Sunday, February 28, 2010

Radicality -- Sharing What We Have

I wonder if anyone had qualms that I was writing out too much of Father Dubay's book. I thought about that, but I am mainly focusing on his key points, and most if not all of them are available in the online preview. And I am trying to share MY thoughts on the points not just summarize his. So if you see problems they are no doubt mine, not his, and what I'm saying here is both less and different from what is in the book. I do recommend the book -- sometimes challenging because it is counter-cultural, but very thought-provoking.

Now, to go on to his second attribute of Level One Radicality, which is "sharing", and my analogy to the natural ecology. Nature does not really "share" in the sense that it is a voluntary equalization among different individuals or species. Sharing is something that only rational beings do. However, nature does have a distributive balance. Much as I like Darwin's writing I am afraid that when he took the term "survival of the fittest" from Spencer he ended up focusing on something that is either a kind of tautology, or potentially misleading. Given the logic, cockroaches and bacteria seem to be the "fittest" species. But the most evident fact about nature or ecology as a whole is that it is set up in such a way that things are fairly, elegantly balanced. Whenever things are unevenly balanced there is a redistributive tendency. We see this up in the mountains all the time. One season there are lots of squirrels -- the next, less squirrels and more coyotes. We haven't yet figured out why one year we had a proliferation of daddy-long-legs and why they always appear near the end of September.

Sometimes a micro-ecology will be affected by a new arrival and become distorted by it. I think I read about the toad population in some part of Australia. They were introduced to work against some pest and they ended up having no natural counterbalance and taking over a niche to themselves. Something similar happened in Maui, I believe, with the rats from the ships and then mongeese introduced to counter them.

Now, in the world of man, there is free choice and room for much injustice. The wicked man prospers temporally and the poor man groans in misery. There is no doubt that an important part of God's revelation concerned equalization of the imbalances that men tolerate and take advantage of. As stewards of what God has given us we are responsible for ensuring as much as we personally can a healthy distribution rather than a dysfunctional, distorted one.

The New Testament is full of recommendations to share, to give work to the unemployed, to take responsibility for the unfortunate and to be hospitable. Father Dubay talks about a "rough equality" which seems to me to be similar to what the ecology tends to do naturally. Because of sin, there is never equity. All the more reasons for Christians, who see a bigger picture since they have been told that eventually the wicked will perish and the poor will be comforted, to go beyond the temporal call of duty in sharing, even if it makes them lose some comforts and luxuries for themselves.

The Acts of Mercy which I mentioned in my last post probably fit better here, actually. But there is a lot of overlap between Father Dubay's points, anyway -- as he says, the message is quite seamless. In Luke 3 John the Baptist advises those who are sincere about drawing closer to God:

"Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise."

"Stop collecting more than what is prescribed."

"Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages."

This implies justice and sobriety in desires as working parallel to sharing. Various encyclicals, like Populorum Progressio and Sollicitudo rei socialis, emphasize that Christians should be concerned with wider social and international needs, too.

22. In the very first pages of Scripture we read these words: "Fill the earth and subdue it."(19) This teaches us that the whole of creation is for man, that he has been charged to give it meaning by his intelligent activity, to complete and perfect it by his own efforts and to his own advantage.

Now if the earth truly was created to provide man with the necessities of life and the tools for his own progress, it follows that every man has the right to glean what he needs from the earth. The recent Council reiterated this truth: "God intended the earth and everything in it for the use of all human beings and peoples. Thus, under the leadership of justice and in the company of charity, created goods should flow fairly to all." (20)

All other rights, whatever they may be, including the rights of property and free trade, are to be subordinated to this principle. They should in no way hinder it; in fact, they should actively facilitate its implementation. Redirecting these rights back to their original purpose must be regarded as an important and urgent social duty.

I know I can be suspicious of government and charitable agencies because I am not sure if my money is being used wisely or morally. My mom gave me the link to this website: Charity Navigator. It rates how different charities perform as far as how much money gets to the actual cause, etc.

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