Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Poverty Debate

Two of our blogger friends in a previous post mentioned having a debate and, while they've decided to put it off for now, I thought I'd go ahead and give it a try. To some degree, I reckon debating is what we often do here anyway, just not formally.

So, let's try opening up a general question specifically for the purpose of debate and see what happens.

Being against poverty is neither a Conservative or Liberal thing. No one is in favor of poverty or its ill effects. And since we discuss spiritual and moral values often, I think we can all agree that the world's religions as well as humanism would all demand some concern for the poor.

Unfortunately, we often disagree on exactly how to do so. So tell me, what do you think the problems facing the poor are, should we be doing anything about it and, if so, what exactly should we do to best help the needy? Does government have a role? Why or why not?


The Scrutinator said...

Perhaps we should back up and see if we agree who is poor and who isn't. Here's a very interesting backgrounder.

How about this definition? To be considered poor, one must meet all these criteria:
* Low income.
* Not addicted (drugs, alcohol, or nicotine).
* Not overweight. (Or, perhaps, underweight.)
* Not mentally ill.
* Minimal luxuries. E.g., cable or satellite TV, high-fashon clothes or shoes, video games, music, etc. (Or, stated another way, discretionary spending under some agreed level.)

Adding to Dan's questions: Are you poor? If not, why not? (Rejecting convoluted answers in favor of straightforward ones.) Why is the standard for poverty different between the US and the Third World?

Dan Trabue said...

But addicted folk (and their children/families) ARE often poor, as are some over/underweight folk, as are some mentally ill.

Some of these folk are exactly the ones in most need. Why would you not include them? Because they've made bad decisions? Well, that's WHY they need help.

I suppose you're suggesting that if someone is in dire straits due to their bad decisions, they should suffer the consequences? Would that be your point?

My reaction to that would be to say, but do their children deserve to suffer the consequences? Should society pay for those consequences (a drug addict who's not receiving any help may well turn to a life of crime which results in greater costs to society)?

But yours is a fair question: How shall we define poverty and/or needy?

Marty said...

Check this out. This may be somewhat off subject, but not exactly. It's a plan to eradicate terrorism by eradicating global poverty, part of which includes Compulsory Social Duty.

Paying a living wage would certainly go a long way to help those struggling to survive. It's impossible to feed a family of four on $15,000 a year.

Daniel Levesque said...

The complexities of this issue come from the myriad of reasons people are needy. Assuming we are just talking about the needy here in the US I suggest the following tailored solutions to various causes for poverty:

1- Drug addiction. Kill all drug dealers. Provide free, and mandatory rehab for all drug addicts.

2- Alcoholism. Rehab, possibly mandatory doses of whatever that medicine is that makes you sick if you consume any acohol for addicts.

3- The #1 cause is single parenthood. We should build up the concept of the traditional family and promote abstinence before marriage. Welfare should also be modified to quit favoring single mothers over the married poor.

4- Dropping out of high school. Job Corps is already available. It provides free education for a GED as well as good vocational career training. Expand and promote this program.

5- Lack of a college education. Expand the availablility of grants to allow more students to be able to afford college. Also be sure to provide grants for vocational training and education programs and schools.

6- Government assisted relocaton with job placement for needy families. In some places it is possible to live comfortably on $15,000 a year, but not in the inner cities where so many of our poor currently live.

7- Job creation. Provide tax benefits for business that provide American jobs, prbably on a sliding scale based upon percentage of employees within the US. Eradicate any tax benefit for shipping jobs overseas.

8- Reduce personal income taxes. This will almost certainly require trimming some pork from the national budget. Deal with it.

This covers pretty much everything I can think of right now. I basically want to kill the root of the problem. Traeting the symptoms doesn't actually DO much.

Dan Trabue said...

Thanks, Marty, for the tip. I agree totally that alleviating poverty globally would go MUCH further towards decreasing terrorism than this war in Iraq. But that's another topic.

