How to Kill a Community: Lessons From Mediocre Rappers

NSFW, but neither is the fact that you're on this blog at work in the first place.Almost anything we can be proud to call American came from poverty. Jeans came from miners, bluegrass from the British immigrants of Appalachia, barbecue was popularized by impoverished Southern Blacks who couldn't afford expensive cuts of meat, and blues, jazz, and rock n' roll -- those uniquely American art forms I was so proud to hear playing in the bars of Budapest, Vienna, and Rome -- rose up from the … [Read more...]

Selling Our Sins

There is a tragic aura to the young man driving around my neighborhood in Steubenville, Ohio, pushing heroin out to "customers" at street corners, his barely drivable car┬ádecked out with "playboy" stickers, rims, window-tint, and a rusted-out body going into seizures with the bass of a song produced in California, repeating "it's all about the money." The tragedy is not that he is poor, but that he is very, very rich.Steinbeck says......and this sounds like a pleasant hurrah for American … [Read more...]

Gratitude as Felt Poverty

Gratitude responds to gift.Consider our experience of the thing in its most obvious, most burning and urgent form, when we are acutely aware that we have nothing to offer the gift-giver but our thanks. How hard we feel this in the face of love, full of the wonderful, painful knowledge that there is nothing we could do or say to christen us its worthy candidates, no words or gestures to serve as love's equalizing response -- and yet we are loved. So we collapse with a profusion of … [Read more...]

The Poor and the Religious

Poverty is the primordial fact of human existence, for we did not earn our existence -- we were given it by our dear, darling parents. All subsequent earning, owning and wealth is contingent upon this being given -- upon receiving existence like a welfare check. But we are poorer still, needy for even after the gift of existence, waiting to be given language, virtue, identity, belonging, continued existence -- donations that make all later owning, earning, and wealth possible. The means of … [Read more...]

Giving Your Money to Drug Addicts

There are two commandments regarding poverty that I have come to dislike. The first is as follows: "Give a man a fish and you will feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime." I do not disagree. I have simply come to the sad conclusion that those most likely to use the phrase are those most likely to neither give, teach, or fish.The second is my topic: "Never give money to a beggar. They'll only spend it on drugs."The problem with this maxim is its … [Read more...]

Ignoring Jesus 101

Christ says "blessed are the poor," (Luke 6:20) and the splendor of his words is that they contain a quality of invisibility, a capacity to be ignored and forgotten at a rate far excelling the human usual. Indeed, there are few words that demand more action and yet have the grand effect of no one doing anything at all, not for any inarticulacy in Christ, but for timidity in man."Blessed are the peacemakers," says Christ, and few believe he wants us to cheer on these peaceful people while … [Read more...]

2 Ways Catholic Charity is Bizarrely Unlike American Charity

Catholics are called to love the poor in a fundamentally different way than Americans. For our culture, charity towards the needy is a kind thing to do, a worthwhile, fulfilling enterprise that a person should be lauded for engaging in. Love of the poor, in short, is a noble addition to a good, moral, and meaningful life.The Church, on the other hand, is drastic in her demand that we love, love and love the poor. The Catechism of the Catholic Church -- that beautiful summation of the truth … [Read more...]