Sunday, April 12, 2015

Christianity Was Meant To Be Radical

The community of believers was of one heart and mind,
and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own,
but they had everything in common.
With great power the apostles bore witness
to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus,
and great favor was accorded them all.
There was no needy person among them,
for those who owned property or houses would sell them,
bring the proceeds of the sale,
and put them at the feet of the apostles,
and they were distributed to each according to need.

Acts 4:32-35

This is one of the readings for Catholic mass today, one of the proofs that Christianity was meant, from the beginning to be focused on radical economic justice.

Dorothy Day's House of Hospitality from the Catholic Worker website is the book I'm reading right now.   It's a real life, modern times remaking of that community, not limited to believers but as a modern day medieval hospice after the vision of Peter Maurin, the brilliant, eccentric, saint without whom Dorothy Day said in the first paragraph of the book,

THE story of the Catholic Worker begins with Peter. If it were not for Peter there would be no Catholic Worker. If it were not for Peter there would be no Houses of Hospitality and Farming Communes. Peter has changed the life of thousands of people. I met Peter Maurin in December, 1932, right after the Hunger March staged by the Communists.

In one of his Easy Essays she included in the introduction to the book Peter Maurin wrote:

Albert J. Nock says,
          "The Catholic Church
          will have to do more
          than to play
          a waiting game: she will have to make use
          of some of the dynamite
          inherent in her message."
         To blow the dynamite
          of a message,
          is the only way to make that message
         Catholic scholars
          have taken the dynamite
          of the church;
          they have wrapped it up
          in nice phraseology,
          have placed it
          in an hermetically
          sealed container,
          placed the lid
          over the container,
          and sat on the lid.
         It is about time
          to take the lid off
          and to make
          the Catholic dynamite

It's not just the Catholic establishment that took the dynamite out of the gospels, it is pretty much the mainstream of Christianity that did that.  Perhaps that's to be expected, most people are either unwilling or unable to make those kinds of radical commitments to justice.   And it's as true of non-Christians.  What is different about Catholic Worker is that it has lasted far longer than most such efforts.  While I disagree with Peter Maurin's distrust of government programs and don't see any way for an effective scale of relief to the poor and a more nearly universal provision of economic justice without democratic government being aimed at the problem, it may turn out that Catholic Worker and similar movements are more durable and, dependent on religious faith instead of political winds and trends, more sustainable.  

If Christians followed the teachings of Jesus and those followers who first knew him, it would be the most popular force in human culture.  The choice to not follow those teachings, to make compromises fatal to it have led to the long list of scandals and crimes that are cited by the enemies of Christianity and the model for the lies and myths they construct when the actual scandals and crimes need to be padded out in their PR efforts.  The choice is obvious, the one that gets taken isn't automatic, it's a matter of choice.

1 comment:

  1. There is a great deal of Christian history that is shameful.

    And a great deal that isn't.

    The choice of which to perpetuate is always present.