Last night I had been talking about the good ole’ days with a young mother and some philosophical issues with the troubles our culture ( I like talking about ‘ideas’). A gentleman walked into our discussion group disagreed with my generalized assertion, but the conversation of philosophical ideas turned political as it was started before me that the cause of our problems is because all the immoral people who voted for Trump and the support of clerics who adhere to the law as opposed to the pastoral. Now, the conversation turning political, I had no idea how others in the room felt on the topic, I want the group to be inviting not divisive, as for the most part, we’ve talked about Christianity, I am positioned to argue for the intent of supporters of Trump and Free Market Capitalism, which I’m really neither of those things.
Honestly, I am interested in any practical solutions to reach out to those who are in need. Some state that the Catholic Church, as a whole, donates more wealth than any other organization in the world, although statistics vary from what I can find with a basic google search on the topic. Personally, I think parishes should work more in their local areas. I ‘ve seen poor neighborhoods every day, where I live, I am a witness to their plight. I have spoken to some on the finance committee at my parish, I’ve been agitated with the lack of commitment to these people because I see them every single day and It feels as if it never crosses their minds. I see evangelical churches bringing meals to children in the summer when they’re out of school and one church, maybe the same one, runs a soup kitchen. When pressed about these missions in the community, the committee member said we give a lot of money to the area, but I said we have no presence, there’s no sense of community. Faith is about community, all baptized members of the faith are part of the Body of Christ.
For some reason, the conversation turned toward how the gentleman could argue that Jesus was a socialist with two more people in the group joining in agreement. The conversation had become so disjointed at this time with me not being able to respond because I would continuously be talked over, I have no idea how we arrived at this conclusion. I recall someone saying, “We should have an ‘activist’ church.” Naturally, this made my stomach turn as my mind started to flood with memories of all my college experience and socialist activist I had encountered. I quickly answered, mostly out of a necessity of not being drowned out; “Jesus is absolutely not a socialist because first off; he predates Karl Marx for the same reason I wouldn’t call him a capitalist as he existed before Adam Smith–these are anarchronisms!” Secondly, Jesus’ teachings on sharing one’s wealth freely and charitably are based heavily in the tradition of Ben Sirach’s teachings found in the book bearing his name.
And because of the historical development of Christian charity from the time of the Apostles to now, I certainly do not think that any Bishops should advocate for government intrusion on the matter of charity. At this point, the gentleman interjected, you mean you don’t believe in paying taxes? Sadly, I had been a bit disjointed because of this conversation coming out of left field that I said, “What happens when you don’t pay taxes? Some one comes with a gun and either makes you or takes you to prision. It’s theft!” I should clarify that I do not think that taxes are theft when they are used for public goods, so at this point, we have to define the terms being used.
What is a Public Good: a commodity or service that is provided without profit to all members of a society, either by the government or a private individual or organization.
Next, we have to define theft. So What is theft? A taking of wealth, either monetary or services, through coercive measures. Is taxing for a public good theft? No. A public good that is paid for by taxation does not follow as theft because it provides services for all members of society.
So what is socialism? It’s a form of an economic system used by the government redistribute goods and services by coercive measures to only certain members of society. Therefore, because the taxes taken by the economic system of socialism doesn’t benefit all who are required to pay and If one refuses to pay, they are either fined or taken to prison by force. The taking of these goods and service by force is evil—immoral—which is why Jesus could not a socialist; he advocates for charity. Of course, the seventh commandment ‘Thou shall not steal’ reveals as much on the topic.
Honestly, couldn’t believe this discussion was taking place inside the walls of a Catholic chapel…