27 March 2011

A good question

Fr Donald Schell over at Daily Episcopalian. Though I feel Adam Smith’s emotivist expression of morality already leads in that direction (away from the ancient virtue ethicists Socrates, Plato and St Augustine), I have a deep appreciation for Fr Donald’s reading of the American church’s history of decline.

It seems to me that the first two of Fr Donald’s questions find ready answers in Scripture and in the traditions of the Church. Given Jesus’ assertions that wealth and the service of Mammon were problematic, that landlords should share their produce freely with the poor, and that relief for the poor was not to be found in the marketplace but rather through common pooling of resources (as in the Feeding of the Multitudes), Jesus would certainly have been a socialist, but in the anarcho-mutualist varietal rather than an orthodox Marxist; and the Christian position on taxation is repay to Caesar what you owe to Caesar (and without a doubt the rich owe much more to Caesar - in both proportional and in absolute terms - than the poor do).

The third question, of ‘how can Christians renew a vision of the Common Good?’ is Fr Donald’s most difficult - and most pressing - one. I have a suspicion that the answer could involve a public return to mediaeval thinking about virtue and what it means to lead a fulfilled, examined life. I have a stronger suspicion that the answer must involve tearing down the idolatrous consumerist illusions of ‘the American Dream’.

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