There’s a set of Christians who rail against income inequality, and who are leery of the rich.
Such attitudes end up harming the poor and inflaming the envious.
Pope Francis is one such Christian. He desires “the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the state.” That’s code for higher taxes on the rich.
The chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, said to be a key confidante of Pope Francis, recently invited presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to the Academy.
It’s safe to assume the Pope approves of the invitation. By extension, it’s safe to assume the Pope is a fan of Sanders and of his plans for confiscatory tax rates on the rich.
Poverty and inequality in America have expanded under Obama’s watch, as perverse outcomes so typical of big-government solutions took effect. Sanders as president would exacerbate that.
A disproportionate number of Catholic priests of the Jesuit order, to which Pope Francis belongs, excessively fixate on income inequality.
Recently the Wall Street Journal ran an article
“The Challenge of Easter” by Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest and editor at large of America magazine.
The article makes good points including attesting to the authenticity of the Gospels and divinity of Jesus Christ.
The Pope and priests such as Father Martin are well-meaning people, and one should have enormous respect for anyone who takes a lifetime vow of poverty and celibacy in devotion to God.
However such Catholics are all too prone to not detecting wolves in sheeps’ clothing (to borrow a metaphor from the Gospel), namely clumsy government policies that make the poor even worse off.
Father Martin’s in his article suggests economic inequality was a primary concern of Jesus. He asks, “How could He . . . not have been grieved by the glaring disparities in wealth?”
He writes that Jesus preached against "gross material inequalities", and rendered "judgment against the excesses of the wealthy."
But this is actually nowhere in the Gospels.
While Jesus championed giving to the poor, He never called for taking from the rich.
One is free will. The other is coercion.
Jesus did teach that it’s harder to get to heaven if you're wealthy. This is because attachment to material possessions detracts from the greatest commandment — loving God with all of your heart, mind, and soul.
Wealth also can puff up one’s pride, leading a wealthy person to think he or she is superior to others due to wealth and status.
God abhors pride and loves humility, which must be one reason why he chose to become man as a poor carpenter.
A wealthy person likely can still get to heaven but he or she has to work extra hard devoting time and energy to worshiping and proclaiming the glory of God, donating substantial sums to the less fortunate and to the Church, avoiding acquiring status symbols for the sake of status, and forgoing certain comforts and pleasures with the aim of being “poor in spirit”.
Even when a wealthy person doesn’t carry out the above virtues, one should never look upon that person negatively because, as it’s taught in the Gospels, never judge others.
Nowhere did Jesus imply the wealthy harm the poor or create other social ills — except perhaps tax collectors, who were known for taking more from people than warranted. And that was based on wealth coercion.
Most wealthy people at least in this day in age get rich through wealth creation.
Perhaps one reason Jesus did not fixate on economic inequality is because it is not necessarily an evil. If the poor get richer as the rich richer, everyone is better off materially.
The only ones who are not better off are the envious. Jesus as well as St. Paul — who wrote much of the New Testament — warned against the sin of envy.
If the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, that’s typically not the rich’s fault.
It may be because of worsening skill levels among the poor (e.g. due to declining educational standards or immigration from low-skill countries), or because of misguided government attempts to help the poor that actually harm the poor, such as a too-high minimum wage that prices the unskilled out of jobs and creates a vast underclass.
Wealth inequality is only a social evil when the rich get that way due to wealth coercion — usually carried out in collusion with the government — as opposed to wealth creation.
A few days ago the Washington Post reported
that in America, the poor have higher life expectancies in cities where inequality is highest, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York.
Pope Francis and Father Martin: in light of this fact, are you sure you still want to whip up passions against inequality?
In reality what you’re doing is whipping up envy and resentment.
Patrick D. Chisholm is a writer and editor whose articles have appeared in many publications including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Baltimore Sun, San Francisco Chronicle, National Review, and Christian Science Monitor. Previously he worked for financial and business publications, and in the State Department's Office of Mexican Affairs. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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