S. tend to take the Old Testament view.


Notice how often you will hear somebody imply that a person who is suffer must have deserved it.

Yes, again.

Rodak said...

I think that it might be useful to contemplate the message of the excerpts I used in this post, in the present context.

Civis said...

Yeah, but I still don't get the quote you gave.

Ryan Hallford said...

I would like include some text from Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton that I have been musing over for the last few months. This is from Chapter Seven- The Eternal Revolution:

"Only the Christian Church can offer any rational objection to a complete confidence in the rich. For she has maintained from the beginning that the danger was not in man's environment, but in man. Further, she has maintained that if we come to talk of a dangerous environment, the most dangerous environment of all is the commodious environment. I know that the most modern manufacture has been really occupied in trying to produce an abnormally large needle. I know that the most recent biologists have been chiefly anxious to discover a very small camel. But if we diminish the camel to his smallest, or open the eye of the needle to its largest -- if, in short, we assume the words of Christ to have meant the very least that they could mean, His words must at the very least mean this -- that rich men are not very likely to be morally trustworthy. Christianity even when watered down is hot enough to boil all modern society to rags. The mere minimum of the Church would be a deadly ultimatum to the world. For the whole modern world is absolutely based on the assumption, not that the rich are necessary (which is tenable), but that the rich are trustworthy, which (for a Christian) is not tenable. You will hear everlastingly, in all discussions about newspapers, companies, aristocracies, or party politics, this argument that the rich man cannot be bribed. The fact is, of course, that the rich man is bribed; he has been bribed already. That is why he is a rich man. The whole case for Christianity is that a man who is dependent upon the luxuries of this life is a corrupt man, spiritually corrupt, politically corrupt, financially corrupt. There is one thing that Christ and all the Christian saints have said with a sort of savage monotony. They have said simply that to be rich is to be in peculiar danger of moral wreck. It is not demonstrably un-Christian to kill the rich as violators of definable justice. It is not demonstrably un-Christian to crown the rich as convenient rulers of society. It is not certainly un-Christian to rebel against the rich or to submit to the rich. But it is quite certainly un-Christian to trust the rich, to regard the rich as more morally safe than the poor. A Christian may consistently say, "I respect that man's rank, although he takes bribes." But a Christian cannot say, as all modern men are saying at lunch and breakfast, "a man of that rank would not take bribes." For it is a part of Christian dogma that any man in any rank may take bribes. It is a part of Christian dogma; it also happens by a curious coincidence that it is a part of obvious human history. When people say that a man "in that position" would be incorruptible, there is no need to bring Christianity into the discussion. Was Lord Bacon a bootblack? Was the Duke of Marlborough a crossing sweeper? In the best Utopia, I must be prepared for the moral fall of any man in any position at any moment; especially for my fall from my position at this moment.

Much vague and sentimental journalism has been poured out to the effect that Christianity is akin to democracy, and most of it is scarcely strong or clear enough to refute the fact that the two things have often quarrelled. The real ground upon which Christianity and democracy are one is very much deeper. The one specially and peculiarly un-Christian idea is the idea of Carlyle -- the idea that the man should rule who feels that he can rule. Whatever else is Christian, this is heathen. If our faith comments on government at all, its comment must be this -- that the man should rule who does not think that he can rule. Carlyle's hero may say, "I will be king"; but the Christian saint must say "Nolo episcopari." If the great paradox of Christianity means anything, it means this -- that we must take the crown in our hands, and go hunting in dry places and dark corners of the earth until we find the one man who feels himself unfit to wear it. Carlyle was quite wrong; we have not got to crown the exceptional man who knows he can rule. Rather we must crown the much more exceptional man who knows he can't.

Now, this is one of the two or three vital defences of working democracy. The mere machinery of voting is not democracy, though at present it is not easy to effect any simpler democratic method. But even the machinery of voting is profoundly Christian in this practical sense -- that it is an attempt to get at the opinion of those who would be too modest to offer it. It is a mystical adventure; it is specially trusting those who do not trust themselves. That enigma is strictly peculiar to Christendom. There is nothing really humble about the abnegation of the Buddhist; the mild Hindoo is mild, but he is not meek. But there is something psychologically Christian about the idea of seeking for the opinion of the obscure rather than taking the obvious course of accepting the opinion of the prominent. To say that voting is particularly Christian may seem somewhat curious. To say that canvassing is Christian may seem quite crazy. But canvassing is very Christian in its primary idea. It is encouraging the humble; it is saying to the modest man, "Friend, go up higher." Or if there is some slight defect in canvassing, that is in its perfect and rounded piety, it is only because it may possibly neglect to encourage the modesty of the canvasser.

Aristocracy is not an institution: aristocracy is a sin; generally a very venial one. It is merely the drift or slide of men into a sort of natural pomposity and praise of the powerful, which is the most easy and obvious affair in the world."

Civis said...


Thanks for bringing us back to that wonderful passage. BTW, was it GKC that said "I believe in getting into hot water...."?

You know the flip side of that last paragraph, one I have been musing on, is that there needs to be people with sufficient leisure to be able to study to have the knowledge to govern. In More's Utopia, every citizen is given time and required to study. Is that Utopian? What if the common man cannot or will not do the work needed to build a good society?

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