Often misread as a statement in praise of ‘sacrificial’ giving, Jesus’ observation concerning the widow’s offering at the temple is designed to condemn exploitative structures that prey upon the most vulnerable. We should not be able to read this account without reflecting upon comparable systems of economic injustice in our own day.
A 2005 New York Times poll discovered that 80 percent of US citizens believe that it is indeed possible to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps (quoted on p. 70). In her new book Solidarity Ethics, Rebecca Todd Peters argues that it is this belief in self-sufficiency that, in part, underwrites the structural issues of oppression and inequality of our neoliberal globalized world. Global structural evils stand on the values and worldview of the privileged. And the benefits of privilege are so deeply woven into the fabric of our quotidian realities that it requires a concrete change in perspective—a conversion, in fact—to recognize the problems this privilege also creates for others.
The Middle Ages were filled with strange, passionate, and fascinating figures, often hidden from our view by the long shadows of the likes of Anselm, Francis, Aquinas, or Ockham. The great theologians earned their influence, of course, but there are also things to learn from some of those to whom history has been less magnanimous. I want to introduce one such figure here: Arnold of Brescia.
. . . In other words, disasters such as Typhoon Haiyan confront us with the sobering reality that the deepest, deadliest and most intransigent problems we face today are social problems, not technical problems. We continue to deceive ourselves with the hope that if we can but increase our knowledge of the world, our technical know-how at problem-solving the riddles that nature poses for us, we can defeat death and disease.
Luke’s parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus dramatically counters our prevailing trend of demonizing the poor. It brings us a message of particular relevance at the time that Congress votes to cut aid to the nation’s poor.
In this post, Brethren minister Brian R. Gumm reflects on the political & eschatological vision of kingdom come in the movie version of Les Misérables, and suggests that violent revolution should not be conflated with righteousness and work for Christ’s peaceable kingdom.
For three weeks now, I have been listening to Mary’s Magnificat sung as a part of the mid-week evening prayer service in my congregation. Last week, I leaned over to my five-year-old and told her, “This is the story of Jesus’ Mommy when she was pregnant with him.” Rereading a paper that I wrote on this text in college, I critiqued an over spiritualization of these words that are “a vivid proclamation of God’s eternal justice and intention to uplift the weak and lowly in a ministry of love…a call to social action on behalf of humanity.” Now, as I sit with the text, I can only say that it is all of this and more…