Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It's Money That Matters

Yes, Rick Warren actually tweeted that. And begun the pile-on has: here, as well as here; here, and here, just to name four. Most of those are with either analyses of the statement (no, it is neither true nor correct) or with references to Scripture (probably someone somewhere has even reached to the "10 Commandments" to say something about bearing false witness, i.e., telling lies).

I would prefer only to point out that Warren retracted this tweet. Not, apparently, because he saw the light and realized the inhumanity and stupidity of what he said; but rather, because it embarrassed him. Perhaps he didn't like being reminded that people matter more than things and ideas; perhaps he realized he stood as exposed and malevolent as Ebenezer Scrooge declaring the poor should die and decrease the surplus population. I don't know that he realized the life his Lord and Savior led, or who he lived among on this earth, or he'd never had typed that tweet in the first place.

And I'd rather not respond with more scriptures. A), that's been done; B) it smacks of prooftexting; and C), I prefer the words of St. Basil and St. Ambrose, who more directly addresses Warren's particular sin:

"What keeps you from giving now? Isn't the poor person there? Aren't your own warehouses full? Isn't the reward promised? The command is clear: the hungry person is dying now, the naked person is freezing now, the person in debt is beaten now-and you want to wait until tomorrow? "I'm not doing any harm," you say. "I just want to keep what I own, that's all." You own! You are like someone who sits down in a theater and keeps everyone else away, saying that what is there for everyone's use is your own. . . . If everyone took only what they needed and gave the rest to those in need, there would be no such thing as rich and poor. After all, didn't you come into life naked, and won't you return naked to the earth?

"The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry person; the coat hanging unused in your closet belongs to the person who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the person with no shoes; the money which you put in the bank belongs to the poor. You do wrong to everyone you could help, but fail to help."

4th Century

"The large rooms of which you are so proud are in fact your shame. They are big enough to hold crowds--and also big enough to shut out the voices of the poor....There is your sister or brother, naked, crying! And you stand confused over the choice of an attractive floor covering."

4th Century

17 centuries later, and it's a lesson we still struggle to learn.

UPDATE: Rick Warren has not only removed the tweet, but tweeted again to acknowledge "it did sound mean." Which is a lovely use of the passive voice and a masterful misdirection: Rick Warren didn't say the poor don't pay taxes and would love to see the rich taxed! The tweet did! And it was mean! Not wrong, ignorant, or cruel; not directly contradictory to the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth! No. It was just "mean." No, wait; let me be accurate. The tweet wasn't "mean." It "sounded mean."

Silly me, I didn't even know tweets had voices. I thought they were messages created by real people. Tweets are alive! Or at least, they are independent of their creators.

Well...that's okay, then. Mean ol' tweet. Good thing Rick Warren had no responsibility for it. He's not mean! He said so.

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