For the last month or so, the weekly Mass readings have focused on the book of James.
For me, this has been an especially gut wrenching time in the word - extremely humbling.
From the week of 6 September 2009 (James 2:1-5):
"My brothers and sisters, show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. For if a man with gold rings and fine clothes comes into your assembly, and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in,and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Sit here, please, ”while you say to the poor one, “Stand there, ” or “Sit at my feet, ”have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil designs?"
From the week of 13 September 2009 (James 2:14-18)
"If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day,and one of you says to them,“Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well, ”but you do not give them the necessities of the body,what good is it? So also faith of itself,if it does not have works, is dead."
And, finally tonight, one of the most hard hitting pieces of scripture I think I've ever heard proclaimed (James 5:1-6):
"Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries. Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten,your gold and silver have corroded,and that corrosion will be a testimony against you;it will devour your flesh like a fire. You have stored up treasure for the last days. Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud;and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure; you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter.You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous one; he offers you no resistance."
To me, this last passage sounds a LOT like a description of a lot of people who worked on Wall Street and other places and made a lot of money (and then lost it all) off of innocent investors with risky behavior.
What's interesting to me is that people who are in the habit of interpreting scripture literally and cherry picking verses never seem to talk much about these types of passages. That is because it seems to me to be a scathing indictment of how churches treat people, how individual Christians treat people, and the last passage seems to be a scathing indictment of the type of "Capitalism" that we saw from Wall Street.
A lot of Christians have bought wholly into big ruthless Capitalism and rapacious consumer consumption. They can see no other way to do business, and if you talk badly about it you are known as being "anti-Capitalism".
They seem to believe that it is somehow an entitlement of living in this country. A lot of them even believe that it is a "Blessing of God" for our exceptionalism.
As I've been seeing this (and other passages of scripture that just seem to jump out at me) over the past month, I wonder if we're doing this right, or if we have the right attitude?
Are we, as the body of Christ doing enough? I know that there are a lot of churches and individual Christians who do a lot of good work on behalf of the poor. That should always be celebrated.
But, this seems to be talking more about an attitudinal thing, at least to me it does. It seems to be talking about integrating this attitude into your WHOLE LIFE.
I've talked before about how there is not different "boxes" for the economy - it's all one economy that ties together. I think the same can be said for our life in our faith - it's all one life. There is no "church box" or "work box" or "home box" or "politics box" - it should all be in the same box.
I know that I really don't have any place to talk about this, and the fact of the matter is that I'm no better at this than any of my fellow Christians, so I'm not smugly talking about it - but it has been hitting me very hard as we've been somewhat coldly talking about who is going to get health care, and who is not. I know Church going Christians who say, "well, I pay for my health care, why should I have to worry about anyone else's health care"?
It might just be my imagination, but James seems to have something to say about making distinctions like that.