Monday, February 27, 2006

Fr. Jim Rosselli on Rights, Entitlements, and Man as an Island

Fr. Jim Rosselli, a clergyman of the Orthodox Church of Canada (Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church), has some noteworthy comments on the discussion that ensued from the posting of a column by Dr. Walter E. Williams, "Bogus Rights" on the Orthodox Re-Forum. Let us attend:

I think that in our (laudatory) rejection of the corrupt Liberalism of the past fifty years, we must be careful not to slingshot into an equally corrupt reaction formation.

It is time in this discussion to pick up a Bible, and to see what God's attitude toward the poor is, and what he commands our attitude should be.

We need to reflect that the attitude and command are both real, and both His, and that we are not allowed dismiss or diminish them, or buy ourselves off from the very real responsibilities they impose upon those who wear His Name.

Irresponsible Conservatism does the same thing that irresponsible Liberalism does: it reduces human beings from being flesh and blood to being ink and paper.

Perhaps no individual has a "right" to health care if he cannot afford it: but God imposes upon us a reponsibility to get him the care he needs, regardless of whether or not he has a "right."

Perhaps no individual has a "right" to a living wage; but God imposes a responsibility upon those who employ people to care for them.

When this was a Christian country, those responsibilities were met as a matter of course. Those who did not meet them were considered irresponsible by their peer group. To be sure, it was done with an air of "noblesse oblige" that would rankle any self-respecting Leftist--but it was done.

Our secularized nation has attempted to replace both the Church and the family with The Government.

As we get away from this, we need to remember that the Church, long seduced into complacent laziness and dampening of zeal, needs to get its wheels under it, again. Priests need to start rebuilding the family ethic. Parishioners need to remember that they, too, are part of the ministry of the Church, and start making arrangements to provide people what they need.

If we are going to preach a government with no entitlements, we had best gear up our Christian hospitals, exhort our Christian doctors and catechize our Christian employers about what their--and our--responsibiities are.

To use the "freedom" of the poor as an excuse to abdicate our responsibility toward them is to fall into the ethical black hole of a Godless adolescent, of an Ayn Rand or a Freiderich Nietzsche, whose principles are antithetical to those of the Gospel of Christ. Yet, I think too many Christians, quite properly conservative, fall into the secular "sink or awim" mentality of ethically immature secularists.

There is a difference between Christian conservatism and the bloodless oligarchism of the neocons. it is on us to convert them, not to be converted by them.

The Body of Christ is commanded by the Lord to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and comfort the distressed. We need to respond by doing just that. We are nowhere given permission not to.

The alternative--the only alternative--is to finally hear the Lord inform us, "I never knew you."

1 comment:

Ephrem said...

[Originally posted 2006-3-1 @ 9:03:04 am]

A couple of observations on Fr. Jim's excellent words:

First, though I may know of some few individuals who live as though they have "slingshot[ted] into an equally corrupt reaction," I know of no Christian, Orthodox or otherwise, who self-consciously advocates indifference toward the poor. The warning may be timely because of our glaring failure to create Christian parallel structures to take care of the needs of the poor, but in actuality, those Christians who oppose government interventionism cannot, in all fairness, be accused of coldheartedness because they don't look to the Moloch State for earthly salvation. The Christian Right has very good reasons for opposing the Social Gospel programme of coercion-based State-sponsored "charity", not the least of which is the well-documented evidence that the New Deal and the Great Society have deepened and greatly expanded the problem they purport to solve, creating an entrenched welfare state which demands ever greater entitlement programmes.

It is indeed "time in this discussion to pick up a Bible, and to see what God’s attitude toward the poor is, and what he commands our attitude should be." In fact, I have seen this from members of the Protestant Right, while the Orthodox are generally quite satisfied to call for "voluntary poverty", ignoring the Christian duty to create wealth that can be used to care for those less fortunate [see the lead article in the Fall 2005 issue of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship's "In Communion", Downward Mobility], and more government intervention--in itself an abdication of our own responsibility to the poor, something Fr. Jim eloquently alludes to, saying "[W]e need to remember that the Church, long seduced into complacent laziness and dampening of zeal, needs to get its wheels under it, again. Priests need to start rebuilding the family ethic. Parishioners need to remember that they, too, are part of the ministry of the Church, and start making arrangements to provide people what they need. If we are going to preach a government with no entitlements, we had best gear up our Christian hospitals, exhort our Christian doctors and catechize our Christian employers about what their–and our–responsibiities are...The Body of Christ is commanded by the Lord to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and comfort the distressed. We need to respond by doing just that. We are nowhere given permission not to. The alternative–the only alternative–is to finally hear the Lord inform us, 'I never knew you.'"

Among the excellent works of Protestants that address this issue, both in theoretical and practical terms, are:

* David Chilton: Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators
* George Grant: Bringing in the Sheaves
* George Grant: In the Shadow of Plenty