And Daniel, except for a HORRIBLE start (the death penalty is so wrong in so many ways), I actually am sympathetic or in agreement with much of your list.

I agree (as do most progressives) in tackling the problems at the root is the best way to tackle tough issues. And not only from a bleeding heart, let's help the poor angle. It's simply cheaper to, for instance, better educate our children upfront than it is to deal with drug dealers or prisoners after the fact.

I will disagree with your comment that treating the symptoms doesn't do much...getting an adict off drugs accomplishes a great deal. BUT better to work upfront to decrease addictions in the first place.

Of course, Daniel, your plan may meet with resistence from the more conservative of our friends out there, who'd cut funds to punish the underachieving and cut off their nose to spite their face while they're at it.

A qualifying point, as someone who has worked in the education and mental health fields and with a good number of friends who are social workers, etc, there are simply some tough cases out there.

Some folk have disabling mental conditions or are just a bit slow or learn differently than others and all of that would need to be taken into consideration under Daniel's Education plank.

Some people will need case managers or oversight of some sort in varying degrees. But it fits right in with Daniel's thoughts on education. If we can get folk performing to the best of their abilities - EVEN IF it costs money upfront, it will be cheaper than paying for the negative results of not doing so down the road.

And now: Who pays for this?

Dan Trabue said...

A couple of thoughts in response to Scroot's comment, on how shall we define poverty?

I would tend to define it fairly broadly.

My faith-based reasons for doing so is because the Bible does not say "Do unto the least of these
(as long as they're worthy)" or "Give to the one who asks and who is deserving..." We are simply to
be compassionate towards those in need. Period. There's no biblical injunctions to do otherwise.

Now, of course, we can debate how best to show that compassion, but be compassionate, we must.

My logical/fiscally responsible/conservative reasons for wanting to define poverty/needy broadly are as I suggested earlier. It's simply more fiscally responsible to pay to avoid problems rather than pay to deal with problems.

We could be a real hardass and say "I don't give a flip about the drunken bum" but still would want
to see the drunk in rehab because, from a purely selfish point of view, that "drunk" is not contributing to society, is decreasing property values, is annoying when he's out panhandling, ties up our legal system with public intoxication charges and so on.

I could be a real hardass and say, "Let him suffer the consequences! It's his own fault!" but that would only be stupidity on my part because the "drunk" is costing me money and resources.

These would be a few reasons to define "needy" fairly broadly.

Dan Trabue said...

RE: Daniel's first plank:

My wise and compassionate social worker wife has this to say:

"It might be worth noting that many drug dealers are children who are recruited by adults to do their dirty work for them for video game systems and high price tennis shoes, etc. Is he saying these drug dealers should be killed? The 11 and 12 year olds who are doing this?"

AnnieAngel said...

I was in a small Pentecostal Church in Mexico and I mean small, tiny, barely there.

An obviously poor man with no shoes was at the altar on his kness, saying over and over, gracias. Over and over.

I think Jesus said we will always have the poor with us because too many of us are like this man:

"And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions." (Mar 10:12)

AnnieAngel said...

I personally believe drug addiction is a demon. I know most people don't, but I have witnessed on the streets and I have seen people wired on drugs out of their minds and their eyes looked at me and I didn't see anything human in there.

Sylvia said...

I can't imagine too many poor, working single mothers who feel like baking bread every night after being on their feet all day at some minimum wage job.

It's kind of hard to 'access opportunities' when you feel like shit, have been told you are nothing all your life, have been sexually, physically, or psychologically violated, have been brain damaged by mercury coming out of smokestacks or lead coming out of tailpipes, were not supported as a student, were traumatized by witnessing violence at home or in the community, are physically ill from years of legal and illegal drug use, etc. etc. etc.

What ever happened to walking in another person's moccasins before judging what they are capable of?

We will always have the poor with us because sh*t happens to people that make them unable to take care of themselves as others can. They don't need blame, they need mercy. We all need mercy, sooner or later.

