Archives For Poor

20121124-123103.jpgThe Sunday of Advent is traditionally known as ‘Guadete Sunday‘ from the Latin for ‘joy.’

It’s the Sunday we focus on Mary and we light the pink (sexist, huh) advent candle.

The Third Sunday of Advent is also when churches traditionally read Mary’s song, the Magnificat, which is really equal parts Hannah’s song from the Old Testament and a Jubilee song.

Christians don’t often pause to muse over Mary’s words, in which she gives praise that her boy will be the one to shame the proud and powerful and send the rich away empty. Not what we normally associate with Christmas.

There’s a contradiction sitting square in the middle of the Nativity Story we seldom acknowledge:

What Mary thinks her child has come to do (turn the status quo on its head) and what Christians tend to think Jesus comes to do (die for our sin so we can go to heave when we die) couldn’t be more divergent. 

Sometimes it’s useful to have an outsider remind you of who you are and what you should be about. That’s the case with Jackson Browne’s unlikely Christmas Carol, ‘The Rebel Jesus.’

Looking ahead to hearing Mary’s Magnificat, there’s probably no better musical appetizer than Browne’s insight that her son came to question the status quo, challenge the authorities and customs of the day, and generally turn things upside down.

Here are the lyrics:

“The Rebel Jesus,” by Jackson Browne

All the streets are filled with laughter and light
And the music of the season
And the merchants’ windows are all bright
With the faces of the children
And the families hurrying to their homes
While the sky darkens and freezes
Will be gathering around the hearths and tables
Giving thanks for God’s graces
And the birth of the rebel Jesus

Well they call him by ‘the Prince of Peace’
And they call him by ‘the Savior’
And they pray to him upon the seas
And in every bold endeavor
And they fill his churches with their pride and gold
As their faith in him increases
But they’ve turned the nature that I worship in
From a temple to a robber’s den
In the words of the rebel Jesus

Well we guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when Christmas comes
We give to our relations
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why there are poor
They get the same as the rebel Jesus

Now pardon me if I have seemed
To take the tone of judgment
For I’ve no wish to come between
This day and your enjoyment
In a life of hardship and of earthly toil
There’s a need for anything that frees us
So I bid you pleasure
And I bid you cheer
From a heathen and a pagan
On the side of the rebel Jesus

 Maybe.

At least according to this study by the Chronicle on Philanthropy. As news chatter swirls in the media about tax rates and entitlements, this study offers interesting, objective data on how generous we are with our money.

It’s an important question to explore.

After all, any argument to reduce entitlements for the poor must surely rely on private and faith-based giving as an alternative.

Just as surely, another could push back by wondering if those who advocate entitlements do so because they do not believe, or participate themselves, in faith-based charity.

The Chronicle study found that lower-income Americans tend to give more, as a percentage of their income, to the poor. The study also found that wealthier Americans give more when they live in proximity to those who are poor.

(Both of which may go towards explaining how our own zip code here in Fairfax scores so high in generosity.)

On both these counts, the study really only verified what churches have known for a long time.

It’s important, from a Christian perspective, to note how it’s proximity to need that elicits a compassionate response. To the extent that poverty is an abstraction generosity suffers. It’s about relationships, in other words.

In the same way that it’s easy to demonize homosexuals when you don’t know any, if you don’t know any actual poor people, your generous response will always be further down your priority list.

You have to know real faces and names and homes and concrete needs and problems.

And if, as Christians believe, generosity is a necessary expression of our humanity, as we’re made in God’s image, then our proclivity to isolate ourselves from the poor with sheltered lives and gated communities actually renders us less human.

The study also found that people of faith tend to be more generous too, which accounts for higher levels of giving in regions that report greater church attendance.

This isn’t surprising. What the Chronicle study finds is what Christians already knew from Jesus, who saved one of his harshest pictures of hell for someone who was willfully ignorant of the hunger and suffering of poor Lazarus literally at his doorstep.

This is why the Church has always emphasized not charitable giving but hands-on works of mercy for the poor. Writing a check to an abstract cause or a face and name in a magazine is one thing. Having to look in the eyes and learn the name and about the life of a person in  poverty is another, more transformative, thing entirely.

 Maybe.

At least according to this study by the Chronicle on Philanthropy. As news chatter swirls in the media about tax rates and entitlements, this study offers interesting, objective data on how generous we are with our money.

It’s an important question to explore.

After all, any argument to reduce entitlements for the poor must surely rely on private and faith-based giving as an alternative.

Just as surely, another could push back by wondering if those who advocate entitlements do so because they do not believe, or participate themselves, in faith-based charity.

The Chronicle study found that lower-income Americans tend to give more, as a percentage of their income, to the poor. The study also found that wealthier Americans give more when they live in proximity to those who are poor.

(Both of which may go towards explaining how our own zip code here in Fairfax scores so high in generosity.)

On both these counts, the study really only verified what churches have known for a long time.

It’s important, from a Christian perspective, to note how it’s proximity to need that elicits a compassionate response. To the extent that poverty is an abstraction generosity suffers. It’s about relationships, in other words.

In the same way that it’s easy to demonize homosexuals when you don’t know any, if you don’t know any actual poor people, your generous response will always be further down your priority list.

You have to know real faces and names and homes and concrete needs and problems.

And if, as Christians believe, generosity is a necessary expression of our humanity, as we’re made in God’s image, then our proclivity to isolate ourselves from the poor with sheltered lives and gated communities actually renders us less human.

The study also found that people of faith tend to be more generous too, which accounts for higher levels of giving in regions that report greater church attendance.

This isn’t surprising. What the Chronicle study finds is what Christians already knew from Jesus, who saved one of his harshest pictures of hell for someone who was willfully ignorant of the hunger and suffering of poor Lazarus literally at his doorstep.

This is why the Church has always emphasized not charitable giving but hands-on works of mercy for the poor. Writing a check to an abstract cause or a face and name in a magazine is one thing. Having to look in the eyes and learn the name and about the life of a person in  poverty is another, more transformative, thing entirely.