Sunday, October 9, 2011

Greed: why are some Christians not talking about it?

The topic of "Greed" has been on my mind for a long time. Two things made me write about it today:
1) Someone that I love is being affected right now by the GREED of others--Note: I shall be talking about that as part of a separate blog entry. And, 2) I read an article called Preachers confront 'last taboo': Condemning greed amid Great Recession (click HERE for details) that talks about how many pastors do not want to talk (or preach) about greed or money. Some pastors feel that it is better (in the words of one pastor) to speak about personal responsibility so we don't get into the blame game. This comes from the same pastor who once described same-sex marriage as "a satanic plot to destroy the family". So when it comes to an issue like that one, he is willing to talk about it but, when it comes to teaching about greed he thinks that the reality is that a lot of that teaching may wind up creating anti-economic-growth and anti-capitalism concepts (in people’s minds).... (Note: I am privileged that in my life I have met many priests and pastors from different denominations that disagree. Thank you to all of you.)

Another pastor who DOES TEACH on the problems of greed was very clear: Money is the last taboo in church. It’s much easier to talk about sex than money. He also believes that too many pastors opt for offering pulpit platitudes because they are afraid parishioners will stop giving money if they hear teachings on greed and money. If this is true, what does that say not just about those pastors and their thought process, but about the way they believe they should preach? What makes one pastor fearful of teaching on greed and money, and what makes the other pastor want to teach on greed and money with full force? I believe there are many ways to look at this, and some may provide clues while others will simply produce more questions. First, let us simply look at the word "Greed" per the Miriam Webster dictionary:

Definition of GREED
a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (as money) than is needed.

Using this simple definition, we could see how some people may be uncomfortable if their priest or pastor starts talking about greed. Who among us wants to even think that we may be "selfish" or that we have "an excessive desire for more of something (as money) than is needed"?

Excessive desire....
More of something that is needed... 

Who among us have the courage to look into our own hearts and find out that we may, just may be selfish, or that we have an excessive desire, that we want more of something than is needed? However, you do not have to be a Christian to see a problem with greed. For example in Plato's "The Republic", Socrates thought that "greed" was responsible for bringing strife and injustice into society and those with power did nothing to prevent it. (I wonder what would Socrates be saying today about our political leaders). Spinoza talked about "greed" in the same way he spoke about "ambition" and "lust"; to him all these things were "species of madness."

As I think back to Christian pastors and preachers who are more afraid to sound like "Socialists" or "supporting" what could be interpreted as anti-economic-growth and anti-capitalism concepts (in people’s minds) that could in turn lead to loosing money, I think of what Gustavo Gutierrez once said. He said theology begins with the stomach because the theology and the way we approach theology is very different when we are NOT hungry. If some of these pastors were hungry for let us say five years, and on top of that they came home and found their own children (like the day before and the day before that) crying of hunger, would they still think that a pastor should refrain from talking about greed? Now, I understand that the problem of hunger has many reasons. But, is not greed part of the problem of hunger in the world?

To many of us, the effects of greed, is not about "proper" economics or "proper" theology, because many of us woke up this morning and once again are suffering from:
1) Being hungry because we do not have the money for food.
2) Being sick and/or in pain, because we don't have the medicines we need.
3) Being homeless, because we could not hold on to a job since we could not afford medicines for either a physical condition or a mental condition, etc.

One final thought....
Regarding how some pastors think we should talk about personal responsibility so we don't get into the blame game I say this: talking about personal responsibility becomes tragically irrelevant, if we die of hunger, if we die from a disease, or if we die from sleeping in the streets when it is 10 degrees.

Quite simply the dead do not have "personal responsibility" and the dead do not "get into the blame game".

A final thought...
I believe that if we are going to declare that the Son of Man is the bread of life and that whoever comes to him will never be hungry (Gospel according to St. John 6:35) we have to make sure that people have the simple but necessary bread that we need to live; our 'kerygma' becomes tragically irrelevant if we only talk about the bread of life without talking about the bread that keeps the body healthy. Let us not forget that the Son of Man wants us to provide bread to everyone...including the least of us.



No comments:

Post a Comment