Faith of the revolutionary generation (and ours)

It may sound like a stretch, but you can learn a lot about contemporary faith and politics from colonial needlework.American colonists struggled to make sense of the events leading up to the war with Britain. Escalating encroachments were resisted by the colonists, whose sometimes-violent actions provoked further crackdowns. The cycle intensified throughout the late 1760s and into the new decade, spawning boycotts, riots, and worse, including the Boston Massacre in March 1770.If … [Read more...]

One priest making a difference

"What the soul is in the body, this is what Christians are in the world," says the Epistle to Diognetus, an ancient Christian text. Nobody demonstrates the present-day truth of that more than Fr. Paisius Altschul of Troost Avenue in Kansas City, Missouri.Fr. Paisius, priest of St. Mary of Egypt Orthodox Church, is also the founder of Reconciliation Services, a ministry that offers desperately needed counseling, material aid, medicine, and job training to the city's poor and … [Read more...]

Should government coerce charity?

When it comes to the question of social justice, there is more at play than the needs of the poor. Charity requires not only a recipient but also a giver, and that increases the issue's moral complexity.From the earliest days of the church, care for the poor was central. It's there in the New Testament writings, in Christ's own words even. It's there in the Didache, which directs Christians to spend time with the lowly (3.9) and give their firstfruits to the poor (13.4). And great pastors … [Read more...]

Christians making a difference

Whether it's the political activism of the eighties and nineties or the social activism of today, Christians want to make a difference in the world. But are we starting in the right place?Often we see a crisis or a need and jump to fix it. We raise funds, join a movement, buy a T-shirt, send our tithe, blog, campaign, distribute voters guides, do all kinds of things -- many of them good. But they're not enough. All those things are externally focused, which is only half the picture."The … [Read more...]

A model for real social justice

A rich young ruler comes to Christ and asks what it takes to inherit eternal life. Jesus says, “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor. . . .”Christ is enthroned in glory and he divides the crowds to his right and left. He welcomes those on his right, saying that they ministered to him when he was hungry, thirsty, lonely, naked, sick, and imprisoned. They’re surprised. “When did we do these things?” they ask. Christ answers, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least o … [Read more...]

Put not your trust in princes (or politicians)

As we get closer to the upcoming elections and hear the many promises tumbling from the mouths of hopeful and desperate office-seekers, we should reflect on Psalm 146.“Put not your trust in princes,” says the psalmist, “in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.” From the rest of the text, it’s clear that the admonition is not primarily about what we might call eternal salvation; there are many other texts that cover that. This one is mostly about temporal salvation, earthly goods and conc … [Read more...]

The Search for God and Guinness

Arthur Guinness wasn’t fooling around. He was mad as a hornet and wielding a pickaxe. Stand back.The year was 1771 and Guinness needed more water for his brewery. So he opened up a new watercourse and swapped out the pipes running to his shop from the River Liffey with larger ones. In addition to the increased flow, he increased the ire of his neighbors. The city of Dublin insisted he stop. Nothing doing, he responded. He “would defend [the water] by force of arms.”Out came the sheriff with a … [Read more...]