decided to hold forth on socialism and trick-or-treating last night.
St. John Chrysostom, following pretty much every parable Jesus tells about the relationship of rich and poor, says that the rich exist for the sake of the poor and (hold on to your hats) the poor exist for the salvation of the rich.
In the world of Fredo and his Dad, being born with inherited wealth is not a gift of God which you did not deserve, it is a sign of their superior thoroughbred genes, exactly as Margaret Sanger would put it:
Wealth is theirs by *right* and, correlatively, the poor are poor because they are losers in the Darwinian struggle. The idea that the poor have any claim at all on the wealth of the rich by virtue of their dignity as human beings is “socialism” and the poor are parasites.
In the world of the gospel, your material riches, like your spiritual gifts, are given you by God for the sake of those who do not have them. The salvation that Dives *might* have enjoyed he pissed away because he refused to see that what he was given by God, he was given for the sake of Lazarus.
Conversely, the tax collector Zacchaeus, acknowledging that even his ill-gotten riches could be turned into a gift for the poor, said, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold” (Lk 19:8) and was told by our Lord, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Lk 19:9–10).
What Fredo means by “socialism” is “any and all generosity to the lower orders”. What he denies–and what the Christian tradition affirms–is that we owe a debt of justice both to the civilization that upholds us and to those poorer than we who surround us.
The normal libertarian lie in response to this is that “taxation is theft” and that it “robs me of the chance to be charitable.” But all this lie really means is that it matters more to the “charitable” Libertarian to be seen and to get the praise of men for being charitable and to *feel* charitable than to see to it that people in need actually get the help they need.
For the Trumps, famous for using charity as a money-making scam for themselves (like that particularly scuzzy bit where Daddy stole money raised for kids with cancer) and for stiffing those to whom they owe money, it is only natural that they would speak of any generosity as “socialism” since even paying debt is “socialism” for this pack of crooks.
Now, crooks are gonna crook. But the ongoing astonishment for me has been the spectacle of Christian Trump supporters prostrating themselves to this quack worship of Mammon with their embrace of Libertarian rubbish in place of Chrysostom’s (and the gospel’s) teaching about rich and poor.
Yes. There is such a thing as private property just as there is such a thing as the right to live. But nonetheless, the apostle tells us “You are not your own. You were bought with a price.” So the paradox is that, in the kingdom of God, our goods are not ours. Just as Abraham was chosen for the sake of the unchosen, so those of us with material goods have been gifted with them for the sake of those who do not have them. If we are more worried that somebody else may get the candy God has freely given us than that we may face the judgment of God for clutching our candy while our neighbor starves, we face Dives’ fate if we do not repent.
“Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
“Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh.
“Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.
“But woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation.
“Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger.
“Woe to you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
“Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.(Lk 6:20–26).