Wednesday, February 03, 2010
Poverty sucks -- but why?
St. Francis's "strict view of the vow of poverty" was the most controversial item on the Franciscan agenda. (Pelikan, 140).
Why is it that anytime the church, or some prominent preacher or someone else in the church, says anything firm or definitive about poverty, it is controversial? Is it because self-preservation requires the consumption of things -- and even squirrels store away a little extra for lean times -- and so any vow of poverty is seen as not just ascetic, but over-the-top and weird? Is it because self-preservation is just a half-click away from selfishness? But aren't they the same thing? Are our natural inclinations to defend and preserve ourselves actually then expressions of sin? Is that what a "sinful nature" is? (I think so, that that is the very nut of sin: self.)
But why are actions the church and church people take to alleviate poverty also so controversial? Is it just because in this country giving to the poor flies in the face of one of the tenets of our civic religion -- self-reliance, use of "our own bootstraps" and all that? Is it because we really are in denial that the poor we will have with us always, and so we expect at some point to have everybody's belly filled?
On the other side of it, then why is the so-called prosperity gospel so uncontroversial outside progressive Christian circles? "Prosperity" flies in the face of the simple life Jesus's followers seem to have been admonished to live out, and would absolutely boggle Francis's mind.
Poverty is relative, subsistance is not. Of course, the Pope has taken a vow of poverty but not of subsistance. Budahist monks however with only a rice bowl and robe might be at the subsistance level.
Then I can see the blessedness.
Is that what Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster, by way of Joplin, meant by "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose"?
Whoa. Not sure I've ever heard that lyric quite this way before ... cool.