Sunday, May 10, 2009

... but the Revolution begins at home

We attended the memorial service for a friend yesterday, and the following quotation (Acts, Chap. 2, vv. 44-47 - King James version) was included in the readings:

And all that believed were together, and had all things common;
And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

It's a big ask, as they say; and the more we have, the bigger an ask it is. Jesus' advice to the rich young man (Matthew 19, v. 21) is after the latter has confirmed that he already performs all the normal religious duties:

If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

It was too much for that trustafarian, and it's too much for modern us. So we try to explain it away, Philadelphia lawyer-style. Clever people will explain that if you give away all, you'll merely be a charity case yourself. Or they'll tell you that the advice was case-specific: the young man needed freeing from his attachment to material things (and, presumably, we don't).

Yet the history of the early Church clearly shows that these sophisticated glosses are plain wrong. They were far, far closer to the revolutionary events (and witnesses) of the New Testament, and we must assume that they understood the message better. "Such as should be saved" must join the project, and obey the project's rules.

Reportedly, 82% of Americans are Christians (even the Simpson family). Many sincerely try to follow the early example - think of the people who took in refugees from Katrina-devastated New Orleans, and how some of these good hosts were robbed and even killed as a result.

But writing comments on US blogs suggesting sharing resources (even in the bureacratic form of the NHS) will get sharp ripostes accusing you of socialism or worse.

It's still a big ask, isn't it? And still too big for me, at the moment.


AntiCitizenOne said...

Socialism is to sharing as rape is to marriage.

I.e. if something is taken by force then there is nothing "given" at all.

Your morality is backwards.

Outside morality the problem is that things such as the NHS just don't work...

Sackerson said...

ACO, I feared this would smoke you out and tempt you into a hasty response. I didn't say or advocate socialism - that's what the knee-jerk response from US bloggers often is. And the sharing in the early Church was clearly voluntary. The reference to the NHS is there because Americans often tag it as "socialised medicine", intending you to hear the word social and understand it to mean socialism. Of course, in the US there is also substantial charitable giving, which helps fund "free" hospitals; our rich don't seem so generous. Th thrust of my post is about our own materialism and selfishness, not at all a mainfesto for the commissars.

AntiCitizenOne said...

People are selfish when they are forced to give and get little in return.

We need more mutually beneficial reciprocation and the more state is not the answer to that.

Paddington said...

A problem is that our instincts are to deal with at most 200 people, and modern society is just too big.