The Good Samaritan is a model of 'the Charitable Man', but lately he too has been mugged.
His clear intent to 'help' the unfortunate man left beside the road was paid-for from his own pocket. He used his own coins to pay the innkeeper to look after the man until he was better. He was concerned. It was 'Personal'.
Our 'society' in the west is possibly the most 'concerned' in all-time existence for the wellbeing of the citizens. So goes the tale in the Village down the hill. But as Mrs Thatcher said many years ago, "There is no such thing as 'society' ".
The Village elders didn't like that one bit. The 'Hilary's' of the world like to think that they are the ones who are charitable, but that is only so that she (they) can reach into your pocket, distribute your money and claim the kudos.
The Good Samaritan did not expect the Innkeeper to do his charity for him but one has to consider, of course, the extent of an individual's ability. And his time and availability. The Good Samaritan paid for services. He determined them. He did not force the Innkeeper, nor threaten him.
We have to think deeply on such issues as the world is becoming more complex - and mendacious - by the day.
Two deep thinkers came into the bar and talked about it. You can tell us all what you think after hearing them out.
First an American chap, Walt Williams. He's a coloured fellow so all you PC'ers out there will have to pay attention.
Evil acts are given an aura of moral legitimacy by noble-sounding socialistic expressions, such as spreading the wealth, income redistribution, caring for the less fortunate, and the will of the majority.
Let's have a thought experiment to consider just how much Americans sanction evil.
Imagine there are several elderly widows in your neighborhood. They have neither the strength to mow their lawns, clean their windows and perform other household tasks nor the financial means to hire someone to help them.
Here's a question that I'm almost afraid to ask: Would you support a government mandate that forces you or one of your neighbours to mow these elderly widows' lawns, clean their windows and perform other household tasks?
Moreover, if the person so ordered failed to obey the government mandate, would you approve of some sort of sanction, such as fines, property confiscation or imprisonment?
I'm hoping, and I believe, that most of my fellow Americans would condemn such a mandate. They'd agree that it would be a form of slavery — namely, the forcible use of one person to serve the purposes of another.
Would there be the same condemnation if, instead of forcing you or your neighbour to actually perform weekly household tasks for the elderly widows, the government forced you or your neighbour to give one of the widows $50 of your weekly earnings? That way, she could hire someone to mow her lawn or clean her windows.
Would such a mandate differ from one under which you are forced to actually perform the household task?
I'd answer that there is little difference between the two mandates except the mechanism for the servitude. In either case, one person is being forcibly used to serve the purposes of another.
I'm guessing that most Americans would want to help these elderly ladies in need but they'd find anything that openly smacks of servitude or slavery deeply offensive.Hmmmm. Say's I. Would most really find it offensive? Or has their moral contemplation become stunted?
They might have a clearer conscience if all the neighbours were forced (taxed) to put money into a government pot. A government agency would then send the widows $50 to hire someone to mow their lawns and perform other household tasks.
This collective mechanism makes the particular victim invisible, but it doesn't change the fact that a person is being forcibly used to serve the purposes of others. Putting the money into a government pot simply conceals an act that would otherwise be deemed morally depraved.
This is why socialism is evil. It employs evil means, confiscation and intimidation, to accomplish what are often seen as noble goals —
namely, helping one's fellow man.
Helping one's fellow man in need by reaching into one's own pockets to do so is laudable and praiseworthy.
Helping one's fellow man through coercion and reaching into another's pockets is evil and worthy of condemnation.
Tragically, most teachings, from the church on down, support government use of one person to serve the purposes of another; the advocates cringe from calling it such and prefer to call it charity or duty.
Some might argue that we are a democracy, in which the majority rules.
But does a majority consensus make moral acts that would otherwise be deemed immoral?
In other words, if the neighbours got a majority vote to force one of their number — under pain of punishment — to perform household tasks for the elderly widows, would that make it moral?Shall we vote on that?
The bottom line is that we've betrayed much of the moral vision of our Founding Fathers. In 1794, when Congress appropriated $15,000 for relief of French refugees who had fled from insurrection in San Domingo to Baltimore and Philadelphia, James Madison rose on the floor of the House of Representatives to object, saying,
"I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents."
