Weeding in the Gospel Garden?

“Almighty and most merciful God, we remember before you all poor and neglected persons whom it would be easy for us to forget: the homeless and the destitute, the old and the sick, and all who have none to care for them. Help us to heal those who are broken in body and spirit, and to turn their sorrow into joy. Grant this, Father, for the love of your Son, who for our sake became poor, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
-The Book of Common Prayer

Here are reflections on three encounters I had yesterday in my community.  To be sure, there were other more encouraging encounters as well, but these are common enough.  Perhaps they are in your community as well.

A middle class wage earner with a safe job is upset that some working poor can claim income tax credits that not only eliminate their federal income tax obligations but provide a refund as well.  That they are poor, working, paying a host of other state and local taxes as well as FICA, and that this refund might make the difference between just being poor and absolute destitution does not seem to enter into the conversation.

A local convenience store clerk, himself among the working poor, has Mike Savage turned up so loud on the store radio that everyone can hear him.  He thinks this extreme bigot, who deliberately incites as much internecine hatred as possible, is very intelligent, someone who really knows what’s going on and is telling the truth about America.  Now he knows who to blame for this poverty, and it includes the Asians who own the store he works in.

Local conventional wisdom believes the stimulus package is only and nothing but pork-laden earmarks.  The economy could be fixed just by getting rid of all that pork.  But the news that stimulus funds will help rebuild some local infrastructure, a VA facility and solve some long standing pollution issues has been greeted with joy as receiving, at long last, what we have always deserved.

Any argument to the contrary is certain to be rejected as nothing but more of that vast left-wing conspiracy leading us toward either Socialism or Fascism (take your pick).

Does the Gospel have anything to say to this?

Where does the Sunday sermon come into any of this?

What prophetic boldness is required of faithful preachers?

What would be the cost of that boldness?

What does Holy Week and Easter have to say to any of this?

7 thoughts on “Weeding in the Gospel Garden?”

  1. The far right have mastered the art of persuading people to vote and act against their own self-interest by creating all sorts of demons for them to hate instead of their real oppressors.Populism is a narrative that places ordinary folk against \”the interests. Right wing populism pits people against \”interests\” like the immigrants, the feminists and the gays – even though these are not the interests who are the root of ordinary folks\’ problems.Progressive populism, by contrast, offers a truer narrative about how the concerns of ordinary folk are subverted to the grasping of interests like the banks, the railroads and the economic elite – interests who really have had a direct hand in creating the present economic mess, who have consistently sold out ordinary folk in their grasp for greater profits.Part of the problem, of course, is that much of the progressive leadership in North America are not \”ordinary folk\” at all, but people from the economic and cultural elites who, though having greater conscience and honestly wanting to bring fairness to ordinary folk, are still elitists who look down on ordinary folk.So while the grasping economic elite look down on ordinary folk with contempt, the counter-cultural elitists of the left look down on them with patronizing paternalism – thus giving a false credence to the bigotted rants of the right wing false populists, the Limbaughs and the Savages.So Kerry comes off as elitist (and he is) while Bush comes off as a regular guy (which he ain\’t).Part of the genius of Obama was that the elitist narrative couldn\’t stick to a biracial kid raised by his working class grandparents. Neither had it stuck (at least not very well) to the working-class rooted Clinton, though his own failings and tactical errors unidid any capacity he might have had to move the discourse to the left.

  2. Malcolm, My only caution to your remarks would be to not equate the elite of whom you wrote with wealth, education, or place of residence. Moreover, some of the elite of whom you wrote are rather condescending and haughty, but some of them are just plain ignorant in a naive sort of way. I know one fine and gentle lady who had absolutely no conception of why one would not fly first class if one didn\’t like the cramped seating in coach. And, at her age, there wasn\’t much point in trying to enlighten her.CP

  3. Obviously I feel strongly about the things I write, and it saddens me that not one of my diocesan clergy colleagues reads it. In fact, a recent quick survey indicated that they seldom read anything online other than their own e-mail. For the most part these are well educated people, and when we get together for clergy meetings a lot of exciting things can happen. I am dismayed at how unwilling they are to engage in electronic communications that can develop into real conversation, even as they complain about rural isolation.CP

  4. Bruno,On the site \”Simple Massing Priest\” I watched a video of Abp Romero preaching with prophetic boldness. It was powerful, and it cost him his life.

  5. CP,Saint = a person of faith, Romero, indeed was one of which to be proud, if one be allowed to have pride at his brethren living christian example of our call.I wonder, how many preachers are willing to feed those who are truly starved for the food of the Gospel of Jesus our Christ, if it means emptying our larder of grand edifice & full pews of finely dressed high tithing children of God?As we journey into Holy Week it is a good time to ask the questions you pose.

  6. Thanks for plugging SMP.On your other point, you are absolutely correct that sometimes the bizarre attitudes of wealthy or well educated progressives have more to do with ignorance than arrogance.

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