social justice

Poverty in America

  Will You Still Love Me When I'm Broke

 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” These words, we are told, were spoken by Christ and comprise only one of the eight beatitudes.

Some linguists and theologians claim that “poor in spirit” refers to spiritual emptiness, pride, the absence of humility. Others tell us that “poor in spirit” means detachment, a kind of relinquishing of all attachments, earthly and otherwise.

And there are some, I am sure, who would claim that Christ was giving poverty a higher moral status than wealth, a deterrent to a spiritual life, if we are to believe the famous “eye of the needle” passage in which Christ was to have said that it would be easier for a “camel” to pass through “the eye of a needle,” than for a rich man “to enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Another teacher of great moral authority, Gandhi, has often been criticized for being an advocate of poverty. Although he tried to rough the caste system up, the iconic photo of the great teacher, at his spinning wheel, has often been interpreted as a symbol of his profound reverence for austerity and the simple life.

The next logical jump for many supporting this philosophy is to view poverty as a way of life freeing humanity from the samsaric wheel of acquisitiveness, materialism, avarice, and greed. Continue reading

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Forgiveness

I grew up in a religion in which confession was a weekly ritual. As I child, I remember standing in line outside the confessional waiting anxiously for my turn to go into a dark private room and begin with the words, “bless me father, for I have sinned.” Then I would recite my litany of sins, both venial (minor-league stuff) and mortal (big time, major-league material that could land you in Hell for all eternity).

For an eight-year-old, mortal sins were deliciously angst-ridden. I remember agonizing over these epic sins that went beyond the vague, clumsy and occasional “impure thoughts” into the realm of a touch or two, or those times when I would just linger in the corridors of fantasy (I was the youngest of four boys and the inevitable “girly” magazines would end up under somebody’s mattress).

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