Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


Our Brother's Keeper?

Over at the Washington Post/Newsweek's online forum On Faith, the panelists recently responded to the question:
In tough times, do those of us who handled our finances responsibly have a moral obligation to bail out those of us who didn't? Are we our brother's keeper economically?
University of Chicago Divinity professor emeritus Martin Marty wrote,
If I handed over a generous amount to even every fifth homeless person within a one-mile radius, a person with outstretched arm ending with a cup, what is left of our retirement funds would disappear as fast as it does on what's left of the stock market. Whether religiously or prudentially . . .even the most generous make discriminations....

I mention prudence, since the morality in question and prudence of pragmatism can be webbed, so it's time to note that in this case being generous through governmental social policy—ouch! even when we weren't asked—can leave the nation better off than if foreclosures, unemployment, stock losses, and setbacks occur only to people who were foolish. The economy is worse off than if we can figure out ways to use intelligence and vision and even a warm heart in efforts to keep citizens fiscally afloat and alive. The price of many going down can be that every one goes down. But as we sink, some will find pleasure in indiscriminately judging all whose investments went sour to be cheaters.
Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz wrote,
The obligation to be "my brother's keeper," and to make an effort to be really helpful—perhaps a more expensive act than just allowing the recipient to survive—is not always an easy task. And this is especially true when the recipient, himself, may be partially responsible for his failure. But we are not to consider guilt of the recipient, but rather his need. And, in this case, we still have an obligation toward everyone who needs our help.
And Bishop N.T. Wright answered:
So: the ancient Israelite command to have a 'jubilee year' when debts were forgiven makes a whole lot of sense. A lot more than what we've been working with. And anyone who says it doesn't, have a look at your investment portfolio and see where your vested (or invested) interests lie. And the point of forgiveness is, yes, that you may have got it wrong but it's time for a clean start. And if you look at Luke 19 you'll see that when rich tricksters get a fresh start they know they have to make substantial repayments to those they've defrauded. Obviously lots more could be said about this, but this is for starters. Anyone who wants to see more can look at my speech in the House of Lords on December 8.
All the panelists responses are linked from this page: Are we our brother's keeper economically?

That's their take. What do you think?



  • At 3/16/2009 10:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I get most frustrated when those who advocate the government taking from me (living paycheck to paycheck) and giving to others are living WAY above my standard of living. It would be easier if they were not guilty of that hypocrisy.

    I'll take them seriously if they restrict themselves to what I live on and give the rest away.


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