Dan Trabue said...

Amen and Amen! Sister Sylvia.

And welcome to Payne Hollow Miss Angel. And I agree, there are very specific reasons why the poor will always be with us.

Marty said...


You obviously have land. That has to be purchased or inherited. I'm just guessing here, but I would say that before you lived like you do now, you must have had the money to start living like you do now. And you obviously have electricity. That ain't free either. Kudos to you for being successful at it, however.

jholder said...

An article to help fuel the discussion.

The Scrutinator said...

Good thoughts, folks.

Don't turn my proposed definition into a smear.

I'm not suggesting we treat addicts or the mentally ill with any less compassion than the poor. Just the opposite: lumping them all together is the least compassionate thing to do. I'm assuming the addiction and mental illness debates are separate.

Eleutheros: thanks for giving us the personal glimpse.

Poverty and disrespect for the law seem like just two more forms of abuse that parents hand their kids.

Son of Lilith said...

Daniel L. actually has a great way of helping the poor. All except the first plank. Like Dan's wife said, many drug dealers are children. That, and if you're going to kill the drug dealers why not kill the guys running Anheiser-Busch as well? Alchohol is a drug; just a legal one. One that I myself use, but a drug none the less.

The only way you're going to eliminate poverty is by eliminating money from our social/economic structure, and until we discover Warp technology and make contact with the Vulcans it ain't gonna happen.

The best way to reduce poverty is by expanding the middle class. And as I've said before. The problem is not with the system it's with the people.

As long as we have people like Donald Trump, who live like kings when there are people living down the block from him starving, we will always have poverty. Sad fact, but true.

Eleutheros said...


Yes, I have some land. My comments about the cost of living don't take that into account. But let me comment on that none the less. I started trying to acquire a bit of land when I was 18. It did take some "sacrifices", I couldn't spend the money on drugs, I couldn't father children to support when I was a teenager, I had to 'Render unto Caesar' to get title to land. And I did so by more than a quarter century of trading up and being frugal. It wasn't luck, it was a decision. I could give you five hundred excuses why I couldn't do it. But all they'd be is excuses.

Mercy? I think it was Sylvia who suggested it. What does mercy look like? Most people I know stuck in poverty are in a loop. This is an awkward comparison, but bear with me. When I was in technical school some 30 years ago, my BIL was enrolled there too and he was failing because he couldn't do the math. When I took him aside to help him with it, he said "When I was in the thrid grade, my teacher made fun of me for getting math problems wrong." I said , "Fine, fine, but now we're going to get beyond that and go on." His eyes never looked at the paper and he continued to explain how bad he had felt in the thrid grade. For three decades he's not been able to advance in anything he did because he can't do the math. After thirty years any attempt to 'help' him is met with the story about the third grade math teacher. Just like that, I've known scores and scores of people who are all too loquax to explain why they are in such dire straights. Yes, yes, fine, fine, here's a hand up out of that. "No, you don't understand, let me explain again to you how bad people made me feel, etc." Years go by. Opportunities go by. And still they are quick with the story of why they are in such straights.

It's circular reasoning. Cut back on your expenses by, for example, making your own bread, and you won't have to work so hard. But you don't understand, I can't bake, I'm working too hard. But you wouldn't have to work so hard if you .... etc. in circles forever.

Mercy doesn't always consist of telling someone what a poor baby they are.

I know running a household on a single minimum wage income must be terrible. All the more reason for people to avoid it. All the more reason to set the excuses aside and compel people to not make the same decisions they have made.

Sh*t doesn't happen nearly as often as it is actively sought out and embraced.

Not Jesus per se but the Book says:
"For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." Mercy does not mean that you feel good afterwards. Sometimes mercy is harsh and hard.

Daniel Levesque said...

Drug dealers are responsible for far more than drug addiction. I will acept criticism of my position on killing drug dealers, but only if it is accompanied by a workable alternative. I do not consider long prison terms a workable alternative since these scum remain a burden on society.

