Friday, December 06, 2013

St. Nicholas' Day, 2013

The story of Nicholas engages many of the points raised by Pope Francis in his Evangelii Gaudium, especially with respect to how economic systems exploits persons.  The saint who supposedly threw three bags of gold through a window in order to save three girls from prostitution is a man who understood what Francis was saying. Ironic now that most of us remember that saint as the patron of retailers like Amazon

The second thing to highlight is a story I noted six years ago:  the lay pastor who helped these people, at great personal cost to himself. He reports without rancor (which is frankly more than I could do) that local pastors told him what he was doing was against God's will because it was difficult, because it cost him in time, effort, and social opprobrium. He reports this without rancor, and he doesn't apologize for what he did, nor does he complain about Christian pastors unwilling to help those he recognizes as his brothers. (I don't judge anyone who doesn't offer help, lest I be judged for my failings, too. But when you judge another and tell them they shouldn't help, well....that's when the judgment rightly falls heavily on you, and justly, by your own hand.) As he says, we like foreign missions; but when those missions come to our "comfort zones," well....

And then I note this, from seven years ago:

The richest 2 per cent of adults own more than half the world’s wealth, according to the most comprehensive study of personal assets.

Among the largest economies, Britain boasted the third-highest average wealth of $126,832 (£64,172) per adult, after the United States and Japan, a United Nations development research institute found.

Those with assets of $500,000 could consider themselves to be among the richest 1 per cent in the world. Those with net assets of $2,200 per adult were in the top half of the wealth distribution.

Although global income was distributed unequally, the spread of wealth was more skewed, according to the study by the World Institute for Development Economics Research of the UN University.

“Wealth is heavily concentrated in North America, Europe and high-income AsiaPacific countries. People in these countries collectively hold almost 90 per cent of total world wealth,” the report said.

Researchers defined wealth as the value of physical and financial assets minus debts.

The richest 10 per cent of adults accounted for 85 per cent of assets. The bottom 50 per cent of the world’s adults owned barely 1 per cent of global wealth. 
And let's not even touch on the question of the minimum wage, which President Obama recently pointed out is effectively where it was when Truman was in the White House.

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

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