Tragically, today's Americans — Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative — would hold such a position in contempt and run a politician like Madison out of town on a rail.
The argument is strong. I saw many around the tables with fingers to chin, thinking deeply. How about you?
In an age before this it was not common for individuals to be any more charitable than they are today. The exhortations to be concerned enough about other people was Church lesson material. Indeed even the word 'Hospital' comes from the Catholic Church tradition built over two thousand years, of giving aid to the poor, the ill, and the traveller. Hospitality.
Individuals gave of their time and skills in some instances, money, (there was less of it about) to aid the poor via the Church.
You would think (hope) that the Church traditions would continue along with the lessons that underlie the whole issue of Charity. But it seems not to be wholly the case. While Caritas remains the largest charity in the world (indeed in the History of the world) ( and funded by the Collection Plates filled by ordinary parish Catholics) increasingly the Church is handing over its 'once-were-obligations' to the State which eagerly dons the mantle to gain the kudos - and the old-time bossiness.
Dominic Lawson tells us of one (of no doubt many) Churchmen who has lost the plot.
A Lefty Archbishop who's generous with YOUR money - but not his flock's
Those in authority become weary of perpetual demands for cash from worthy causes. They include the Head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Archbishop Vincent Nichols.
A couple of years ago my wife, a Catholic herself, went to see him with the suggestion that the Church should do more for those with learning disabilities and their families. Nichols’s immediate response was to say: ‘We’re constantly being asked for money.’
It was only when Rosa explained she wasn’t asking for an extra collection at Mass, just that one sermon a year should be devoted to this issue, that he relaxed and asked her to prepare a report on the idea.
So you would think Nichols might understand why the Coalition government, which is faced with a public sector net debt of over £1.2 trillion, has been pressing ahead with its plans to reform and if possible reduce the welfare bill.
Not a bit of it: in an interview over the weekend, marking the Vatican’s announcement that he was to be made a cardinal, Nichols, while accepting the need for savings, said it was ‘a disgrace’ that the Government had ‘destroyed the basic safety net’ of the welfare state, that it was being ‘punitive’ and that food banks were ‘scandalously’ on the increase.The mind boggles. Here he is wishing that the State that has continued blatant discrimination against Catholics for hundreds of years, depriving them of roles in society that non-Catholics may achieve - such as Prime Minister - continue to take over the role of the Catholic Church in leading Charity!
It is right that our religious leaders stand up for the weakest; and given the popularity of the Government’s move to restrict welfare payments to any single home to no more than the income earned by the average working family, it takes courage to inveigh against it with such vigour.
Above all, Nichols is entitled to his opinion — even if he doesn’t see that this widespread public view is exactly the same sentiment that he himself expressed on behalf of his parishioners when he thought my wife was asking them to give to the families of children with learning disabilities: times are hard for many of us and our natural generosity is not limitless.Ahhha. But such an opinion, entitled to be held or not, says a lot about hypocricy.
There is a further irony: the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, is himself a practising Catholic whose motive for welfare reforms is not to save the well-off from paying more tax
but to break the iniquitous cycle of dependency that condemns families across generations to lives without possibility for self-improvement —
something you would think the Churches would support.
Indeed, the Chancellor has privately expressed impatience with what he sees as Duncan Smith’s ‘moral crusade’: George Osborne would have liked deeper cuts in the welfare budget, but there are vast costs associated with the switch to Duncan Smith’s grand plan of a ‘universal credit’ which would guarantee (via the taxpayer) that it always pays to enter the world of work.
So why does the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster have such little sympathy for what his fellow Catholic is trying to do?
For elucidation, I sought the opinion of Damian Thompson, the former editor of the Catholic Herald and still on its board of directors.