Which alternative do you like best?

1- Death
2- Banishment
3- Marooning on a small deserted island prison colony that is blockaded by the Navy.
4- Death, but only for dealers over the age of 16.
5- Some form of maiming.

These scum must know that we do not tolerate what they do, and all of the side crime that is universally involved in it.

Rick's Corner said...

I did not want to comment, just wanted to make sure you saw the positives said about you by Daniel on his blog.

Son of Lilith said...

Being only limited to the options you presented Daniel, I'd say banishment.

But as I said earlier, why not kill the guys making booze?

Alcoholism is both a cause and effect of poverty. So if you're going to off the drug dealers, then off the brewers as well.

And the fact that alcohol is LEGAL doesn't make it any less dangerous.

Don't get me wrong. I understand your strategy--one big sweep of the source of a major problem. As Larry the Cable Guy would say, you just want to Git-R-Done.

But it could lead to more chaos and besides, the root of the drug problem isn't the dealers. It's the drugs. Dealers can't sell if they don't have a product.

Eleutheros said...


While it is true that alcohol is responsible for more poverty than are drugs, by a long way, the fact that alcohol is legal does make it a different matter.

One does not have drive by shootings for a six-pack, no one breaks into your home to steal the computer in order to buy some burgandy, and much, much more important this: our constitutional rights have not been nearly completely set aside in order to search cars and homes for a bottle of tequila.

If drugs *possession* was decriminalized and adicts could get drugs or alternatives through government dispenseries, we'd have some hope to deal with the problem and help lessen the poverty it causes.

Notice in today's news that they hanged an Australian in Singapore for possessing 14 oz of heroin. What happens is that when we increase the penalty for dealing in drugs, it causes the price of drugs to go up. There's no evidence that it dries up the supply to any extent. The higher prices mean more poverty.

Alcohol abuse is a bad thning but so is food abuse and television abuse and even internet abuse, I suppose. The answer isn't to shoot the head of Taco Bell or Bill Gates, the answer, part of the answer, is to foster a culture of personal responsibility. We don't have that now and we are moving away from it daily. How many times do you hear anybody saying, "Yeah, I screwed up! I was the cause of all this mess." Nooooooo. Bush did it. And that grape popcicle I had when I was seven. If it only hadn't been for Bush and that popcicle, I'd have been fine.

Marty said...


You make a lot of sense. You knew what you wanted, worked hard and sacrificed to attain it. Maybe that's the key to eradicating poverty. But there are those situations which happen that are out of one's control. I still feel if those at the top of the food chain were paid less money in order to increase the pay of those at the bottom, it could help people overcome poverty. It's all in caring for your fellowman. I think that's a Biblical concept.

Sylvia said...

Eleutheros, I think you underestimate the impact of that sort of humiliation on a person. It's one thing to be put down in front of your peers as an adult, and quite another to have it happen as an 8-year-old, especially if you are already vulnerable due to lack of support at home or some other reason. And let's face it, people (teachers included) pick on the weak, so that was probably not the only time your brother-in-law had his self-esteem stomped on.

If it was so easy to overcome these things we wouldn't have people in therapy for years without much result. If highly trained psychologists can't figure out how to heal the human psyche, how can you expect an emotionally troubled person to heal him or herself?

I suppose it comes down to whether you believe people create themselves or not. From a scientific perspective alone, it is clear that we do not. Genetics, the physical environment, the social environment, and the educational environment have a huge impact on us, physically and psychologically. No one is 100% responsible for who they are or what they are capable of. Not even close. Awareness of our limitations (a.k.a. humility) is, I think, a prerequisite for mercy.

I think mercy comes from the belief that every person has diginity and worth and has the right to have their needs met *regardless* of their circumstances or how they got there; they deserve simply because they exist. When people try to kill themselves they get medical treatment just like everyone else. (Doctors know a lot about mercy.) Why should it be any different for those who, for whatever reason, are not able to thrive?

