20 May 2013

Quotes from two Orthodox ‘social justice’ Christians


For it is lawful to be rich, but without covetousness, without rapine and violence, and an ill report from all men. With these arguments let us first smooth them down, and not as yet discourse of hell. For the sick man endures not yet such sayings. Wherefore let us go to this world for all our arguments upon these matters; and say, Why is it your choice to be rich through covetousness? That the gold and the silver may be laid up for others, but for you, curses and accusations innumerable? That he whom you have defrauded may be stung by want of the very necessaries of life, and bewail himself, and draw down upon you the censure of thousands; and may go at fall of evening about the market place, encountering every one in the alleys, and in utter perplexity, and not knowing what to trust to even for that one night? For how is he to sleep after all, with pangs of the belly, restless famine besetting him, and that often while it is freezing, and the rain coming down on him? And while thou, having washed, returnest home from the bath, in a glow with soft raiment, merry of heart and rejoicing, and hastening unto a banquet prepared and costly: he, driven every where about the market place by cold and hunger, takes his round, stooping low and stretching out his hands; nor has he even spirit without trembling to make his suit for his necessary food to one so full fed and so bent on taking his ease; nay, often he has to retire with insult.

[...]

What wild beast would not be softened by these things? Who is there so savage and inhuman that these things should not make him mild? And yet there are some who are arrived at such a pitch of cruelty as even to say that they deserve what they suffer. Yea, when they ought to pity, and weep, and help to alleviate men's calamities, they on the contrary visit them with savage and inhuman censures. Of these I should be glad to ask, Tell me, why do they deserve what they suffer? Is it because they would be fed and not starve?

No, you will reply; but because they would be fed in idleness. And thou, dost not thou wanton in idleness? What say I? Are you not oft-times toiling in an occupation more grievous than any idleness, grasping, and oppressing, and coveting? Better were it if you too were idle after this sort; for it is better to be idle in this way, than to be covetous. But now thou even tramplest on the calamities of others, not only idling, not only pursuing an occupation worse than idleness, but also maligning those who spend their days in misery.

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And these things I say, not because riches are a sin: the sin is in not distributing them to the poor, and in the wrong use of them. For God made nothing evil but all things very good; so that riches too are good; i.e. if they do not master their owners; if the wants of our neighbors be done away by them. For neither is that light good which instead of dissipating darkness rather makes it intense: nor should I call that wealth, which instead of doing away poverty rather increases it.
- St John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Corinthians

And therefore, in light of this:
If your earnings are higher, consequently, that increases your moral responsibility to society, too; it follows that you can afford to pay more taxes to help those who can’t earn their own bread.

Society shouldn’t be a place where wolves chase rabbits; even a wolf pack has a certain amount of mutual support. If society refuses to support its weaker members, of necessity, it surrenders to the ‘law of the jungle’. This isn’t vacuous moralising; all of human history validates these things.
- Fr Vsevolod Chaplin, Proshchenoe Voskresen’e, 2011

It should be noted that Fr Chaplin’s policy prescriptions, for a progressive taxation scheme, are quite modest indeed. St John Chrysostom was much more strident. The wealthy people who claim that they are entitled to what they have merely because they have earned it, and who say the poor deserve their lot for being lazy, put themselves in real peril of their souls.

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