Incivility and class warfare (cont’d.)

In light of the discussions below of civlity vs. incivility and justice vs. jealousy, the following seemed appropriate. This aggressively impolite rant is from St. John Chrysostom (347 – 407), from his ninth homily on 1 Corinthians.

Here Chrysostom turns his wrath on the "covetous and rapacious" wealthy man who does not do all he can to help the needy. It's a primal scream of a sermon that would doubtless today earn him criticism — without irony — for preaching the "politics of envy."

What more immodest, more like a greedy dog? For no dog keeps his ground with such shameless impudence as he when he is grasping at all men's goods. What more polluted than those hands? What more audacious than that mouth, swallowing all down and not satisfied?

Nay, look not on the countenance and the eyes as being a man's. For such looks belong not to the eyes of men. He seeth not men as men; he seeth not the heaven as heaven. He does not even lift up his head unto the Lord; but all is money in his account.

The eyes of men are wont to look upon poor persons in affliction, and to be softened; but these of the rapacious man, at sight of the poor, glare like wild beasts. The eyes of men do not behold other men's goods as if they were their own, but rather their own as others; and they covet not the things given to others, but rather exhaust upon others their own means: but these are not content unless they take all men's property … yea rather they never have enough.

Insomuch that one might say that their hands are not wild beasts' only, but even far more savage and cruel than these. For bears and wolves when they are satiated leave off their kind of eating: but these know not any satiety. And yet for this cause God made us hands, to assist others, not to plot against them.

Seest thou not that we call a thing humane, when it is full of mercy and loving-kindness? But when a man doth any thing cruel or savage, inhuman is the title we give to such a one. You see then that the stamp of man as we portray him is his showing mercy; of a beast the contrary; according to constant saying, "Why, is a man a wild beast, or a dog?"

For men relieve poverty; they do not aggravate it. Again these men's mouths are the mouths of wild beasts; yea rather these are the fiercer of the two. For the words also, which they utter, emit poison, more than the wild beasts' teeth, working slaughter. And if one were to go through all particulars, one should then see clearly how inhumanity turns those who practise it from men into beasts. …

… [not] beasts only, but demons. For first, they are full of great cruelty and of hatred against their "fellow-servant and neither is love of the kingdom there, nor fear of hell; no reverence for men, no pity, no Sympathy: but shamelessness and audacity, and contempt of all things to come. … For such is the mind of the covetous man.


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