Eleutheros said...


Most of what you say is obviously the case. People, and especially teachers, do pick on the weak. But this, says I, is not a fuction of human nature, it's a function of our sick society .... what I call Babylon on my blog. It is NOT the only possibility open to us.

And, yes, we are all dealt a hand to play in this life. There's not much we can do about it per se. But genetics has become the modern day astrology. In the middle ages everything could be blamed on the stars. People believed that it was useless to seek medical treatment because their sickness was in the stars and there was nothing they could do about it. Now days it is genetics and it is no more accurate or dependable than astrology.

While I might at times underestimate the impact of humiliation and such, you might underestimate the transformational power of the human will. For every hard luck story I hear that led someone into destitution and despair, I know two more stories of people in far worse circumstances that overcame it and excelled. So the bad hands we are dealt are not the final word, they are not a death sentence. There IS always a way out of it.

The problem lies in believing that there is not. Slavery could never have existed without the slaves having a mindset that servitude was their lot in life. Modern wagery poverty cannot exist without people being willing to accept it.

Now, I well understand that the fight is largely lost. I'd be quite content to be a genuine hermit and have no internet presence whatever (one of the reasons for using handles). But the parable of the sower, some grain falls on good ground. Some people get it. A light bulb lights up and they realize they DO have a choice.

Most of the time I don't even know about it, rarely I do.

While there might be dignity in each human being, we are not gods in that we can see into each other's souls. What we are given is to hear the words and see the actions of our fellows. And sometimes there isn't any dignity there.

My main point would be that what passes for 'mercy' is most often the merciful acting as facilitator and enabler. It makes the 'merciful' feel good, but at the expense of the person they purport to be helping. The very worst thing we can do for one another is to dull the edge of our bad decisions. Likewise our destructive attitudes and mindsets. If a person feels that they are downtrodden and can never overcome it, it is best they feel the pinch of acting on that belief rather than us making that belief just padded and sugar coated enough that they wallow in it their whole lives. That's want governments and corporations do and that's how they keep their thralls in subservience. I want no part of it.

Eleutheros said...


It's an abstract concept, I know, and I've posited it before. But bear with me, 27th time is the charm. The notion that if we only didn't pay Bill Gates (and ilk) so much money then the rank and file wouldn't be so poor is a fallacy based on the illusion that money is real.

Bill Gates only eats one mouthful of food at a time. He only wears one pair of pants, and his arse only sits on one car seat at a time. If we took away all his billions, it doesn't mean that suddenly there is more food (housing, medicine, clothes, etc.) for everyone else. The supply of money (because it is only an abstract idea) can increase at will and instantly, the supply of food (for example) is a real, it can only increase organically and is not subject to our will except over time at its own pace. What this means is that if you took Gates billions and went out to buy food for the poor, there would not be more food. It would only mean that the food that exists would be more expensive. Now you've made the problem even worse!

In the real world the only way to parlay Gates wealth into goods for the poor would be to chuck all our computers in the dumpster and instead of spending time and effort on them, we spent it on producing more goods that the poor could use. NOW the supply of goods is greater, the cost is cheaper, and poverty of the poor is eased in real terms.

That's why I say the Bush and CEO's and the like are red herrings. Railing against them is like railing against puffs of smoke. The real problem is otherwhere.

Son of Lilith said...

I do agree with you Eleutheros, but I was following Daniel L.'s logic to its conclusion, which I don't agree with.

Dan Trabue said...

Interesting conversation everyone! Wow!

One brief comment on the topic of "tough love" towards the poor. OK, no one is much arguing that. Do what it takes to help them. All my social worker, teacher, mental health, etc friends do this on a daily basis.

But what of tough love towards the wealthy?

You don't see in the bible harsh words of criticism for the poor. It's NOT THERE, there is no model for the harshness towards the poor that comes from so many Christians.

