Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Poor, Evangelism, and the Death of Civilization

Russ Roberts Anthony Gill on Religion. Gill does economic analysis on religious organizations. This is what he says about the emergence of the preferential option for the poor in Catholic countries:
And so I hopped a plane and went down there and lo and behold you found out that a lot of the Catholic priests in areas where there were a lot of Protestants were saying, whoa, if I don't get my act together, all my congregants, my flock, who are supposed to be Catholic--and they've been Catholic for 400 years because that's been the only church in town. But now they are becoming Protestants. I had better work much harder in order to retain these parishioners or to attract them back than I have in the past. And this was even reflected in church policy. During the 1970s and 1980s they had a theme of the re-evangelization of Latin America, and it was explicitly stated: Listen, Protestants are coming in; they have the freedom in some countries to do so now; and if we don't really engage our congregants, they are going to leave us.
Now the tone of the interview is generally a good one. Two economists discussing how market forces help force churches to provide a better product for the people. In so far as that goes, they are right.

But what happens if you forget your purpose? I mean, even the Lord said, the poor you will always have with you, so maybe, if you over-focus on them, like Judas suggested they do (though for his own nefarious purposes), you might just screw things up long term.

Meanwhile, The Anti-Gnostic came across Rod Dreher's questions about the persistent poverty in Appalachia:
Well, yes and no, it's actually all those things. More fundamentally, it's about people, because people generate culture. And it's also very much about economics because we have pursued deliberate fiscal and monetary policies to drive the jobs such people used to hold offshore and devalue their labor here. And it's about genetics, because that's a very large chunk of our organic intelligence and impulse control, and it's the resulting breeding patterns that direct the cultural folkways. That these unchanging facts of human existence make Rod "outraged" bespeaks his underlying progressivism: if we could just change the Culture!

Christ told that devious Judas that we'd always have the poor with us. He also told the apostles- i.e. not us directly- to spread the gospel, and a lot of things have happened since then. The currently model of evangelizing the poor has dumbed down Christianity, practically to the level of superstition. Additionally, instead of improving the mores of the poor, we are getting more of their behaviors, even among more intelligent. Children out of wedlock are de rigueur these days, for example.

Generally speaking, assets, and the limited number of people who can live with the cognitive dissonance- I suppose that is a skill set- get diverted from productive labor into this evangelizing. Community, and therefore culture, can't form this way. First, since most folks are still stuck with the two income family (or no family at all) there is not really community- it is community by appointment at best. I think the homeschooling movement was a good thing, and freeing the children should have been followed by freeing the husbands and wives. Work should be local, in no small part because community used to happen all the waking day and possibly while sleeping too.

And I guess there is where I lose most people because there isn't some nice clean solution. In fact, to most people it probably seems like I just changed the subject. But I did not. A real civilization is needed and it will not be made by tactics that have obviously failed since the 70s. We'd still have the poor with us, but we'd be better able to help. And those who got tired of doing the sorts of things that get them into trouble would have a place to go where they could live differently.

No comments: