“Exclusive”

Resolved: it is a sin to buy a house in a neighborhood because it advertises itself as “exclusive”: with sufficient knowledge, willfulness and deliberation it can be mortally sinful.

Discuss.

About Matt Talbot
  • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

    This is silly.

    For better or worse, “exclusive” probably means safer. What’s being excluded are shady characters. “Shady” is not necessarily bad, but does demographically make a person more of a risk. It’s sad, but a lack of credit history, education, etc…all make people more dangerous statistically, exactly because they are, then, less grounded or anchored by an investment in the system.

    Now, I’m not saying “the system” is good. No, it may be terribly and soul-crushingly bourgeois. But, nevertheless, it sure makes you a lot less likely to mug me or try to sell drugs to my kid.

    • http://populisthope.blogspot.com Matt Talbot

      But, sinner – consider this: aren’t you, by buying distance from your brothers and sisters, refusing to live in community with them, thus refusing to heal the rifts that separate you from them, in a real sense denying their brother and sisterhood?

      Are you your brother’s keeper, or not?

      • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

        Well, parents are, first of all, their childrens’ keepers.

        The Amish community is exclusive. Are you knocking the Amish?

        • Hector

          Yes, I’d knock the Amish to some extent. In their defence, though, they pay a heavy price for their exclusiveness, and they’re willing to pay it.

          And your duties to the moral law are sort of prior to your duties to your children.

        • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

          No, your duties to your children are PART OF your duty to the moral law if you’re a parent.

          The question is does some vague (and in Catholic morality, non-existent) precept to expose oneself needlessly to danger take priority to your duty to try to give your children every advantage reasonably and morally possible.

          Obviously, I’d argue not.

  • Kurt

    In my experience, “exclusive” means one of two things: 1) Another typical example of the dishonesty the private sector uses in marketing in that there is nothing exclusive about the property other than it prices people out; 2) whites only.

    • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

      I’ve heard of “whites only” neighborhood covenants, but nowadays I think 1) is more likely. “Pricing people out,” however, is hugely important, as people with certain levels of income become much less likely to victimize you or your family in a violent crime. If I had money, I’d want to be around other people with money. Otherwise I’m going to get beaten up and robbed for mine. The poor are vicious, and have no real concerns above the animal. You can’t have truly humanistic concerns without leisure time, and people fighting each other for their next nickel to buy their drugs and abortions really don’t have any leisure time.

      • http://populisthope.blogspot.com Matt Talbot

        The poor are vicious, and have no real concerns above the animal.

        No, Sinner. The poor are blessed, and also heartbroken. Their streets are drenched with murder, but also grace that would move the most obstinate sinner. I grew up in a ghetto, and lost friends to murder; but when (please God…) I get to Heaven, it will be due in no small measure to the prayers and love I received from my neighbors and friends I knew in the old ‘hood.

        I encourage you to expand your thinking – you might volunteer to work in a charity in an inner-city setting.

      • http://turmarion.wordpress.com turmarion

        The poor are vicious, and have no real concerns above the animal. You can’t have truly humanistic concerns without leisure time, and people fighting each other for their next nickel to buy their drugs and abortions really don’t have any leisure time.

        Spoken like a true Pharisee. What a scoundrel that Jesus guy was to call the poor blessed and hang out with them!

        • http://www.patriabolivariana2008.blogspot.com Hector

          Indeed.

          For the record, I was raised in an upper-middle class, largely Jewish Boston suburb that advertised itself as ‘exclusive’. I’ve lived in a variety of places since then, including an elite college, a super-poor African village, a Midwestern rust-belt city, and currently I’m a graduate student in a midwestern college town. I would never, never raise my family in an ‘exclusive’ suburb like the one I grew up in. It’s morally corrosive, and there’s no real doubt about that: it can lead you very easily to become an entitled, comfort-addicted, selfish, so invested in preserving the lifestyle to which you’ve become accustomed to that you blind yourself to how that lifestyle is built on exploitation and indifference to the poor.

          Most of the really morally admirable people that I know, for the record, were from poor or working-class environments. (i’m thinking of a woman I knew from a working-class Boston suburb, a Dominican immigrant youth who lived in inner city Boston, and a couple of people I knew in Africa). Empirically, this is borne out by the statistics. Poor people are more generous, more collectivist, and have more sense of solidarity and social obligation than the rich (unsurprisingly, as giving what you have to your neighbours is a great way not to *become* rich). The great anthropologist Nancy Scheper-Hughes (who was a Christian and a Catholic, for what it’s worth) had some remarkable things to say about this, in her study of the lives of shantytown residents in Brazil. One of the things that struck me about her book was the way some of her poor neighbours said things to the effect of ‘the rich live for themselves, but we live for each other”.

          I was out for dinner with a friend of mine earlier this summer, a girl I know from the university here who was raised in a very working class suburb of Detroit, and we were talking about our backgrounds. She was pretty surprised to hear that I was from an upper middle class background, and said something like ‘you’re not like most upper middle class people, you’re not a douchebag.” That’s how a lot of the country sees ‘exclusive’ environments.

          And of course, if you want to know how the Beloved Disciple saw the epitome of wealth and comfort in his day, you have merely to read his chilling remarks in chapters 17 and 18 of the Apocalypse. Us Americans would do well to be warned.

        • Hector

          Indeed, Turmarion.

          For the record, I was raised in an upper-middle class, largely Jewish Boston suburb that advertised itself as ‘exclusive’. I’ve lived in a variety of places since then, including an elite college, a super-poor African village, a Midwestern rust-belt city, and currently I’m a graduate student in a midwestern college town in the heart of the Rust Belt. I would never, never raise my family in an ‘exclusive’ suburb like the one I grew up in. It’s morally corrosive, and there’s no real doubt about that: it can lead you very easily to become an entitled, comfort-addicted, selfish, so invested in preserving the lifestyle to which you’ve become accustomed to that you blind yourself to how that lifestyle is built on exploitation and indifference to the poor.

          Most of the really morally admirable people that I know, for the record, were from poor or working-class environments. (i’m thinking of a woman I knew from a working-class Boston suburb, a Dominican immigrant youth who lived in inner city Boston, and a couple of people I knew in Africa). Empirically, this is borne out by the statistics. Poor people are more generous, more collectivist, and have more sense of solidarity and social obligation than the rich (unsurprisingly, as giving what you have to your neighbours is a great way not to *become* rich). The great anthropologist Nancy Scheper-Hughes (who was a Christian and a Catholic, for what it’s worth) had some remarkable things to say about this, in her study of the lives of shantytown residents in Brazil. One of the things that struck me about her book was the way some of her poor neighbours said things to the effect of ‘the rich live for themselves, but we live for each other”.

          I was out for dinner with a friend of mine earlier this summer, a girl I know from the university here who was raised in a very working class suburb of Detroit, and we were talking about our backgrounds. She was pretty surprised to hear that I was from an upper middle class background, and said something like ‘you’re not like most upper middle class people, you’re not a douchebag.” That’s how a lot of the country sees ‘exclusive’ environments.

          And of course, if you want to know how the Beloved Disciple saw the epitome of wealth and comfort in his day, you have merely to read his chilling remarks in chapters 17 and 18 of the Apocalypse. Us Americans would do well to be warned.

        • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

          All I see on this thread are a bunch of educated upper-middle-class white folk playing out a sort of “noble savage” romanticization of the poor. You are the ones who are patronizing them, not me. I give them real agency by expecting real accountability of them.

          In reality (at least if they could get past the prideful defiance of their oppositional-identity) most of the poor would read this thread and say, “You crazy! I’d move to an exclusive neighborhood in a MILLISECOND if I won the lotto!”

          • http://populisthope.blogspot.com Matt Talbot

            Sinner – again, I grew up in a ghetto. I currently live in a studio apartment (one that I rather like) that could fit comfortably inside the typical one-car garage. You’re arguing with caricatures, and you’re caricaturing the poor.

        • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

          I live in a little studio apartment too in a major city too, Matt. What’s your point? Some neighborhoods are simply dangerous and we all know it. And there is nothing wrong with wanting to avoid danger. (Nor, I would add, with not wanting to let people into your neighborhood who are just going to put a car chassis up on cinderblocks in the front yard for years on end.)

          • http://populisthope.blogspot.com Matt Talbot

            Sinner – again with the stereotypes. Can’t you see the essential commonality, the fundamental interconnectedness, between you and the people you caricature?

            That’s why I’m recommending that you actually work with inner city folks. Your eyes will be opened, I believe. Your evident fear and disgust will change to compassion and gratitude.

        • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

          Matt, the problem is that stereotypes only have to be true 1% of the time…to ruin everything.

          Sure, maybe not everyone from a certain area is going to have a car in their front yard. Maybe it’s only 1 out of a 100 families. But in a neighborhood of 100 houses…1 house with a car out front still uglifies the whole thing.

          Likewise with stuff like gang violence. Maybe it’s only 20 or 30 young men out of a neighborhood of hundreds or thousands. It’s still enough to terrorize the place and make it NOT somewhere I want to put my children.

        • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

          The poisonous molecule in certain solutions can be only 1 part-per-million…and it still means that the whole solution is poisonous and must thus be avoided as a poison. And yet, since it is in solution, one cannot simply abstract and remove the non-poisonous molecules from the solution unless you actually preform a complex reaction to precipitate out the toxin.

  • Frank M.

    Matt:

    The problem I see with the resolution is that it’s all about the sin, and therefore addresses that segment of Catholics who respond to “is this behavior a sin or not.” That segment is unlikely to accept the resolution unless you can find a magisterial pronouncement on the topic. And you’d better make sure the pronouncement doesn’t leave any room for prudential judgement.

    Those who would agree that it is spiritually unhealthy to “buy distance between their brothers and sisters” as you put it, are less likely to think in dualistic terms. They may well argue with the resolution because it is insufficiently nuanced.

    • dominic1955

      I agree with Frank’s assessment-good luck trying to find that resolution in any of the auctores probati or magisterial pronouncements.

      My own opinion, the statement has none of the clarity that would be needed to say that it’s sinful. What does “exclusive” mean? I’m gathering that the quotation marks are supposed to imply some sort of sinister wink-wink to it but that is not enough to give it the moral import that would make an action mortally sinful. Secondly, even if that is taken to imply “no riff-raff” or some such, what is wrong with that? No one in their right mind wants their property value to go down because no one wants to live there anymore on account of rising crime rate, lack of desire on the part of the new people in keeping their property in good shape etc. It is not charitable or moral to recklessly let you and your family suffer serious financial loss and open yourselves up to a more likely chance of being the target of crime just to tilt at “social justice” windmills.

      I personally chose to live where I do because the neighborhood is good, no crime, quiet, neighbors are friendly, etc. Its not “exclusive” but the kind of people I wouldn’t want to live around aren’t going to be able to afford it and wouldn’t want to live in an area where the neighbors are going to be scrutinizing your activities. I could save hundreds of dollars a year if I moved to a different neighborhood in another part of town but I would refuse to on account of the other problems.

      About the only way it could be immoral would be if you were intentionally being discriminatory in a totally arbitrary way based on racial hatred possibly. Then, however, the sin would be hatred and would have been prior to moving to an “exclusive” neighborhood anyway.

  • Devin

    Mortal sin, no. As for venial, I don’t know. Exclusive living comes in many forms. There are many cities where you never speak to your neighbors or only briefly. If you live out in the country or small towns, you are choosing to live outside of the suburbs/cities and is often de facto segregation.

    It is one thing intentionally moving into area poorly developed area if you are single but if you want to raise a family, you also have obligations to have them raised in a safe environment. Yes you can send children to schools in underdeveloped areas and they can thrive and grow from the experience (my current roommate is a prime example). But there are potential risks that can’t be ignored. There are just to many nuances or caveats. Yes we have a responsibility to be our brother’s keeper. But we can’t be everyones keeper. Even by moving into one city you are making the choice to exclude people from another city or place.

    But the intentionality of moving to an “exclusive” community isn’t grave enough matter to qualify.

    • http://populisthope.blogspot.com Matt Talbot

      I think it is worth pointing out that the rich man in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus was damned not by hostility toward Lazarus, but by his indifference and passivity in the face of Lazarus’ glaring need.

      • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

        Naively exposing yourself to the antisocial behaviour of the American “poor” isn’t HELPING anyone. It’s just hurting you. You don’t need to live next to people to help them. Probably, you’d just wind up dragged down into the darkness with them.

        To use a “relationship” analogy, you strike me as one of those naive people who keep thinking they can “save” a drug-addict or alcoholic or Borderline case but then keep getting taken advantage of.

        The poor in America have been offered help. They didn’t want it. If it’s possible, I’d say, their urge of “thanatos” is stronger even than their absolutely out of control “eros.” They like to destroy, they like to be defiant against mainstream society, they have a combination of self-righteous anger and pathetic self-pity that has never been seen in any other society in the world.

        You can’t pull them up. America has tried for YEARS. A few individuals escape. The rest always always always self-destruct. Because most are paying the price for choices they made regarding drugs and alcohol. You can say “structural” this to me all you want, but no one HAS to do those things. If you do, you pay the rest of your life. This isn’t racial either. Blacks have their crack, white hicks have their meth. There’s nothing unfair about being punished the rest of your life for one wicked choice (indeed, God will punish for all eternity for the same).

        If they were well behaved, there’d be no problem. America would provide food and shelter and that’s about all you need. (In fact, we have a word for that: prison). So their veniality and criminality is not about getting basic necessities met. No, even when they have shelter and are getting enough food to live with a check each month…they aren’t content to just sit there and be docile, for some reason they still feel a need to mess things up and start shooting each other or taking drugs or screwing like rabbits. It’s an intractable situation because we are dealing with a culture that has chosen to shoot themselves in the foot out of a childish sort of stubborn defiance. And, well, their living conditions are immanent justice for this.

        • http://populisthope.blogspot.com Matt Talbot

          Sinner, they are your brothers and sisters, and they need your help. Most people in the ghetto – and I mean, the vast, vast majority – have none of the character defects you describe. The only difference between you and them is miles, money and luck.

        • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

          If you’re telling me that most people in “the ghetto” are content to sit in their free shelter, eat their free food, watch their TV and not hurt anyone…then what’s the problem?? Then this is not what I’d call poverty. Send the aid to the real deserving poor in the Third World who really are exploited by our imperialism.

          No, for some reason there is all sorts of gangs and drugs and violence and crime in these communities and it is NOT because their NECESSITIES aren’t being met, because they are (which is not true for many people in the Third World). It’s because there is some sort of antisocial attitude prevalent among them that makes them love thrills.

          There isn’t really “poverty” in America. People’s necessities are provided for. What there are, however, are communities which value substance abuse and promiscuity and the sense of being a “big man” they get from joining a gang and killing each other. Well, if those are your values, prepare to reap the rewards of those values.

          Only the community can STOP those anti-values. Outsiders can’t go in and say stop. They need to CHOOSE to have values which say, “Drugs and sex and violence aren’t cool.” But they don’t. Their children, their young men especially, do all believe that’s what “cool” (ie, good or desirable). Well, that’s disordered desire right there, a distorted notion of the Good, and they are paying for that value-choice with the Hell they’ve created for themselves.

          I have little sympathy for people who embrace the devil with open arms because they think he’s cool.

          • http://populisthope.blogspot.com Matt Talbot

            Sinner, do you know anyone in the ghetto? Your comments here are pretty convincing evidence that you do not.

            I grew up in Richmond, California, in one of the toughest ghettos in the country. Whatever my (many) faults, being naive about Richmond is the opposite of what I am. And having said that, I can say from direct, personal experience that the caricatures you speak here bear very little resemblance to the reality of Richmond and the many places like it.

        • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

          Then like I said: what’s the problem?

          If people have shelter and food (not to mention free education, probably television, etc)…then why the crime, the violence, the drugs, etc??

          If people’s necessities are being met (and in the US they are), why the compulsion towards antisocial behavior in these communities? If they have what they NEED (and I know they do; it may not be much, but it’s certainly sustenance) why the destructive behavior??

          • http://populisthope.blogspot.com Matt Talbot

            why the compulsion towards antisocial behavior in these communities?

            Sinner, there were people in my neighborhood who had direct, personal experience with losing members of their families to lynchings. There were people in my neighborhood whose grandparents – people they remembered – had been owned by other people. My down-the-street neighbor tried to buy a house in a white neighborhood, and had the house bought out from under him by the residents of that neighborhood.

            When my friends and I went into more prosperous neighborhoods, we were treated in a way that can only described as “objectification.” We were things, not individuals, to them. It was clear to me then, and is even more clear to me now, that the distance they were buying from my friends was not just geographical, but also psychic and, really, spiritual. I know that if they knew my friends like like I knew them, they would be delighted to meet them.

            There is a wide and terrible gulf between Richmond and the more prosperous neighborhoods; that gulf leaves deep wounds in both places.

        • http://turmarion.wordpress.com turmarion

          Well, the attitude you display here towards concrete, actual people today gives me new insight into how you can be so comfortable saying that it was just dandy for Medieval rulers–and still would be, hypothetically, in a “truly Catholic state”–to burn heretics, and towards your oft-expressed views on Hell.

        • http://turmarion.wordpress.com turmarion

          Sorry if it’s not clear–my last post is directed at A. Sinner, not Matt, whose posts here are excellent.

        • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

          Matt, why this need to be accepted? If the rich folk are as awful as you say, why would anyone want to be like them or near them?

          Except, of course they do! And when they don’t get it, it sours into a resentment that becomes self-destructive.

          It’s called Envy, and it’s the Deadly Sin of the Poor (Greed being that of the Rich, of course).

          • http://populisthope.blogspot.com Matt Talbot

            Matt, why this need to be accepted?

            Because they are your brothers and sisters, Sinner. They naturally want to be reconciled with, and welcome into their arms, their separated brothers and sisters. They long not for your possessions, but for you.

        • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

          Oh dear lord, this is the most schmaltzy crap I’ve ever heard.

          Yes, the poor are content in their material possessions and just do drugs and join gangs because they just wish the middle class would loooooooove them, like it’s some sort of big daddy-issue with the ruling class.

          Well, if you don’t want us to take paternalistic attitudes taken towards you, then you have to stop acting like children.

          • http://populisthope.blogspot.com Matt Talbot

            Sinner, again: I would recommend that you involve yourself in some way with people who work with inner city folks. I think getting to actually know the truth of their lives might open your heart a bit, and might even effect, in some small way, the reconciliation I describe.

        • Jordan

          A Sinner [August 27, 2012 7:18 pm]: There’s nothing unfair about being punished the rest of your life for one wicked choice (indeed, God will punish for all eternity for the same)

          A Sinner, I sense that you do not know untouchability or are not willing to admit that you are an untouchable. I am an untouchable. I am three days’ worth of medication from severe, even life-threatening illness which completely disables my ability to be a “productive citizen”. If it weren’t for the fact that I was born into a privileged background, I would be either dead or an addict from self-medication. Would you visit especially the mentally ill who have struggled and lost their dignity and even lives because adequate medical treatment was withheld from them in the first place? Or, would you consider their struggle to merely survive to be an all inclusive and even unpardonable sin?

          The realization that all persons are untouchables, that every person is an Other to another, is the foundation and everlasting font of human compassion. The renovation of humanity only arises when each person realizes that another person is equally vulnerable emotionally, physically, or spiritually.

        • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

          The “cuddly teddybear” imagination of criminality is naive. I’m talking about THUGS who KILL people to get their next fix. The “they just want a hug” idea is just so naive it blows my mind. They’re not all scared little boys, sorry. They are hardened compassionless wolves of men who frittered away any humanity they had into sociopathy at some point.

          Mental illness is another question. The homeless of THAT sort simply need to be institutionalized again. But “the ghetto” I’m imagining here is violent. Why? If they have their necessities met, why hurt anyone? Why not just sit back and be docile? But there is a restless drive-towards-destruction in human nature that THAT end of the gene-pool apparently has an over-abundance of.

      • dominic1955

        It would also be helpful to point out that Dives was not condemned for being rich but rather the kind of indifference that he had such that he could basically step over a person in obvious and truly glaring need and not so much as even order servants to bring out some left-overs and cheap clothing when he was beyond capable of such.

        In the present time, I do not see many Lazarus’ in this country. Many of the homeless would have been in institutions at one time and would have been taken care of if the well-intentioned efforts to reform those institutions hadn’t been so poorly executed. Many of the “poor” in this country will have more than most of the peoples of the world will ever have. Everyone cannot be regular middle class, and that is what some efforts in this country seem to sound like they want to do. The poor we will always have with us, and all. We should always be charitable to our fellow men, but always intelligently.

        *Disclaimer: I’ve worked and lived in very poor and unsafe neighborhoods. I’ve done ministry type volunteer work with the poor and homeless, etc. etc. Granted, not East St. Louis or Compton, but my “white a$$” has seen more of the “real world” than my middle class upbringing.*

        I think there are fine, upstanding folks in all neighborhoods and from all walks of life but there is definitely statistical reasoning to back up a choice to avoid certain areas of town like the plague.

        I wonder, too, at the social engineering attempts to “change” society. It would seem that to really get at the root cause of all this ghetto crime and poverty that is said to be generational and never gets done away with because its learned, the cycle needs broken. Then, we should start up militaristic boarding schools sort of along the lines of the old “Indian Schools” from the late 1800s to earlier 1900s for children born into the ghetto environment. Seems that maybe that would break the generational and cultural bond.

        • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

          Or segregate the sexes there so that there simply aren’t any children to worry about in the first place (just in case it IS partially genetic).

        • http://turmarion.wordpress.com turmarion

          Matthew 19:23-26. It seems clear that being rich is an intrinsic impediment to salvation–and the old chestnut about the so-called “eye of the needle” as a gate the camels had to kneel to get into is almost certainly a myth. He’s not saying difficult for the rich to enter the Kingdom–he’s saying impossible, as is clear from the disciples’ astonishment. Now, I’m not saying the rich are damned–when the disciples ask, ‘Who then can be saved?”, Jesus replies, “For men, this [for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven] is impossible (my emphasis); but for God, all things are possible.” This clearly seems to say that any rich that are saved are saved despite their wealth, and that it’s only because God’s a nice guy; but that humanly speaking it’s not gonna happen.

          Luke 6:24. He doesn’t say, “Woe to you rich who are indifferent, but the rest of you all are dandy”; he says “Woe to you rich; you have already received your comfort.” Sounds pretty unequivocal and lacking in nuance to me–seems pretty clear that it is the wealth itself which is a moral problem, not just one’s attitude to it. Also remember: there is nowhere (or I’d challenge anyone to show it) where Jesus berates or chides a poor person for being poor, or for anything else, for that matter; whereas he has plenty to say about the rich and powerful. Moreover, though my interpretation of the story of Ananias and Sapphira is not that God goes around smiting people (I wrote a detailed essay on it on my blog), it is interesting that it’s two rich people who are struck down for only a petty lack of generosity.

          It amazes me how people will twist and contort Scripture to say that there isn’t a clear favor for the poor and against the rich.

        • dominic1955

          A Sinner:

          I’m being tongue in cheek (somewhat) with the boarding school thing, but if this problem really needs to be social engineered out of existence, then it would seem that throwing money at projects and setting up task forces seems rather useless.

          Turmarion:

          Has the Church ever condemned the rich? No. It can certainly be a spiritual hinderance but much is asked of those who have been given much. Look at the Summa on liberality and magnificence (II of II, Q. 117 and 134). BTW, Protestants argue from Scripture like you are doing. Look to the Doctors and Fathers for a more complete answer.

        • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

          Once again, I question whether those in the USA are “poor” in any real sense of the word.

          It seems to me that everyone in the USA is “rich” by world standards, pretty much, and that we just have one group of rich which is well-behaved, well-groomed, and with good taste…and another group which just can’t seem to control itself.

          Both groups are decadent, but at least the former have a sort of “functional decadence” whereas the latter’s is not even functional, but purely self-defeating and self-destructive. It’s sort of like the difference between a “functioning alcoholic” and a non-functioning one.

        • http://turmarion.wordpress.com turmarion

          Dominic, the Doctors and the Fathers have lots of negative things to say about wealth and the wealthy. Google “St. John Chrysostom” and “wealth” for starters. Despite the attempts of people like George Weigel to spin them (a good discussion of this is here), papal documents for more than the last century–including Caritas in Veritate by the current Pope–have consistently favored workers and the poor over management and the rich, and have at best looked askance at capitalism with the faint praise that it’s better than Communism. As to Thomas, I disagree with him in many respects, this being one of them.

          I don’t say that proof-texting is a legitimate form of theological debate; however I am inclined to think that Protestants and Catholics (and Orthodox, too) have often departed from the teachings of their Lord, and compounded the sin by trying to argue that they have not, in fact, done so. The perfect example of this is the attempts to claim that the plain, blunt words of Jesus about wealth and the wealthy don’t mean what they clearly say.

        • dominic1955

          Yes, we all know about St. John Chrysostom and adorning the church and ignoring the poor etc. Of course he’s right, and in the historical context he’s preaching to the decadent Byzantine court. He’s not condemning wealth, he’s taking the rich to task on their stewardship.

          Papal documents for more than the last century favor the philosophical and theological system of St. Thomas Aquinas. You disagree with him? Well, gee, I guess that’s a thread-killer then, isn’t it?

          What does it mean to “favor the workers and poor” anyway? Who said anything about capitalism? None of that is the point. The Church never condemns being wealthy in itself and therefore Jesus never condemns being wealthy in itself as the Church is the sole authentic interpreter of what our Lord teaches.

          Lastly, I know very well that you do not say that proof-texting is a legitimate form of theological debate and neither did I say you did. Actually what I was more pointedly saying is that you do not so much proof-text as put your own little opinion on what are supposedly the “plain, blunt words of Jesus” above what the Church has traditionally understood them to mean. That is one of the tenants of “traditional” Protestantism, that the Bible has a “plain and clear” meaning that even a ploughboy can accurately interpret. This is not humility, it is hubris.

  • http://agellius.wordpress.com Agellius

    I’m not sure I get your point, Matt. Are you saying that everyone should live in a poor area under pain of sin? Because every neighborhood that is too expensive for poor people is to that extent exclusive.

    • http://populisthope.blogspot.com Matt Talbot

      You are, in fact, missing my point, Agellius. Read the resolution again: It is a sin to buy a house in a neighborhood because it advertises itself as “exclusive”

      • Pinky

        I didn’t catch that either. So what you’re describing is two nearly-identical houses in two nearly-identical neighborhoods, one of which is described as “exclusive”, and that’s what makes you choose one over the other? In that case, yes, it’s probably a sin of vanity. I would definitely take into account the proximity of a 7-11 before I’d think about how the neighborhood literature described it, though.

        But the talk in this thread seems to be revolving around a different question, namely, whether the neighborhood truly is separated from others. So let’s pose the thought experiment differently: imagine one neighborhood in a wealthy area with security guards and high-priced private schools, another, slightly shabbier, whose advertising describes itself as “exclusive”, and a third like the second but with no brochures. Which of them would you consider sinful, and for what reasons?

        • http://populisthope.blogspot.com Matt Talbot

          I would say that the extent that each neighborhood contributes to the separation of people from each other, and creates the Other out of people who live in other neighborhoods, is the extent to which people who buy houses in those neighborhoods for that reason are sinning, in the context of this discussion.

          Contributing to alienation of people from each other is sinful, in other words.

        • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

          Again, why this absurd strawman? No one is choosing neighborhoods to alienate people or feel exclusive. People are choosing neighborhoods to feel safe and to know that their neighbors will share their sensibilities.

        • Pinky

          Matt – So I’m guessing that separation can happen through the effort to be separate or through the self-labelling as “exclusive”. As a practical matter, though, I think that scouring a neighborhood brochure for potentially offensive comments, and basing such an important decision on what you find, is a form of scrupulousity.

          As to Sinner’s comment, I agree that people choose neighborhoods to feel safe, and not based on a desire to alienate others. Some people definitely do choose locations in order to feel superior, though. The last supposition, “to know that their neighbors will share their sensibilities”, can be read in two ways. 1) People seek neighbors who share their priority of safety. 2) People seek neighbors with whom they have commonality. I’d be careful with that second meaning, or you could get dangerously close to Matt’s idea of alienation.

        • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

          Commonality, yes, but not some abstract arrogant commonality. But rather very practical ones.

          I don’t like NASCAR or hip-hop or gangsta rap music. Now, I could live where that is blasted constantly, or I could live in a town which has the sort of cultural scene I like. It’s not judging better or worse, just my-preference vs. not. The fact that it happens to be correlated with income and safety…is a coincidence as far as the analysis is concerned.

          Likewise I’m going to prefer being around people who put an emphasis on punctuality, cleanliness, and speaking my dialect. That’s not to judge the other “dialects” anymore than me saying I want to live in an Anglophone country because I speak English, not French, and so would therefore have a hard time communicating in the different “language.”

          It was God Himself who instituted the divisions after Babel, remember.

        • Pinky

          I wouldn’t want to be around people who blast music I *like*. But I’m still not sure if your priority is safety or commonality. Your last comment indicates you consider them only coincidentally linked, but then which is important to you? I haven’t read every comment on this thread, so maybe I’ve missed something.

          “It was God Himself who instituted the divisions after Babel, remember.”

          Yeah, as punishment, and undid them on Pentecost.

    • http://www.rrrrodak.blogspot.com Rodak

      “This is not humility, it is hubris.”

      The hubris is in thinking that YOU can understand it, but the ignorant ploughboy can’t. Who did Jesus speak the vast majority of His words to originally? Was it to crowds of ploughboys and other common people? Or was it to gaggles of philosophers and theologians?

      • dominic1955

        Are you Catholic? If so, you believe that the Church is the sole authoritative interpreter of Scripture. She looks to the Fathers and Doctors as authoritative witnesses to the Faith the Church has held and always will hold.

        Your populist rant obviously missed the mark of what I said in the first place so I will attempt once more. The Church is the authoritative interpreter of Scripture, She considers certain folks to be reliable witnesses to that interpretation. The opinions of you, me, Turmarion, ploughboys and commoners, philosophers and theologians are not, all the more so the farther they diverge from the tradition. Thus, to say the Church has erred in missing the falsely so-called “obvious” plain meaning of Scripture is to throw your lot in with the other hirelings who distort the Gospel message and seek to divide what the Lord prayed to be unified.

        The ploughboy reference was a reference to Luther, in case you missed that.

        • http://populisthope.blogspot.com Matt Talbot

          Dominic – while Rodak can speak for himself, I would urge you both to keep this side discussion both short and charitable. Thanks.

        • http://www.rrrrodak.blogspot.com Rodak

          No, I’m not Catholic. I believe that it is every person’s responsibility, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to receive the message of scripture as it is meant to be received by that person, at that time. God knows what I need to understand and will provide exactly that to the extent that I sincerely ask to receive it. Knock and it shall be opened unto you. Seek and ye shall find. I.e. — One size does not fit all.

        • dominic1955

          Matt-no problem, will do.

          Rodak-OK, that answers that and puts an end to this birdwalk.

  • Jordan

    Devin [August 27, 2012 4:32 pm]: Exclusive living comes in many forms. There are many cities where you never speak to your neighbors or only briefly. If you live out in the country or small towns, you are choosing to live outside of the suburbs/cities and is often de facto segregation.

    Excellent point. Exclusivity, and the illusion of control over one’s home environment, is not a static concept but a spectrum of social dis/orders.

    When in the United States I live in a very exclusive town in one of the most wealthy zip codes in the nation. Not a few streets in the town are private. When Mom and Dad first moved here, I walked my dog down the “wrong” street by accident a few times. Once I was verbally accosted by a homeowner on a private street I accidentially tresspassed. Nevermind that I live in a house right across the street from her private road. It appeared to me that she interpreted my tresspass onto her private road as not merely a legal infraction or even a physical threat. Rather, it struck me that she considered my tresspass to be an existential threat.

    Certainly, I abide by private property and try my best to avoid walking private roads. I now also realize that many people choose where they live not necessarily over a concern for personal safety or even a conscious desire for conspicuous consumption. Rather, many choose to live where they live, if choice is possible, because “a good location” (and all its trappings, such as consumerism) become a proxy for identity. At this point, “exclusivity” becomes a toxic socio-emotional co-dependency bereft of room for spiritual or interpersonal growth and strength.

    Yeah, I was born with the silver spoon up the wrong end of the gastrointestinal tract. And also, because of congenital illness and by virtue of being a sexual Other, I have been privileged to learn that not only can money not buy love (thanks Paul!) but also cannot buy protection from social ostracization or personal insecurity. Matt, you are a good-hearted person. Live where you and your family will best prosper, teach them authentic human justice, and the ephemera of fancy cars and stainless appliances will simply slough off.

  • http://www.rrrrodak.blogspot.com Rodak

    This has got to be one of the most eye-opening comment threads I’ve ever come across. I truly believed, until now, the kind of vicious attitudes expressed and so vehemently defended by the person designating him/herself as “A. Sinner” to be only and always fictitious hyperbole generated by cynical liberals as political propaganda for use against conservative positions. I see that I was wrong and it hurts.

  • http://www.rrrrodak.blogspot.com Rodak

    Look–it’s quite simple: “exclusive” does not mean “fashionable”; it does not mean “beautiful”; it does not mean “expensive”; and it does not mean “conveniently located.” What it does mean is this: “All persons, other than ‘our kind’ are EXCLUDED.” Now, if buying a house on that basis is not in itself a sinful act, it is still most certainly prompted by sinful and uncharitable basic attitudes towards one’s fellow man. I believe the premise of the original post to be most correct.

    • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

      “Exclusive” can mean a variety of things in a variety of contexts. What I’ve seen it usually mean is “expensive,” in other words, “Expensive enough to keep anyone who isn’t white-collar out.” And that’s fine. My dad’s side of the family is white-collar, my mom’s side of the family is blue-collar; I know whose company I prefer, and it’s not because of snobbery, it’s just because the latter is dysfunctional to the point of self-destruction. I wish I could say it was only my family, but the boorish immaturity and idiocy I’ve seen, sadly, only seems to confirm the broader “stereotypes” I know exist, which leads me to believe there must be something to them!

      The lower classes are stupider; I’m not just talking about less education, but rather a lower IQ that wouldn’t change no matter how much fancy education you throw at them (not that they’d want it: anti-intellectualism is extremely prevalent; talk about a self-defeating attitude!). The poor bathe less, and it’s not for lack of water or soap. The American poor are fatter, and while I’ll admit “good food” is more expensive, at the end of the day the fact is that you can always simply eat LESS, and that will always will cost LESS. They ARE more likely to use hard drugs. They ARE more likely to be violent.

      There ARE deserving poor in the world. They are in the Third World. In America, not so much. In America, what we witness is basically a system which has sorted things out in a Darwinian fashion. Not necessarily genetically (though that may have SOME role), but just in terms of which VALUES give an advantage, and which values are dysfunctional. Don’t like intellectuals?? Then don’t be surprised that you have a trash-heap for a front yard!!

      In fact, I’ve heard it said, if you gave everyone equal money today, and rearranged all our living situations so the playing field was leveled…within a year the lower classes would have squandered it and will be back where they are, and the upper-middle-class would have likewise regained its place.

      • Brian Martin

        “The lower classes are stupider; I’m not just talking about less education, but rather a lower IQ that wouldn’t change no matter how much fancy education you throw at them (not that they’d want it: anti-intellectualism is extremely prevalent; talk about a self-defeating attitude!). The poor bathe less, and it’s not for lack of water or soap. The American poor are fatter, and while I’ll admit “good food” is more expensive, at the end of the day the fact is that you can always simply eat LESS, and that will always will cost LESS. They ARE more likely to use hard drugs. They ARE more likely to be violent.”
        I spent most of my life “poor”. I have a Master’s Degree…but someone must have given it to me because I am intellectually inferior.
        Here is a reality of poor neighborhoods….fast food chains, liquor stores and convenience stores are the primary sources of food. Access to supermarkets and places that sell fresh fruit and vegetables are virtually nonexistent in many poor areas or “ghettos”
        Your arrogance is quite simply, frightening.
        There should be, somewhere, something significant in the fact that Jesus came into this world in very lowly surroundings.

        • Ronald King

          Nice to see your comments Brian.

        • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

          Fast food doesn’t “explain” anything. You can always simply eat LESS. If you’re eating a hamburger every day and notice yourself gaining weight, you can always cut the hamburger in HALF and eat HALF today and HALF tomorrow, and you’ll have actually SAVED money AND reduced your obvious caloric surplus. Duh.

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

    About 14 years ago, I was teaching a first year seminar on Radical Christian Poverty (we read St. Francis, Dorothy Day and Mother Theresa). During a discussion about poverty in America, one of my students, from a wealthy suburb of New York, began expressing opinions about the poor in the same spirit as those evinced by A Sinner above, though nowhere near as radical. Nevertheless, one of his classmates, whose father had been homeless for a time, lost his cool, leaned over the table and roared: “You need to get your F***ing white *ss out of Darien and see the real world!”

    While I didn’t (and don’t approve) of the obscenities, I think the spirit of the remark is accurate, and is advice which A Sinner needs to take to heart. Nearly everything you are saying about the poor is wrong: a fearful and prejudiced distortion of a complex reality. Yes, there are violent criminals in the ghettos. There are violent criminals in rich neighborhoods too. There are lazy people everywhere, there are drug addicts everywhere. (Indeed, statistical evidence suggests that rates of drug use are higher in white, middle class areas than they are in poor, minority dominated neighborhoods.) There are also lots of hard working people stuck in dead end jobs, or people who want to work and can’t find jobs. Get over the image of deadbeat “welfare queens”: they are so rare as to be useful only for demagoguery.

    Once, a young sister came to Mother Theresa to complain: “The poor are lording it over us!” Mother Theresa sternly rebuked her, saying, “The poor are our Lord.”

    • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

      David, I think you are the one reducing ME to a stereotype.

      If you actually read my comments, I have never once critiqued the American “poor” for being LAZY. In fact, the advice I’ve given them has been repeatedly: I’m absolutely FINE with paying for your food and shelter if, for godsakes, you then at least DON’T HARM ANYONE ELSE.

      If they could do drugs without it leading to rampant violence, I’d have no judgment regarding that too.

      Say what you want about the rich, but you simply ARE safer when you’re around them. You are less likely to get shot or beaten or mugged or robbed or burglarized in the “exclusive” neighborhoods. And I’m simply asking why? If the poor have what they need (and they do)…why steal and rob and shoot and kill?

      I’d be fine with people being lazy, even drug addicts, if they’d do it just sitting in their rooms and not hurting anyone else. But it’s this latter caveat that can’t seem to be met in their communities, hence why they’re so dangerous and undesirable. No one wants to get hurt, and no one should be expected to bring their family into an area where there is a higher risk of it.

    • Brian Martin

      AMEN David

    • Ector de Maris

      Darien! That’s perfect! This thread already had me thinking about the in-laws-to-be in Auntie Mame who boast, with clenched jaw, about their neighborhood somewhere “above Darien and completely exclusive and restricted.”

      • http://www.rrrrodak.blogspot.com Rodak

        @ Ector — In those days “restricted” usually meant “no Jews.” African Americans and Hispanics weren’t even under consideration as potential neighbors then.

    • http://www.rrrrodak.blogspot.com Rodak

      “You can always simply eat LESS.”

      With that, I agree completely. So long as that “less” is also sufficient.

      • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

        Right, so the phenomenon of so many disgustingly FAT “poor” people should be proof of the decadence (and non-actual-poverty) of America’s urban “poor.”

        • http://undeetmemores.wordpress.com Jordan

          re: A Sinner [August 30, 2012 4:17 pm]: As Brian Martin noted earlier [August 29, 2012 8:06 am], a dearth of affordable fresh produce is one reason for the obesity epidemic in some lower-income communities. Lack of adequate health care is also part of the reason why obesity and comorbid disorders such as diabetes and high blood pressure are prevalent in poorer communities. People are dying because there is often little or no access to preventative counseling and treatment for chronic disorders.

          Also, it’s now well known that the etiology of metabolic disorders depends quite a bit on ethnicity. It’s flat erroneous and quite biased to lump together all obese “poor people” into one category and then blame their poor health on “decadence”. While it’s true that personal eating behavior contributes to obesity, some Americans are more genetically predisposed than others to chronic obesity. Instead of rendering summary judgment, consider that the obesity epidemic in lower-income communities is an outward sign of a general neglect for public health.

          Also, I’m obese, white, well-off, and have a very superior IQ. Cut the crap about biological determinism, please.

        • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

          One does not gain weight without a caloric surplus. You don’t need fresh produce: if you’re noticing yourself getting fatter, then just start eating LESS.

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

    Matt,

    turning to your OP, I agree, subject to a bit of nuance. It is not a sin to seek to live in a nice neighborhood (e.g., one with good schools, good public services, well maintained homes) but I would agree that it is a sin to seek out a neighborhood that bills itself as “exclusive”. Or, at the very least, I would counsel anyone in this situation examine their motives very carefully, and to be equally careful about jejune rationalizations. Jesus’ invective against the Pharisees (as seen, for instance, in the gospel on Saturday) is apropos: to deliberately seek out something because you believe it will set you over and above your neighbor, that it will convey status and honor in the eyes of the community, is the sin of pride and vanity. To do so because it lets you separate yourself from “those people” (the other, however defined) is a sin against charity and love of neighbor.

    • Julia Smucker

      Yes and yes. Something about Matt’s proposition resonated with me, and you have hit on it exactly.

  • Ronald King

    One of the neurotic/fearful reactions to the crises of being human is to be special. Another fearful reaction is to seek a savior. Living in an “exclusive” environment provides the delusional solution to the crisis of being nothing and being powerless while at the same time does nothing to make the world truly safe nor give the human being a sense of lasting value or worth and contributes to the continuing history of emotional/physical violence prevalent in human interactions. In my opinion, living in an exclusive community is an act of violence against those who are unable to see the delusional “reality” of those who live in such a place. Exclusivity projects us vs them and us as better than them and them as being a threat to us. Fear is prevalent in this delusional system and for those who do not live in the exclusive communities their development will be influenced by the power of those who are in a position to project the values inherent in such a delusional system. Consequently, the delusion spreads like a contagion throughout the culture with everyone being subjected to this disease with its soul-wrenching effects of worthlessness. It is a mortal wound for everyone caught unaware.

    • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

      Again: absurd. Families look at such communities and HARD STATISTICS simply show that they are demographically safer from violent crime and, likely, the children going to schools in such neighborhoods have a higher chance of going on to college, getting “good” jobs, etc.

      These are not concerns born of pride or any of these ridiculous abstractions. They’re concerns of parents giving their children the most conducive environment possible to their material well-being. There is nothing wrong with desiring a community which is functional as opposed to one that is dysfunctional.

      • Ronald King

        By all means, keep the delusion alive.

      • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

        Your assumption that all of these decisions are made on the basis of rational choice is equally flawed. People often let their perceptions and prejudices color their vision. We had neighbors for a few years; a nice couple with a daughter. They got a good offer on their house and decided to move, but one of their rationales was that our neighborhood was going down hill. Since I live here, I can attest that there is no factual basis for this. Moreover, they left a town with one of the best school systems in the state for a town with a much weaker school system.

        • http://rrrrodak.blogspot.com/ Rodak

          Interesting, David. Did you peceive a racial component to their irrational decision? Or was it all based on property value fears?

    • Jordan

      re: Ronald King [August 28, 2012 9:57 am]: Amen. You have succinctly explained what I had set out to explain in my post at [August 27, 2012 8:10 pm] but cannot because I am also “mortally wounded” by exclusivity, as you write. I rather regret the posts that I had made on this thread. Even so, it is perhaps good that those like me who have been born privileged demonstrate their ignorance about the spectrum of poverty in order to be better formed emotionally and spiritually. It is good for me to not understand and seek knowledge, but not necessarily ramble ignorantly.

      • Ronald King

        Jordan, I have always appreciated your insight. Your self-awareness is beautiful along with your God-given humility which I deeply admire. God Bless.

  • http://agellius.wordpress.com Agellius

    Matt:

    I didn’t overlook that. But I was also responding to prior comments of yours. For example, “aren’t you, by buying distance from your brothers and sisters, refusing to live in community with them, thus refusing to heal the rifts that separate you from them, in a real sense denying their brother and sisterhood?” Thus, buying a house in an area where poor people can’t afford to live, is that not also “buying distance from your brothers and sisters”?

    • http://populisthope.blogspot.com Matt Talbot

      It is a sin to buy a house in a neighborhood because it advertises itself as “exclusive”

      • http://agellius.wordpress.com Agellius

        Yes, I know. “Because”. But isn’t that hairsplitting? If the reason we should not buy into exclusive neighborhoods is that the poor need us to be around and not reject them, and if the poor feel rejected and unloved because we live in neighborhoods that exclude them, what difference does it make to the poor whether exclusiveness was the reason we bought into that neighborhood, or some other reason? Aren’t we neglecting the poor regardless? Aren’t they going to feel rejected and neglected regardless what our motive was?

        • http://populisthope.blogspot.com Matt Talbot

          Yes. You’ve kind of made my point – thanks :)

      • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

        Agellius, please don’t buy into Matt’s ridiculous premise that all the poor want is some love and attention from the upper middle class folks they apparently envy so much.

        I don’t go through life desperate for the love of folk from the ghetto, and I sincerely doubt that they sit up at night dreaming that some white-collar suit would just come and give them a hug. That just seems absurd to me.

  • dominic1955

    Quite true, you cannot overlay such asperations as mere neurotic responses to the “crisis” of being human. If we want to play psychologist, the same can be said about the poor or the folks in the ghetto. They have their own version of “special” which is just as exclusive and just as delusional. I don’t live in the ghetto or any part of town considered bad because I know that if I want to be reasonably sure of the overall well being of my person, of my family and friends, and my possessions. This is borne out in our general and personal experience and reality. Living somewhere you can truly feel safe has very positive influences on your total well being. I know I am in a much better state being in my “exclusive” neighborhood as opposed to being in some of the places I could insert myself into.

    Neuroses are a dime a dozen in every walk of life. Normality is found in pretty much every walk of life, with probably a preponderance towards those who have a balanced life.

    • http://www.rrrrodak.blogspot.com Rodak

      Matt has nowhere suggested that it is anybody’s moral duty to go live in the ‘hood. There are plenty of what are often called “mixed” neighborhoods where blue collar and white collar families live together in relative peace and security. The only two choices are not gated communities or the ghetto. I lived in three different boroughs in NYC: first in Ft. Greene, Brooklyn; then in the Bronx, just north of Fordham Road; then on the upper Westside and the upper Eastside of Manhattan, for a span of 20 years. The only time I ever got mugged in all that time was in the safest of all the neighborhoods I lived in–the upper Eastside, near Rockefeller University. And this was when I could walk to work and no longer rode the subway daily.
      But to get back to the point, what Matt is saying is that one should question one’s motives in choosing where to live. Jesus taught that once you harbor a sinful motive, you don’t need to commit the overt act to have committed the sin. If I understand Matt correctly, this is what he is pointing out in this post.

    • Ronald King

      Are you referring to my comment? If so, I do not think you understood what I stated.

  • http://agellius.wordpress.com Agellius

    Matt writes, “Yes. You’ve kind of made my point – thanks :)”

    Then you’re agreeing with me, that your premises imply that buying into any area where the poor can’t afford to live is a sin.

    • http://populisthope.blogspot.com Matt Talbot

      Darn – we were so close, Agellius! No, what I am saying is that buying a house in a neighborhood because that neighborhood advertises itself as exclusive, is sinful.

      • http://agellius.wordpress.com Agellius

        Matt:

        It was a fun dance but I guess we’ve gone in circles enough times for now. : )

  • Aegis

    Several years ago, my family lived in the west side of Cleveland in the house my Great Uncle built in 1929. My father worked and still works as a mail carrier, and my Mom part time doing office work. We’re middle class- my Dad makes about 60k a year. My parents didn’t want to move out of the city, but here’s what happened.

    Drug dealers moved into the house next door to us and roving bands of high school dropouts started appearing in the local parks at all hours. My older brother got jumped one day coming back from football practice, and my younger brother got jumped once too coming from Jefferson Park. A next door neighbor’s house got broken into while she was home. She called the police, but even though the intruder was still in her house, the police refused to show up because they had no one to spare.

    Then one week one of our cars got stolen. A few days later the police found it and we got it back. A couple days after that someone burned our garage down and destroyed both of our cars.

    So we sold the house and moved outside the city to a suburb called Avon Lake. By Cleveland standards, it’s pretty restrictive, although it’s not by definition “exclusive.” There are people living in run down houses in a few sections. The northern coast along Lake Erie is lined with mansions. There is not as much community out here.

    So, what should we have done?

  • http://agellius.wordpress.com Agellius

    Matt:

    I’ll try another tack just for fun:

    You write, “The only difference between you and [the poor] is miles, money and luck.”

    If it’s true that the poor are just like us in every way except money, then why do they need any help from us other than monetary help? The only benefit I can see to the middle and upper classes living in proximity to the poor, is that they could act sort of as “mentors”, to show the way out of poverty. But if the poor don’t need that because they are just as smart and knowledgeable and responsible and moral as the rest of us, then it seems to me they don’t need us to be in close proximity to them. They just need us to give them money to help them out of poverty.

    So which is it?

    Personally I agree that the poor could use “mentoring” by those who are in higher economic classes than they are. I certainly could have. Unfortunately, it seems to be an intractable part of American culture that no one is supposed to tell anyone else that the way they are living is wrong. The poor can benefit by interaction with people from other classes, but only if they approach the interaction with humility, being willing to listen and learn a different way of life. But even to state it that way is considered arrogant and insulting.

    • http://populisthope.blogspot.com Matt Talbot

      An even better approach is for better-off folks to relate in a human way with poorer folks. Humility can indeed be useful here – rather than going and offering to mentor them, go and get to know them, and thus discover how you can be helpful.

      One example from my life is this: I sat in a room with a woman who had lost a grandchild to murder, and held her hand as she wept for him. There were no words I could say – the only thing required was my presence. I later wrote a poem about her and her lost grandchild, and shared it with her. I think that helped her, too.

      Be present.

      • http://undeetmemores.wordpress.com Jordan

        re: Matt Talbot [August 28, 2012 7:27 pm]: Even the act of “presence” without words often reveals glaring inequalities between persons. Once I was sitting at a parish dinner next to a man who, after a bit of small talk, noted that my hands “were like kid gloves”. He then remarked (rightly) that I have never worked a day of manual labor in my life. He looked me straight in the eye and told me that the ability to make a living “with a pen” (as he put it) rather than with the hands is an enormous gift and privilege. Looking at his calloused hands and then at his eyes, I realized for the first time that I did not truly understand how privileged I am or indeed what “privilege” is. I regret that I have never had the opportunity to meet this man again. His words have struck a course through me which runs deep.

        I have other glaring social deficiencies: a few people over the years have suggested that I try for a commentator job at NPR or the CBC (on reflection, this isn’t necessarily a compliment). Another has remarked on my table manners, noting that I must be “well bred”. Nowadays when I volunteer at soup kitchens I immediately request to work in food prep or the clothing closet. If I have difficulty meeting others on their level, then perhaps it is better for me to serve my brothers and sisters in a less in-person way. There is a balance between the desire to serve others personally and the realization that one might not be able to effectively communicate charity and service to others at a particular time.

      • http://www.rrrrodak.blogspot.com Rodak

        @ Matt Talbot

        “Be present.”

        Apropos of that, I heard John Prine’s moving song, “Hello in There” on my drive into work this morning. “Be present” is precisely the message of that great tune.

      • http://renegadetrad@gmail.com A Sinner

        That’s a lovely story, but my only question is why you have to take it and make it about CLASS.

        Why is it at all important that she was “poor” and that you are now, presumably, more bourgeois?

        If what you mean is that people should help people, fine, we’d all admit that. But why do the poor need outsiders to come in an hold their hands? Aren’t there enough of them to do it for each other? Likewise, aren’t there people suffering grief even IN the “exclusive” neighborhoods?? We can help wherever we are (and, on the other hand, one could ask why you don’t fly off to a Third World country and live there; isn’t staying in the USA at all a form of “exclusion” and “alienation” by your definitions??)

        I’m really not sure why you’ve made this into a class thing. You know more about the story than I do, obviously, but I’d be incredibly surprised to learn that your class-status was at all important to this grandmother in the way hers obviously is to your self-righteous self-narrative.

  • Rat-biter

    If I knew the meaning of the substantive motion, discussion might be possible. This looks like something one must be from the US to understand.

  • http://turmarion.wordpress.com turmarion

    For those who insist on telling us how bad the poor are and how nasty their lifestyles are and how it’s (implicitly) all their own fault; and who (implicitly) seem to have the unstated notion, “If it were me, then I would not make such bad choices,” I’d like to direct you to this article from awhile back by Megan McArdle, former economics blogger for The Atlantic online, and by no means a liberal. The title is “If I Were a Poor Black Kid”, but substitute “Latino”, “Appalachian white”, or any of several other adjectives for “black”, and it comes out pretty much the same. Those of us who are blessed to be in the middle class and relatively free from violence and want all too often forget that “blessed” is the operative word. Our noble virtuousness of character plays a far smaller role (if any) than we like to think, and we are less responsible for our place in life than we like to believe, as McArdle astutely shows.

    • http://renegadetrad@gmail.com A Sinner

      But Turmarion, I’m not claiming that. You seem to be forgetting how grace operates with (and precedes) free-will in the Catholic teachings (at least, Thomistic), the complex interaction there in our theology.

      The whole point is I WAS blessed with the good circumstances and the graces to make good choices. The violent and drug addicted obviously WERE NOT. This is the Mystery of Iniquity that ultimately boils down to “God loves some more than others.” He did not give them the efficacious grace of a good choice (when it comes to the choice of drugs or gangs), whereas He did give it to me. That it takes the form of unequal circumstances is irrelevant.

      If the poor are meant to be virtuous, they will achieve it, they will be given the means and the graces, perhaps by someone like me or you being given the grace of inspiration to go help them. But if they don’t wind up receive the means, then it means perhaps they were not elect. If they were, they would ultimately be given an efficacious grace to make the right choice and not be reprobate.

      • http://renegadetrad@gmail.com A Sinner

        So the point isn’t that I think that “If I were a poor black kid” I’d make the right choices, but rather that God DIDN’T make me a poor black kid to begin with.

      • http://turmarion.wordpress.com turmarion

        This is the Mystery of Iniquity that ultimately boils down to “God loves some more than others.” He did not give them the efficacious grace of a good choice (when it comes to the choice of drugs or gangs), whereas He did give it to me.

        Yes, we’ve been here before, and I reject this theology.

        If the poor are meant to be virtuous, they will achieve it, they will be given the means and the graces, perhaps by someone like me or you being given the grace of inspiration to go help them. But if they don’t wind up receive the means, then it means perhaps they were not elect. If they were, they would ultimately be given an efficacious grace to make the right choice and not be reprobate. (my emphasis)

        Very close to Calvinism or at least Jansenism here. I reject those, too.

        • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

          I don’t know what alternative you propose. If people don’t make a good choice, for whatever reason, that is a lack of a grace, as the presence of the good choice could only be attributed to grace, and it’s not like a good choice could merit itself.

  • http://profiles.google.com/JohnMcG johnmcg

    In general, it is probably the case that someone seeking to live in an “exclusive” neighborhood is breaching solidarity.

    I’m not sure I would be willing to apply it specifically on the other hand.

    In its way, is a monestary or a convant not an “exclusive” neighborhood? For sure, many orders intentionally place themselves in the midst of the poor to live beside them and serve them, and they are living in poverty themselves. But some are not.

    So why do they separate themselves in that way? So they can devote themselves to their vocation’s call. To do the prayers and works they have been called to do.

    Given that, are there any good reasons why we lay people might want to live in an “exclusive” neighborhood.

    Well, and obvious answer is to have an optimal environment in which to raise children. I understand that a host of evils can be imported under this cover, but I don’t think it can be denied that certain activities are easier in some places of town than others, and certain worries go away. I’m not sure where I live would be called “exclusive,” but I don’t worry that, for example, the medicine I have for my daughter will be stolen, or my car will be broken into if I leave it parked outside. I would hope that being freed from these worries enables me to be better in other aspects of my life.

    Now, this is a bit of a privilege, so then the question comes of what we do with this surplus. Do I use it to hide away in the comfort of my home? Or do I use it to love people (including the poor better)?

    In any instance, I am in agreement that seeking out an exclusive living arrangement ought to trigger a rather thorough examination of conscience. I’m not completely positive of what the result of that examination will always be.

  • Ronald King

    Paraphrasing, “To whom more is given, more is expected.” In our culture it appears that to whom more is given, more is collected and protected. Relationships are formed around familiarity and there is a neurobiological basis for this dynamic which is either reinforced or modified through the socialization process. The decision-making process is influenced by a complex set of unconscious instinctive drives programmed through one’s genetic and social history. “Free will” is limited to what is “known”. What is known is incomplete. We are incomplete and thus we develop communities and beliefs to create the delusion of being whole, we become exclusive as a means to control reality and to protect what we know is ours. Those in power project what is valued and those who live within that system will be conditioned to desire what is valued. To be included in an exclusive environment one must integrate the values of that system into one’s identity and then succeed according to the standards of that system, only then are you considered for membership– objects judging objects based on objectified and verified evidence determining one’s worth to be a member. It seems to lack a heart. There seems to be a world filled with exclusive communities with many different uniforms contributing to a world of suffering.

  • http://turmarion.wordpress.com turmarion

    All I can say is that the attitude expressed by some here towards the poor and our obligations towards them is astounding, though I shouldn’t be astounded any more. Appealing to the Magisterium, Tradition, etc. to make the clear words of Jesus mean the opposite of what they say doesn’t work, even from a Catholic perspective. That Aquinas is the “official” theologian of the Church doesn’t mean every statement of his, such as on wealth, is ipso facto infallible; whereas the rather blithe dismissal of the harsh words of St. John Chrysostom as context-bound and aimed not at wealth per se but at lack of generosity (a highly tendentious interpretation!). It also displays the typical arguing style of a certain segment: quote Church, Fathers, Popes, etc. unless the other side does so too. Then their quotes don’t count, because of prudential judgement, non-infallible status, etc. We’re arrogant for saying we think we know what the Church or Jesus “really” means–but they’re humble, even though they know what Chrysostom or Aquinas “really” meant!

    One could write books about dogmatic theology arguing what is or isn’t taught by the Church, how the Bible should be interpreted, whether doctrine changes or not (a true, unbiased survey of history shows that it does–Newman used the more polite word “develop”). Suffice it to say that I favor a more Orthodox view, where infallibility isn’t jettisoned, but is much more restricted, and there isn’t a “creeping infallibilism” or “the Church says so” mentality used to club unpopular positions or to argue that the status quo is just dandy. I point once more to this article, which does a good takedown of the attempts by neoconservatives to hijack Catholic Social Teaching. Yes, I know this thread isn’t about capitalism per se, but many of the views expressed here about the poor and poverty come right out of the playbook of the apologists for capitalism, consumerism, and the status quo.

    Finally, Dorothy Day was an anarchist pacifist socialist even after her conversion, though theologically she was quite orthodox. Now the fact that one is a saint, or in the process of canonization doesn’t canonize all of one’e beliefs, obviously. Nevertheless, that a person whose political and social beliefs were so integral to her life and mission–and which beliefs were not just ancillary to her worldview (and which would, I assume, be pretty much the opposite of those of the aforementioned commenters)–is in the process for sainthood indicates to me that it is at least acceptable for a Catholic to hold her views, no matter how much others may disagree. Oppose us if you wish, but don’t say our beliefs aren’t Catholic.

    I agree with Matt that we should all try to be charitable here, though some of the expressed attitudes to the poor–that they’re stupider, like animals, don’t need outside people to come in and help, etc.–strike me as stunningly lacking in charity. I think this discussion has rather come to an impasse; so at this point I’m proud to stand with St. John Chrysostom, Dorothy Day, and also that carpenter guy in their views and teachings that we should have a preferential option for the poor, and that in the world to come, “many who are first will be last.”

    P.S.: Lest the last paragraph seem too smug or self-righteous, I consider that it is a blessing that I live in a First World country as a more or less middle class person who’s never known great suffering and difficulty. To that extent I am condemned–I am all too well aware of how I have failed to minister “to the least of these my brethren”. It’s no secret that I’m a universalist; but if I’m wrong (or if I’m right but there are extended periods of postmortem purification), these blessings will work against my salvation. By global standards, I am indeed “first”, and I am well, well aware that I am in grave danger of being “last”. If I’m saved, it will be despite the fact of my comfortable, First World life, and purely because of God’s grace and mercy. So it is for all of us, and we should all think on that very carefully.

    • Ronald King

      Thank you.

    • http://www.rrrrodak.blogspot.com Rodak

      @ Turmarion — That is beautifully expressed. I am particularly impressed by your “P.S.” which makes a confession that has often occurred to me with regard to my own life, but which one rarely hears expressed: “If I’m saved, it will despite the fact of my comfortable, First World life, and purely because of God’s grace and mercy.” Amen to that.

    • dominic1955

      Cut the “clear words of Jesus” nonsense. There are as many versions of what the “clear words of Jesus” as there are sectarians. If one is Catholic, the Bible is interpreted by the Church and in turn the Fathers and Doctors. You have your idea of what the Bible says, what the saints say but it doesn’t pass the smell test on this one nor if one actually looks at the writings with the proper sensus fidelium. Just look at St. John Chrysostom’s homily on adorning the Church but not helping the poor. Twice in the “money quote” part of that homily does Chrysostom say that he is not forbidding or disparaging giving such expensive gifts to the Church but rather that almsgiving should come first! Same with the quote about honoring Christ through the poor. How can these quotes from St. Chrysostom in any conceivable way be construed as a condemnation of wealth in and of itself? How is one able to give chalices, vestments, lamps, etc. without having wealth and St. Chrysostom says these things are good, not bad! To suggest otherwise, that he really did condemn wealth, simply boggles the mind. Let him with eyes see! No one is discounting the writings of the saints or Magisterium but if you try to read nonsense into them that isn’t there, well, there’s going to be a problem.

      To say it has an element of time contingency (and I never said it was irrelevant or non-applicable) takes nothing away from its principled application. St. Chrysostom is saying the same things the OT would say about the Jews who offer hollow sacrifices for the praise of their fellow men while their hearts are far away from God or how the NT speaks on the Pharisee’s keeping laws without their internal and real reason for being kept. He is saying the same thing as Jesus did when he spoke of the righteousness of the Pharisees. Keeping the laws with strictness was not what was wrong, that righteousness should be done as well and THEN above and beyond that, doing so with the right heart and intention. The truly righteous will adorn the Church with their wealth (according to their state in life) AND help the poor and suffering.

      I also do not see how you get all offended by being considered unCatholic (which no one actually did) and then identify with an Eastern schismatic interpretation of infallibility and at least implicitly deny the clear teaching of the First Vatican Council on the development of doctrine! You were not lynched, you hung yourself.

      I actually admire Dorothy Day but I am pretty certain she wouldn’t condemn wealth in and of itself either. You are right that being in process doesn’t canonize a person’s belief, but as far as I’ve read of her, she wouldn’t hold that position anyway. Going along those same lines, how many emperors and nobles has the Church canonized? Even those that wore hair shirts or gave up their wealth to enter religion did not do so because wealth was bad. Some kept it and made good use of it.

      Finally, I also do not think that anyone (myself included) denies a “preferential option for the poor” but define that. Liberation theologians and their buddies probably see that in a radically different way than I would see it.

  • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

    “All I can say is that the attitude expressed by some here towards the poor and our obligations towards them is astounding, though I shouldn’t be astounded any more.”

    Turmarion, I don’t think anyone has tried to shirk our obligations.

    We’ve just questioned the notion that one of those obligations is moving into bad neighborhoods (or at least “not deliberately avoiding” them, or some incredibly impossible to define motive-based criterion like that; that sort of imprecision is why Catholic morality is actually object-based).

    “Newman used the more polite word ‘develop'”

    Newman wasn’t talking about “change,” he was talking about further definition. Everyone would admit new dogmatic declarations have been made (and up to 1950, have continued to be made) throughout history. This is “development.” It isn’t “change.”

    “Suffice it to say that I favor a more Orthodox view”

    Then go become Eastern Orthodox! As the Pope recently said: Judases should just LEAVE. It’s dishonest if they don’t.

    “many of the views expressed here about the poor and poverty come right out of the playbook of the apologists for capitalism, consumerism, and the status quo”

    Ha! I am the greatest enemy of capitalism. In reality, concern for the decadent American domestic “poor” serves as nothing but a distraction from the REAL structural problems in the world economic system that exploit the REAL poor of the world.

    “Oppose us if you wish, but don’t say our beliefs aren’t Catholic.”

    I’m not sure who has.

    “some of the expressed attitudes to the poor–that they’re stupider, like animals, don’t need outside people to come in and help, etc.–strike me as stunningly lacking in charity.”

    You are not making the right distinctions. The lower classes in America are, by and large, of lower IQ. A sifting process has simply taken place socially. They also simply do have sensibilities which are culturally “low.” Tell me NASCAR is “as civilized” as going to the symphony, and I’ll just laugh.

    As for the “like animals” comment, this was obviously (if you read it in context) directed towards the violent-criminal poor. But it is the violent-criminal (or drug- or sex- addicted) type which is the main PROBLEM among the American decadent poor. The ones who aren’t hurting anyone aren’t a problem. It is the violent-criminal element which destroys their own communities, and which makes other people want to avoid such neighborhoods like the plague.

    As for outside help, they may need it, but in the form of money and (most importantly) police. If some of these neighborhoods need to be put under curfew or gated IN (as opposed to gating out) for a few years to draw out the criminal element and make sure no guns or drugs are passing in or out, that perhaps could help.

    “If I’m saved, it will be despite the fact of my comfortable, First World life, and purely because of God’s grace and mercy. So it is for all of us, and we should all think on that very carefully.”

    It depends how you handle your first world life. You seem to be dealing with it just fine. The criminal class of our inner cities, however, have clearly slipped into the decadence of Babylon in their first world life (they’re first worlders too, remember!) There is a GOOD first world life, and a BAD first world life. The “poor” (really no such thing) in the American ghettos are an example of the BAD first world life, of total absolute decadence.

    On the other hand, the same can be said for the third world. The war lord in Africa or the child-trafficker in Asia is just leading a “third world life.” But there is a GOOD third world life, and a BAD third world life.

    • http://populisthope.blogspot.com Matt Talbot

      A Sinner – the people you seem to loathe in our inner cities are your brothers and sisters. They are a suffering “us” not an alien “them.”

      • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

        No, if they shoot my wife, or try to sell my son drugs, or rape my daughter, or try to recruit my nephew into a gang…there is a suffering us, indeed, but it isn’t THEM. On that end is pure evil, the devil in now-empty human husks. And they pay for those absolutely free decisions with the live they have created for themselves. Blaming someone else is mauvais foi.

        • http://populisthope.blogspot.com Matt Talbot

          On that end is pure evil, the devil in now-empty human husks.

          You’ve made it clear that you see ghetto-dwellers that way, A Sinner.

          When I went through my old neighborhood recently, I saw a man watering his lawn who looked shell-shocked. I also saw lovers walking in a park, children playing stick-ball, good friends playing dominoes, a group of teenagers coming to the aid of a elderly woman who had fallen in a crosswalk, two mothers sitting together on a park bench watching their toddlers play together, a mailman making his rounds, and so on.

          “They” really are “us.”

        • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

          If that’s the case, Matt, then why this imperative to go seek them out?

          We can each only truly know about 200 people (see my link on Dunbar’s Number). I think it is odd to be concerned with going OUT OF ONES WAY to fill up those slots with “exotic specimens”

          I’m much more inclined to fill up my 200 slots with the people I meet naturally in the course of living. Family, of course, then people met in school, and then people in my career or at church or sharing common interests.

          If they’re “just like” the people in the “exclusive” neighborhood…why would you suggest we go out of our way to add them to our rolodex, as it were? Building relationships with people isn’t supposed to be like catching rare Pokemon, for goodness sake.

  • http://www.rrrrodak.blogspot.com Rodak

    @ A Sinner — Would it be possible for you to consider Turmarion’s point about a comfortable, first world life in terms of Matthew 19:24?:

    “And again I say to you: It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

    • dominic1955

      Read St. Augustine’s Sermon 35 on the NT.

      • http://turmarion.wordpress.com turmarion

        Jesus trumps St. Augustine. If you don’t find that sufficient, we could, if we had time (and I don’t) play the game of finding quotes from various Doctors, Fathers, popes, Councils, etc. that best support our respective positions, but that would be pointless. If you don’t see your position as distorting what Christ said, or the clear teaching of the Church on the “preferential option for the poor”, I guess that’s ’nuff said.

        • http://www.rrrrodak.blogspot.com Rodak

          @ Turmarion — I found the time. See below.

        • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

          “Jesus trumps St. Augustine.”

          Dominic’s whole point is that every text needs a hermeneutic, a school of interpretation.

          The way you say this, it’s as if you believe there is a “clear and obvious” meaning regarding “what Christ meant.” But the whole point is that there is not, that your “obvious and straightforward” is actually no such thing, is totally subjective.

        • http://profiles.google.com/JohnMcG johnmcg

          A Sinner,

          Do you have an alternative reading of the Good Samaritan parable that does not involve the notion that everyone is my neighbor, and it is my duty to serve them?

          Do you have an alternative reading of Matthew 25 that means we don’t have a duty to take care of the people around us in a personal way?

          I’ll offer one more:

          “Amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven”

          It doesn’t require a Ph,D. in theology to recognize that Jesus’s message was largely about universal solidarity. I tire as much as anybody when non-Christians looks at, for example, Christians opposition to same sex marriage and mouth things like, “I though Jesus was all accepting people and not judging.” No, not quite. And that’s not what’s going on here.

          What is going on here is people who take their faith seriously calling us to reflect on whether our choices about where we live are consistent with the faith we profess.

        • http://turmarion.wordpress.com turmarion

          Everything does need a context and a hermeneutic–but if the hermeneutic ends up saying that in a given text “black” actually means “white”, then there is reason to suspect the hermeneutic. Subtlety is one thing; trying to interpret one’s way out of hard sayings because one doesn’t like them is another.

        • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

          johnmcg,

          To your plea of “universal solidarity,” I’ll simply present another undeniable fact of existence (and the Christian narrative especially): the “scandal of particularity.”

          We can’t all know everyone individually. Even Christ had a circle that was largely His cousins and hometown chums. He didn’t try to assemble a “Captain Planet” power-team with a representative of every Continent or something like that.

          We’re not supposed to go out trying to befriend the World really, because that’s impossible. Certainly not everyone has the vocation of evangelist or missionary to gentiles. Indeed, Christ Himself made it quite clear that during His pre-ressurection earthly ministry He was largely limited to preaching to the House of Israel, and stayed within His native environs.

          Universal solidarity is best achieved through subsidiarity. “Charity begins at home,” and there is likely enough work to be done, for many of us, just dealing with our own “local” community. There is no need to go out “looking for trouble” in the world.

        • http://turmarion.wordpress.com turmarion

          But Sinner, you’ve contradicted yourself. Before you said there’s no “real poverty” in the US and that one who wanted to help the poor would be better advised to help the Third World. Now you’re saying (correctly) that our main emphasis, by and large, has to be where we actually are.

          I’m sure that in the 1st Century, the “poor of the land” in Roman-occupied Israel were better off than their counterparts in other petty monarchies about. Jesus didn’t, though, say to go help those poor; but neither did he say, “Well, the poor around here are really not that bad off and the bad things are their own fault, so don’t worry about them.” In the Parable of the Goats and Sheep, he didn’t say, “Insofar as you’ve done this to the least of my deserving brethren….”

        • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

          In the parable of the Good Samaritan, he comes across the man lying in the road. He didn’t go out of his way to find people who might be lying in roads attacked by bandits.

          Likewise, there are likely to be “least” people right in exclusive neighborhoods. Most especially: children, whom parents have a primary duty to care for. I’ve heard several sermons by very solid priests that basically said parents have their “corporal works of mercy” quota pretty much taken care of through raising children (who are helpless on their own). Of course, if they’re adopted it might seem even more charitable.

          Consider this scenario, then, to bust down the false dichotomy you’re creating: some rich parents ADOPT five children from the ghetto, and take them and give them a good life, safe home, excellent education…in one of those exclusive neighborhoods!

          In this case, those people might both dealing intimately with the poor, giving some a whole new lease on life…and accomplishing that charity exactly THROUGH living in an exclusive neighborhood.

      • http://www.rrrrodak.blogspot.com Rodak

        7. Ye have now heard what ye must do, ye have heard what ye must fear, ye have heard how the kingdom of heaven may be purchased, ye have heard by what the kingdom of heaven may be hindered. Be ye all of one mind in obeying the word of God. God made both the rich and poor. Scripture says, “The rich and the poor meet together, the Lord is the Maker of them both.” [2815] The rich and the poor meet together. In what way, except in this present life? The rich and the poor are born alike. Ye meet one another as ye walk on the way together. Do not thou oppress, nor thou defraud. The one hath need, the other hath plenty. But “the Lord is the Maker of them both.” By him who hath, He helpeth him that needeth; by him who hath not, He proveth him that hath. We have heard, we have spoken; let us fear, let us take heed, let us pray, let us attain. ~ St. Augustine, Sermon 35 on the NT

        • http://www.rrrrodak.blogspot.com Rodak

          @ Dominic1955 — It would seem to me that the above, the summation of the Sermon to which you referred us, is in total agreement with Matt’s original premise and validates it completely. Thank you for the tip!

        • dominic1955

          Turmarion-

          No, and at the risk of beating a dead horse:

          1) Obviously I do not find your little idea of what Jesus said sufficient and St. Augustine does not contradict Christ, but your idea of what Christ says.

          2) Playing a quote finding game is not necessary. I’m not trying to defend some silly Health and Wealth Gospel and I already said that wealth can certainly be a spiritual impediment. Has the Church ever condemned having wealth in and of itself? Yes or no?

          3) If you have paid attention to the goings on in CST, Liberation Theology, the Vatican’s responses, etc. you would know very well that its more complicated than being able to throw out “preferential option for the poor” and think that ends all discussion. I assent and agree with a preferential option for the poor. I disagree with some people’s idea of what it should be i.e. think of the folks that raised a stink when John Boehner gave the commencement speech to CUA.

          Rodak-

          The Church has never condemned having wealth in and of itself. St. Augustine does not say the rich are damned because they are rich. God made them both for each other. The quote validates neither Turmarion or Matt Talbot’s original premise unless we’ve entered into some other dimension where words have no meaning.

          Wealth is no more an intrinsic block to salvation any more than being born with original sin is, i.e. no one is saved because of any accidental temporal merit or demerit. No one deserves salvation, but rather death and hell. Everyone must play with the hand dealt to him, no one is saved beause they are rich or because they are poor, everyone is saved by grace. St. Augustine calls both groups to task. The “preferential option” is still there, the poor have a greated call upon the rich than vice versa but the rich are not condemned for being rich. Indeed, who does the poor have to call on if everyone is materially poor. Of course, another aspect we’ve all forgotten is the wider meaning of “poor”. One can be quite materially well off but very poor emotionally or spiritually. One can also be poor in all of the above or lack material wealth but be quite rich in other ways.

          The quote doesn’t even speak to the original premise without fleshing it all out because the premise is far too vague to assign a moral import.

        • http://profiles.google.com/JohnMcG johnmcg

          Nobody is saying that wealth is bad.

          What is being advanced is that using our wealth to separate ourselves from others is bad.

        • dominic1955

          johnmcg:

          You are correct about the original premise, however, this is an offshoot discussion. See Turmarion’s post @ August 28, 2012 4:18 pm.

  • Brian Martin

    A Sinner…Might I suggest that if one take Jesus seriously, then the very people you rail against are indeed our brothers and sisters, so the us and them attitude of yours is frightening.
    I am reminded of something St. Bernard said: “You will never have mercy for the failings of others until you know and realize that you have the same failings in your own soul”

    • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

      We’re not talking about “failings” here, Brian. I’m not talking about sin, I’m talking about CRIME. These are people who ruthless HARM others so they can buy a fancy pair of shoes, or get their next chemical fix, or pay a doctor to slaughter their own offspring. It’s all well and good to have concern for the perpetrator too, but never BEFORE our concern for the real victims. First and foremost we must worry about protecting the innocent. Only THEN should we worry about going back to the guilty (hopefully locked safely away) and attempting to reform or redeem them. Running up to hug the gangbanger while their victim lies bleeding in the street is the height of liberal naivitee. And yet, virtually, that’s what seems to be being suggested here. Disgusting.

      • http://profiles.google.com/JohnMcG johnmcg

        Running up to hug the gangbanger while their victim lies bleeding in the street is the height of liberal naivitee. And yet, virtually, that’s what seems to be being suggested here. Disgusting.

        That is not what is being suggested here, virtually or otherwise.

        For example, I have seen nobody suggest that criminals should not be prosecuted and jailed.

        What is being suggested is that we should not intentionally shut ourselves away from others.

        I would add that while crime is definitely a part of life in some of our worst neighborhoods, it is not its defining characteristics, particularly crime for the frivolous reasons you mention.

        Yet, such people and crime do exist. And you know what? Opportunistic hypocritical blowhards exist in the pro-life movement. This doesn’t lessen our duty to defend the unborn. Indeed, in my opinion it strengthens it, so that the good people will be the face of the movement instead of the hypocrites.

        The same applies to our poorer neighborhoods. Yes, there are criminals living there, and in greater proportion than our middle and upper class neighborhoods. But there are good people there as well — good people who are currently disproportionately the victims of these criminals.

        I’m not sure how these neighborhoods are going to get better, but I’m fairly confident that it will involve those of us fortunate enough to be in better circumstances turning toward them rather than away from them.

        • http://www.rrrrodak.blogspot.com Rodak

          @ JohnMcG — Well said!

        • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

          We all can’t know everyone in the world. The choice to spend time with any one person is a choice NOT to spend it with every other person alive.

          People in exclusive neighborhoods are not “separating” themselves anymore than I am “separating” myself from Mexico by choosing to continue living in the US or Canada because I sure as Hell don’t want to needlessly expose myself to the drug wars down there.

          But we each can only truly know about 200 people (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar%27s_number) and there is NO “quota” requirement whereby a certain proportion of these people need to come from particular classes or ethnicities or races or locales, there is no requirement that this 200 be “representative” demographically of humanity as a whole like some sort of little microcosm. That’s just tokenism.

        • http://profiles.google.com/JohnMcG johnmcg

          The original post mentioned buying a house in a neighborhood because it advertised itself as “exclusive.”

          That is making a deliberate choice about which people you will know, and which ones you won’t know.

          Yes, there is no quota for where they come from, but Matthew 25 seems to suggest that a number of those should be from among “the least of my brothers.”

          Now, there are different definitions of what “the least of these” means. Someone could spend all one’s time living in an exclusive neighborhood, but caring for a disabled relative. But I suspect if that’s the case for somebody, they will not find the need to defend themselves from this post.

          As for me, I’d rather not risk that my definition is superior to the common sense definition.

        • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

          But every choice we make to know anyone is choice about which people we will know, and which we won’t! Even I chose to move into the slums of Detroit…that still means I’m choosing NOT to move into the slums of Baltimore and get to know THOSE people.

          Human beings are only individuals, and we can only know our particular smattering of individuals. It is this quota notion you seem to be promoting that reduces people to CLASS (or race, etc), as if knowing some is a token for knowing them all.

        • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

          In fact, I think Jordan made the point earlier in the thread that we’re ALL Other. So define “the least of my brethren”? Heck, we’re all “the 99%” compared to “the 1%” So give me an income percentile that we can base this on. Are we talking global percentile, or just domestic? And just what proportion do have to be drawn from that crowd? And if every rich person has to have his token poor friends, will there be enough to go around??

          • http://populisthope.blogspot.com Matt Talbot

            A Sinner, you are beginning (and there, I’m being generous…) to sound churlish for the sheer joy of it.

            You ought, as a Catholic with a functioning conscience, to be scandalized by the gulf between the poor and the rest in this country, and ought to be moved by charity to do what you can to heal that yawning wound. Nothing you have said in this thread has shown me that you have anything but fear and disgust toward the Least of These.

        • http://profiles.google.com/JohnMcG johnmcg

          I’m not going to give you a percentage; I am going to say that one should have a very good reasons before one takes active steps to separate himself from others, and that buying a house because it is advertised as belonging to an “exclusive” neighborhood is a sign that one might be doing that.

          The rest is up to your conscience, which your responses here suggest is a bit troubled by this suggestion.

        • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

          The “gulf” isn’t solved by going down and wallowing in the filth with them, Matt, it’s solved by sound monetary policy and taking a stand against the usury that allows the gult to exist in the first place.

          My wish would be that someday all those poor people could live in the exclusive neighborhoods too, by dint of having achieved the same prosperity.

          You, on the other hand, seem to be glorifying or romanticizing the poor QUA poor, as if they are some tribe whose culture needs to be preserved at all costs.

          But like I said, the minute one of them wins the lottery…they move into the exclusive neighborhood too!!! So that should tell you something.

          • http://populisthope.blogspot.com Matt Talbot

            No, it is solved by people making better decisions than to describe and treat their fellow citizens as animals, A Sinner.

            Again, they are your brothers and sisters. Their neighborhoods are the end result of centuries of discrimination and persecution. Buying distance from them, and then dismissing them as merely a bunch of libertine criminals, is not treating them as your brothers and sisters.

        • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

          I have 7 billion brothers and sisters, Matt, some of whom are libertine criminals. You seem to be essentializing “the poor” as a monolith. If, however, they are individuals…then there can be no obligation to seek out any specific individuals.

          So either way it doesn’t work. If there is a “quota” system whereby we’re required to have token connections to certain GROUPS…well, then that’s reducing people to just being representatives of groups. But if they are all equally individuals like anyone in the world, then I think it’s hard to claim an obligation to actively seek out any specific individuals. Our obligation to is to help the ones we come across.

          If I walk down a road and come across a guy lying in it, yes, I’m obligated to help. On the other hand, if I have no knowledge of him, I can’t be obligated to go running around looking for people who MIGHT be lying in roads somewhere in the world.

          • http://populisthope.blogspot.com Matt Talbot

            If you live anywhere near a large city, Sinner, then you do indeed have an obligation to your brothers and sisters there. Your Lazarus-like brothers and sisters are suffering in front of you, and you seem to be objecting to the idea that you might have any obligation toward them at all.

        • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

          Matt, that’s a total derailment. Yes, if I live in a big city and see the poverty, I have an obligation to help. But that doesn’t mean I have some sort of obligation to STAY here (or to deliberately move into a slum) if I do in fact find the means to get out and get somewhere more well-off and safer.

          Like I said, as soon as one of those poor people wins the lottery…they get the hell out of dodge too. Explain THAT to me.

          You seem to be acting like the ghetto is merely a different but equally valid culture that needs to be appreciated for its own sake. But that’s simply not true. As I said, my wish would be that all those poor people could LIKEWISE have the prosperity to move to exclusive neighborhoods too. And guess what? I bet most of THEM wish that were the case too!

          Our obligation is not to avoid the exclusive neighborhoods. At best, it’s to try to help other people achieve a similar prosperity so that they can move their too! To try to get as many OUT of the slums as possible. But if that’s the case, if that’s the GOAL in fact…avoiding them ourselves cannot be a bad thing. Otherwise, the very goal of helping them (which is, I imagine, getting them up and out) would be a bad thing. So you create a paradox there something like, “Living in an exclusive neighborhood is wrong, because that prevents you from helping other people obtain such a life.” Well, if that life is wrong, why would our goal be to help other people obtain it?

          And yet if I were helping the poor, my ultimately goal would be just that: wishing that they had enough prosperity to also live the “exclusive neighborhood”: life.

          • http://populisthope.blogspot.com Matt Talbot

            A Sinner, the resolution was this: it is a sin to buy a house in a neighborhood because it advertises itself as “exclusive”: with sufficient knowledge, willfulness and deliberation it can be mortally sinful.

        • http://profiles.google.com/JohnMcG johnmcg

          A SInner,

          “Exclusive” is not a synonym for “nice.” “Exclusive” means that certain people are excluded.

          I think this is your confusion because of lines like, “As I said, my wish would be that all those poor people could LIKEWISE have the prosperity to move to exclusive neighborhoods too.” But that’s the point of “exclusive,” For that to mean anything, it must mean at least some people are excluded.

          Now, I understand that in real-estate speak, exclusive can be a synonym for “nice.” But I think that’s a problem — a neighborhood should be desirable for what is there rather than who isn’t.

        • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

          “Exclusive” can mean nice if we’re talking about excluding people who aren’t nice. If “exclusive” means keeping out the gangbangers and the drug dealers and the hookers and the pimps and the crackheads and the meth addicts and the people who are going to be making a lot of noise blasting their music at drunken hootenannies at midnight…there is NOTHING wrong with desiring this sort of exclusivity if all that stuff isn’t your cup of tea.

      • Brian Martin

        Sinner…Old Testament..King David. Dude would fit your description of a criminal. Had Bathsheba’s husband killed after he first committed adultery with her. Sounds like ruthlessly harming someone for personal gratification. Actually, so might the Apostle Paul, prior to his conversion.
        St. Augustine’s life was pretty hedonistic prior to his conversion.

        The reality is that one really needs to look at what influences people to act the way they act? Who is worse, the poor lady who has an abortion because she cannot see any way to support another child, or the well off lady who finds a pregnancy to be a nuisance.
        You talk about people responding with violence more often in poorer neighborhoods. If you delve a little deeper, what you will find is that the more marginalized people are, the fewer choices they feel that they have, the more “other” they feel, the more hopeless they feel, the more likely they are to accept violence. The fact is, you said it isn’t about failings. It isn’t about sin….it’s about CRIME. I say bull crap. Each one of those “crimes” represents a choice. Each one is indeed a sin. They are, like each and every one of us…”A sinner”….but they are also, like each of us, sons and daughters of God. Each made in his “image and likeness”. Each having a soul. That doesn’t mean that we don’t hold people accountable for their actions. But you lump “the poor” all together. Like they are some “other”.
        Perhaps you can differentiate for me the logical difference between your “poor people in Ghettos” and the Klansman’s “nigger’s”? I see little difference, and find both as reprehensible.

        • http://turmarion.wordpress.com turmarion

          Well said, Brian!

  • Ronald King

    The question for me is, “Do I love enough to include those that I object to?”. The answer is no. I object to A Sinner and dominic1955 and I confess to not loving them. Consequently, I exclude them from my community just as I exclude violent criminals from my community. My exclusion of them is a violent internal reaction and it actually connects me to them through a subtle yet powerful feeling of aversion even though I exclude them.
    The sin which is hidden is the foundation for the most obvious sins.

  • http://turmarion.wordpress.com turmarion

    Dominic: The Church has never condemned “having wealth” in the sense of material possessions; nor has it said that everyone must be exactly equal in possessions. So far as that, I agree. I think there is lots of condemnation of “wealth” in the sense in which we usually think of it–a great essay is here. The very means by which most of the wealthy make most of their money–interest–was condemned blanketly with no exceptions by the Medieval Church, until the teaching changed–oh, sorry–developed in the modern age. Some of us think that development was an error. Anyway, the Church has never said, “It is sinful to be rich” in so many words; but then again, the Church is Catholic, and has to deal with the rich, too, so it has perhaps been much more diplomatic in such matters than it ought. I don’t think it is quite accurate to say it’s intrinsically wrong to be rich; but given the means in which one becomes and stays rich, I think almost always there’s a strong taint.

    As to Catholic social teaching, I’m quite aware of all the nuances of which you speak. With in the context of the preferential option for the poor, there are differences of opinion on how best to achieve it. We obviously differ vastly on this. As I said, I tend to side with Dorothy Day on the far left end of the spectrum here. You are free to disagree–but under the current order, it is demonstrable that real wages have been on the decline for the last thirty years, the number of working poor has increased, the standard of living has declined, etc. Thus, I think anyone favoring the current system (which, in fairness, you may not) has the burden of proof to show how it is congruent with CST.

    • http://www.rrrrodak.blogspot.com Rodak

      “The Church has never condemned “having wealth” in the sense of material possessions; nor has it said that everyone must be exactly equal in possessions.’

      Maybe “the Church” hasn’t. But Jesus did. So did the first Christians, led by the Apostles themselves. Read “Acts”…

      • dominic1955

        We’ve already established that you are not Catholic, no? As far as we are concerned, the Church hasn’t then Jesus hasn’t.

        • http://populisthope.blogspot.com Matt Talbot

          Dominic, that is a pretty unsatisfactory reply.

          For one thing, Jesus really did say pretty clearly that wealth is a large impediment to enter heaven – again and again throughout the Gospels: “Woe to you rich…it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle…” the rich man and Lazarus, and so on. While the church has not said (nor did Jesus say) that wealth per se is not absolutely disqualifying when it comes to who is elect and who is not (“for God all things are possible”), it is abundantly clear that Jesus warned sternly that personal wealth is, rather than a sign of God’s favor, rather something to be treated with asbestos gloves, at best.

        • http://www.rrrrodak.blogspot.com Rodak

          “As far as we are concerned, the Church hasn’t then Jesus hasn’t.”

          @Dominic1955 — That said, you’ve made an idol of the Church.

  • dominic1955

    OK, then in principle we largely agree except with interest and the “strong taint” of being rich but you’d have to take that up with the Church because of its development and “diplomacy”.

    I don’t “favor” the current economic system or any economic system because I’m Catholic. We are supposed to have a certain enmity with the “World” and we are supposed to lay aside all earthly cares when we enter into Liturgy, no? Well, part of that enmity to the world is to realize that throwing one’s lot in with the agitation and social upheaval of what truly would be the “far left”. Playing kissy-face with that side of the spectrum brings us rather close to a number of ideologies wholly incongruent with Catholicism.

    • http://turmarion.wordpress.com turmarion

      We are supposed to…lay aside all earthly cares when we enter into Liturgy, no?

      Yes–but when we get out of Liturgy, things are different. The Sadducees (the priestly caste) did excellent Temple liturgies, I’m sure, and they were harshly criticized by Jesus. The Pharisees were just dandy at fulfilling all the duties of the Law, and Jesus didn’t have much good to say about them, either.

      If it could be objectively and empirically proved that economic system X did a better job of fulfilling people’s needs according to Catholic Social Teaching than did system Y, I think it would be not only OK but necessary to prefer it. Of course, nothing in the actual world is a clear-cut as that.

      I don’t mindlessly embrace “leftism” (which is an abstraction, anyway) insofar as I reject the elements that are anti-religion, pro-unfettered sexuality, pro-abortion, etc. Neither, for example, did Dorothy Day. What many on the right don’t realize or refuse to see is that there is as much stuff there which is incongruent with Catholicism–endless war, huge civilian collateral damage, massive economic injustice, co-opting religion for political benefit, etc. Politically speaking, I’m not sure that capitalism or socialism in any form they’ve actually been tried is truly viable in the long-term (remember, neither of them is more than two hundred years old, an eyeblink in human history). It may be that our society is headed towards ruin no matter what we do. God only knows. Meanwhile, each of us has to fight the good fight as best he or she can. It is unfortunate that to do so often pits us against each other, since we have different prudential judgments and outlooks; but there it is. I suspect Holy Mother Church has always been a bit more chaotic than we like to think.

      • Brian Martin

        When we leave the liturgy, when the priest sends us forth saying ” Go and serve the Lord, and each other ” etc. he is sending us forth to live our faith IN THE WORLD. Living our faith is not just about the do and don’t do, our faith is communal and relational. To quote a song by Casting Crowns “But if we are the body
        Why aren’t His arms reaching?
        Why aren’t His hands healing?
        Why aren’t His words teaching?
        And if we are the body
        Why aren’t His feet going?
        Why is His love not showing them there is a way?
        There is a way

  • http://turmarion.wordpress.com turmarion

    Here is the exact type of attitude which we’ve heard around here, and which I think is totally, completely, and irreconcilably un-Christian. Note well that the Rinehart inherited her money–she’d have had it even if she’d drunk and smoked and lifted not a finger. Note well that when Jesus healed the blind beggar, he didn’t say, “So now you can go out and get a good job and be a productive member of society–get moving!” Nor did he, in speaking of the poor, ever qualify his sayings by saying “deserving poor”, “poor who at least try”, “poor who are sober and hardworking”, etc. When he speaks of the least of “these my brethren”, it doesn’t seem to be tendentious to assume that included in the meaning of “least” is not only economic or other distress, but what their social “betters” might view as the contemptible nature of the poor. So they’re lazy, smelly, drink and smoke too much, potentially violent, stupid, and maybe mentally unstable? But one who ministers to them still serves Christ.

    • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

      Yes, one who ministers to them still serves Christ. And if we came across such people naturally, we could not dismiss their troubles because of those traits you list. BUT there is no positive obligation to deliberately and masochistically SEEK OUT people who are noxious or dangerous to us just for the sake of some sort of masochism. There is no positive obligation to have friends that you don’t really like.

      • http://populisthope.blogspot.com Matt Talbot

        Sinner, there is a difference between liking someone and loving (in the agape sense) them.

      • http://populisthope.blogspot.com Matt Talbot

        More to the point, if you buy a house in a neighborhood because it advertises itself as exclusive, then you are deliberately making sure the you never “came across such people naturally” as you put it. That’s why it’s wrong.

        • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

          No, Matt, this is like NFP vs Contraception. The Church does NOT say you have an obligation to have sex or have children. It says IF you do, then you have to be open to life. Coming across someone walking down a road naturally adds an obligation to help them. Walking down a road, I have to be open to helping whomever lying in it I may come across. But I am NOT under any obligation to go down any particular road, and in fact may even deliberately avoid roads that I know may be dangerous (just like I may avoid fertile days.) There is no obligation to go out of our way, merely to be open.

        • Brian Martin

          Amen Matt,
          A Sinner…Matthew 25: 35-40 “‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ ”
          I don’t see in there where it says…avoid them as much as you can, but if you stumble upon them and it doesn’t inconvenience you, then try to drop them a few crumbs. The reality of our faith is that there is a countercultural radical aspect that is neither left nor right, it is …different. It asks us to care for, to love our neighbors.. Oh heck, it even asks us to love our enemies. Matthew 5:44 “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” That’s pretty radical…and it isn’t some commie pinko liberal democrat saying that. Pope John Paul II didn’t demand the due who shot him be executed, he sought him out, he forgave him. That is what we are called to. That is radical. God have mercy on all of us.

        • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

          I don’t see how any of that (helping the poor) precludes wanting to live in an exclusive neighborhood. You don’t have to live in the hell-hole to help get people out of it.