What you DO see throughout those pages are tough words for the wealthy, powerful and religious that echo Jesus' words here:

"But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation!

But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep!

You serpents! you brood of vipers! how can you flee from the judgment of Gehenna [a burning dung heap]?"

-Jesus to the Pharisees

I will continue to save my harshest criticism for the "haves" not the "have nots."

And on Ellie's comment where he quoted Jesus: The poor you will always have with you...

This was spoken in the context of defending a poor outcast who had offered an extravagance to Jesus and this quote has been so misused and abused by conservative types as to be blasphemous.

Jesus' teachings elsewhere make it clear that his reminder of reality here (always have poor) is just that: a reminder, not the prescription for policy that many have turned it into (as in, "Reagan must have really liked poor people - he made so many of them").

Dan Trabue said...

Scroot said:
"I'm not suggesting we treat addicts or the mentally ill with any less compassion than the poor."

Thanks for the clarification. Yes there are many flavors of poverty which require different approaches, but the same compassion. If this is what you're saying, then I can agree.

Dan'l: On the drug problem, while no fan of mind-altering drugs - legal or not - I fall in to the camp of decriminalization. Prohibition hasn't worked. Didn't work for alcohol and doesn't work for other drugs.

Having said that, I'd suggest that decriminalization by itself doesn't work all that great either, as witnessed by all the problems caused by tobacco and alcohol.

I'd suggest decriminalization mixed with significant taxes with the tax revenue going to alleviate the problems caused by the drugs. In all things, pay as you go.

Added to this mix, I'd include drivers licenses that quickly disappear with violations. Period.

I suggest this because a drunk is most often a danger to himself. But a drunk in a car is driving a loaded missile and that is unacceptable.

Eleutheros said...


"You don't see in the bible harsh words of criticism for the poor"

Perhaps not. In the times of the Bible disease, war, oppressive governments predisposed there to be a great number of poor, and it would follow that many of them were in that condition through no doings of their own. But the Bible is just as clear the foolishness and foolish choices make for poverty. The references and examples are numerous, but they fall into these classes:
(lot's from Proverbs because they are concise and poetic)

Poor because of lack of gumption and industry:

Proverbs 20:13
"Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread."

Poor because they have put themselves in subservience to the rich:

Proverbs 22:7
"The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender."

Poor because when they are shown a better way, the refuse to consider it:

Proverbs 13:18
"Poverty and shame shall be to him that refuseth instruction: but he that regardeth reproof shall be honoured."

Poor because of excesses, drugs and alcohol but I'd include convenience food and gadgets in this as well:

Poverbs 23:21
"For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags."

Now I am chided and ridiculed enough (not in this forum) for the paleolithic throwback that I am because I till my modest fields and thus always have food, rather than adoring those who set themselves up as guru status to click their tongues and wag their heads a the way the poor are treated. And this leads me to another cause the Bible identifies for poverty and the way out of it:

Proverbs 28:19
"He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough."

My tale would be that as long as one wallows and indulges in the wage/oil/debt/consumerism culture, they will always open themselves up to poverty. It is suggested that since Jesus is for peace then the administration must be the enemy of Jesus: So be it! Here's what the Bible says happens when you eat at the enemy's table:

Deuteronomy 28:48
"Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the Lord shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until he have destroyed thee."

And one last jibe: As Daniel pointed out early on, the overall #1 cause of poverty is single parenthood. Concerning man and woman together (not necessarily just marriage), the teaching couldn't be clearer:

Matthew 19:6
"Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."

Throughout the time of the Bible, when people abandoned the way pointed out to them ['dikaiosoune' = 'the way pointed out' translated 'righteousness']. Did we think that if we violate such a fundamental principle as this that we would go on as if nothing had happened.

"No success in the world can make up for a failure in the home."

Wasp Jerky said...

So if we kill all drug dealers do you have to do away with the CIA?

jholder said...