He has no doubt that Nichols’s anathema owes more to political prejudice than to religious doctrine:
One would have hoped that a Cardinal's traditional enemy was the Devil, but times have changed, it seems.‘Vincent Nichols is pure Merseyside Catholic — tribally old Labour. He’s a clever man, but he’s never deviated from his traditional politics. He doesn’t seem to understand the moral imperative behind welfare reform — or want to understand it. He is too polite to say that Tories are his ancestral enemies, but I bet he thinks it.’
I interviewed Nichols once and was impressed by his obvious intelligence. I wrote: ‘He has the fluency any politician would envy, while his hooded eyes inevitably invoke an intensely calculating mind.’
The last government painfully discovered what a formidable political operator he is, when he masterminded his Church’s successful campaign against New Labour’s attempt to make faith schools keep 25 per cent of places free for those without the same religious affiliation. But I doubt he will be as successful in mobilising his flock against the Coalition’s welfare reforms.
This is not least because Duncan Smith and his colleagues have powerful arguments on their side.
It’s nonsense to say that there is no longer ‘a safety net’ when the state is currently spending £94 billion a year on working age benefits; and the time processing benefits claims — the most cited reason for destitution — has actually improved over the past few years. The official figures are that 92 per cent of them are processed on time; in 2009/10 it was as low as 86 per cent.
As for foodbanks, there has been an expansion of this field of charity across the industrialised world, not just in the UK: in Germany it has been reported that 6.5 million people are using foodbanks each month.
Given that supermarkets provide more food than paying customers need, it is surely a good thing that this is being put to charitable purpose — even if many users may be relying on it because they have spent too much of their welfare payments on less essential items, such as at the Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, which now litter every High Street in the nation’s least affluent boroughs.
The Trussell Trust, this country’s biggest foodbank, itself acknowledges that its recent growth is partly the result of its publicity campaigns. Also, the Coalition government has authorised JobCentres to point people in the direction of foodbanks. Labour had banned them from giving such advice, possibly out of an ideological horror at the idea of charity supplanting the state.
It is odd, though, that Churchmen should share this horror. But that is demonstrated by the letter a year ago from 43 of the Church of England’s bishops attacking the Government’s welfare reform programme.
As the historian Frank Prochaska observed of the post-war period in his book Christianity And Social Services In Modern Britain:
‘Once religious leaders began to see government intervention as a solution to the crisis of urban poverty, the effect on Christian charity was predictable . . . religious leaders failed to appreciate just how much growth of government welfare would devitalise Christian charity and, by implication, Christianity itself.’
This perhaps helps explain why Nichols thought his parishioners should not be expected to fork out money, personally, for the disabled.
As for the report he asked my wife to send him, she never heard back, even though it went to his personal email. When the Catholic Herald made an inquiry about that, they were told blithely that ‘there has been an oversight’.
Motes and beams, Cardinal Nichols, motes and beams.
Not that everyone has lost all sense, even if the messages are unclear.
Guido popped by just minutes ago to add his oar to the rowing effort.
Foodbanks? Check. Benefit sanctions? Check. Like being savaged by a dead sheep? Check. On first glance you would have thought Rachel Reeves had written the letter from 27 bishops to the Mirror this morning.
It is worth pointing out that the letter itself does not even mention Cameron, Osborne or IDS, let alone directly criticise them, so it is hardly a case of turbulent priests. In fact, it doesn't even criticise the government all, simply arguing:
"We call on government to do its part: acting to investigate food markets that are failing, to make sure that work pays, and to ensure that the welfare system provides a robust last line of defence against hunger."
Which is exactly the point. Awkwardly for Labour the bishops' solution to the nation's ills are making work pay and reforming the welfare state so it provides only a safety net "last line of defence". If they keep on like that Guido for one won't be bashing the bishops...
These are difficult moral matters and do not detract from an acceptance that our specific era has seen far more 'charity' being shown to others than any time in history. But at what moral cost?
It is easy to 'outsource' one's charitable duties to others. But when one does, we are putting our charitable spirit to be disposed of by others for reasons which may have nothing to do with charity (and paying 'executives' small fortunes in salaries and perks to boot) and with 'ends' that are far from healthy for body or Soul.
It is enough to drive a person to drink.
So, clarity with your charity?