Gauging the Mood

Posted in: Current Events,Popular Culture by bill-o on February 21, 2009

Sometimes what lies beneath the surface rises up above the ground. This happens when a person or group of people says what many in a larger society are thinking or feeling, yet, for whatever reason, this point-of-view had not been communicated to the society as a whole. Many would agree that just such an event occurred on one of the American financial news channels this past week.

For those of you who have not seen the instantly famous “rant” by CNBC financial news reporter Rick Santelli on 19 Feb 2009, please see:

Rick Santelli in Chicago on CNBC

(For those of you outside of the United States who may not know what CNBC is, CNBC is one of two U.S. cable/satellite television channels devoted to business and financial news.)

Whether or not you agree with Mr. Santelli (and I would venture to say that many in the U.S. agree and disagree with him), I think that his view and tone reflects the mood of many people in the U.S.

In the United States and in many other nations today, people are scared and upset on all sides of political aisles because of the recent financial crises. Many are losing their homes, jobs, or much of their life savings. Some cry out for more government assistance while others protest such ideas.

Shadows and Symbols does not normally endorse political views, but I do believe that ideas about economics and politics that are expressed in the overall “marketplace of ideas” are important to observe and consider. Ideas precede actions after all. Politics and even economics are a reflection of deeper moral values and understandings of individuals and societies, and those on spiritual journeys need to be sensitive to the world around them, both of the good and of the bad.

Yet an observation of difficult financial times need not lead to fear, but rather is an opportunity for faith. No, we don’t know how or when these worldwide financial problems will conclude nor can we wish away “angry” arguments from different political and economic view points, but we can use this eventful time to ┬áreach with our hearts to what lies beyond what our five senses can perceive.

“For we walk by faith and not by sight.”

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The New Monasticism: The 12 Marks: Mark #2

Posted in: Spirituality by bill-o on September 06, 2008

Continuing with our reflections on the 12 marks of the New Monasticism, we encounter the second mark:

“Sharing economic resources with fellow community members and the needy among us”

The first mark dealt with geographical relocation, whereas the second mark deals with monetary reallocation. What some have called “commonism” (which is not the same thing as Communism, by the way) was a hallmark of the earliest followers of Christ in Jerusalem. “And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.” (The Book of Acts, chapter 2 verses 43 and 44) Such a deep commitment of communal sharing, however, lasted for decades beyond the Pentecost. As the church father Tertullian later expressed (around the year 200) about the lives of Christ-followers: “Everything is shared among us – except for our wives.” (Tertullian, Apologetics, 39:11)

Such a communal sharing takes real maturity and love. Yet the benefits are remarkable. Everyone is cared for to the best ability of the community. No one is left behind. Each person has the supply and backing of the greater community. Additionally, the leaders of the community cannot gain unfair advantages over the followers on the basis of monetary wealth. What greater statement could there be that God is no respecter of persons.

Notice carefully that there are two different groups of recipients of the common economic resources of the community of followers of Christ: the members of the community and the needy (poor). The needy mentioned here may or may not be part of the faith community. The pagan Roman emperor, Julian the Apostate (who reigned from 355 to 363), was no friend of Christians. However, he famously observed that believers in Christ not only provided for their own poor but also for other poor people, too. Jesus made it clear that he had come to preach good news to the poor, and it was mostly the poor of this world who became his followers in the decades before Christianity was made into an official religion. I, myself, have seen hearts that were hard towards Christ and his followers quickly soften when they see true works of charity given to the poorest of the world by the followers of Jesus. And if there is one thing that I have seen that separates the true spiritual seekers from the spiritual charlatans, it is that their hearts are soft and caring towards the desperately poor.

The New Testament Greek used two words for the poor: penes and ptochos. Penes referred to what we typically call the “working poor”. These were people who did not have many material possesions or property, but who were able to work as day-laborers in order to provide for themselves. Ptochos, on the other hand, were the desperately poor, the destitute ones. It is these needy ones that Jesus was talking about when he said that he was preaching good news to the poor. The poor (ptochos) widow who Jesus observed donating everything that she had to the temple was one of these very needy people. Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell everything that he had and give it to the poor (ptochos). When the apostles Peter and James recognized the work and calling of the apostle Paul, they gave him only one command: that he should remember the poor (ptochos), which was something that Paul was already eager to do. Paul also said that, though he was poor (ptochos), he and his spiritual brothers, through many difficult and dangerous journeys, were making many (spiritually) rich.

It is at the very core and nature of true Christ-followers that they yearn to care for the desperately poor in their own communities and around the world. It is the rhythm, pulse, and heart-cry of Jesus and his disciples, and the sharing community provides a place of wisdom and gentleness for the redistribution of possessions to those who are truly in need.


For further reading related to this subject, I recommend the article “OK, I Admit It” at Behold: The Blog!