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Interesting, thought-provoking article.
I want to suggest – and I don’t accuse Mr. Warren of doing this – that Christians ought not in any way to romanticize the poverty or sufferings of others. Nor should they be content even to acquiesce to these sufferings, even, unless it is clear that such sufferings or such poverty are precisely in accord with the workings of Divine Providence in this particular situation, in the cause of this particular human person’s eternal happiness (or of those whom God has placed in his orbit.)
And the workings of the Divine Providence become clear when we strive with all our might – with the intention of serving the good God, and in a manner that comports with observing His laws in all things to do our best to relieve our neighbor’s poverty and suffering. Because our efforts will either (1) succeed entirely; (2) succeed somewhat; (3) fail entirely; or (4) seem to make things worse for our neighbor. And if (3) or (4) obtain, then it’s time to try to something else, or if we have already run out of options, then and only then would it be time to acquiesce to their suffering and poverty, as clearly the will of God in this moment. And even then, I may be called by God to just sit and be with my neighbor in his suffering, to hold his hand, and be a shoulder or a support, or a companion.
And never to romanticize. If I can romanticize in any way my neighbor’s pain or loss of dignity, then I’m not feeling them as my own. (Again, I’m not suggesting Mr. Warren does this. But it is a danger I have seen in myself and in other Christian writers.)
If we see our neighbors suffering or in poverty, and we’re not striving with all that God has given us to lend a helping hand to at least one of them, or, failing that, to be with our suffering neighbor in solidarity and concern, as a sign of the presence of God to him, then it may be time to reexamine our priorities just a tad.
You’re right to admonish against romanticizing poverty. But there yet is another approach, to sanctify it. To quote again today on this blog from a lecture by Christopher Dawson:
“By [the monastery’s] sanctification of work and poverty it revolutionized both the order of social values which had dominated the slave-owning society of the Empire and that which was expressed in the aristocratic warrior ethos of the barbarian conquerors, so that the peasant, who for so long had been the forgotten bearer of the whole social structure, found his way of life recognized and honoured by the highest spiritual authority of the age.” — Religion and the Rise of Western Culture
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