Here is another great article about poverty, and the problems of big government solutions. I found it very interesting.

This whole discussion here has been very good, although I have to drop the whole killing thing. The ends cannot justify the means in that case.

Daniel Levesque said...

"So if we kill all drug dealers do you have to do away with the CIA?"

The CIA handles far more than drugs. Perhaps you are referring to the DEA, in which case it would need a short term increase to eneble a long term decrese, but elimination may not be possible.

I also wanted to chime in on what Elutheros has been saying. He has been illuminatingthe importance of choice when it comes to poverty, and He is absolutely righ. The big question here becomes; why is poverty so attractive to some people that they refuse to work themselves out of it. I have my own theory, but I will wait for other people to respond first.

Biblically speaking it is the responsibilty of the wealthy to aid the poor. However, sticking to the Biblical example it is not forced upon them by the government, but is willingly engaged in as a religious duty to God. Therefore, if we are to follow the Bible's example the government actually has no place taxing people in order to redistribute the wealth of the industrious to the unindustrious poor.

Dan Trabue said...

Actually Daniel, the bible nowhere precludes the idea of gov't feeding the poor, assisting the needy. It doesn't say that it is the gov't's responsibility, but neither does it say the gov't should not do it.

So, as Christians in a Republic, we can certainly advocate for gov't action to assist the poor. As I pointed out somewhere in this pile, if it's cheaper to society to spend money on education, for instance, then it is not only a biblically acceptable thing, but a fiscally wise thing to do.

Consider this: If the conservative churches who don't think the gov't ought to be in the welfare business and do think that as Christians, we should be compassionate towards the poor, they could take care of both issues by stepping up to the plate and putting a serious dent in poverty problems.

The gov't would be glad to get out of the welfare business as long as the problems were gone. The gov't rightly does not want homelessness running rampant, people starving, etc but if those problems were gone, gov't could thank the church and step out of that role.

[caveat: They could not so easily step out of the corporate welfare business because those are the folk who pay to put them in office and to whom they're beholden. They SHOULD get out of the corporate welfare business, but aren't likely to under the current circumstances of our sick Republic.]

A prediction: Churches won't step up to the plate because they don't really believe enough in assisting the poor and because the problem is so pervasive. If welfare were ended tomorrow and the tax money spent on it were returned to folk to do with as they will and some folk could choose to invest that money in churches specifically for poverty just wouldn't happen and then we'd have a flood of exasperated poverty problems that would cost everybody (gov't, citizens, society) MORE than the money saved in welfare.

Dan Trabue said...

dl said:
"the government actually has no place taxing people in order to redistribute the wealth of the industrious to the unindustrious poor."

And here again, you're placing blame upon the poor when that is not especially the biblical model (excepting some of the Proverbs, thank you ellie) and is irrelevant from a gov't point of view.

From a gov't point of view, it matters little whether the poor are thus from faults within or without but what matters is How best to deal with it so it doesn't cost us more down the road.

Daniel Levesque said...

"Consider this: If the conservative churches who don't think the gov't ought to be in the welfare business and do think that as Christians, we should be compassionate towards the poor, they could take care of both issues by stepping up to the plate and putting a serious dent in poverty problems"

I don't know about your church, but mine has stepped up to the plate. There is actually an alliance of churches caring for the poor in Anchorage.

Dan Trabue said...

My church works with the poor (hopefully moreso than FOR the poor), as well.

But the churches all over are not doing enough that the gov't can quit assisting those in need. If traditional churches want to quit paying welfare taxes, all they have to do is take on the whole problem themselves.

While churches certainly do give assistance, they haven't taken on the whole problem, and my guess is that they can't (and I've read statistics to that end, as well) as the problem is too large.

Eleutheros said...

Dan, you have made a very pertinent point which has to be taken together with Daniel's observation. Governments can't be in the compassion business, to them poverty is (and has to be) a fiscal problem to be dealt with like any other fiscal problem. For the most part there is no effective way for government to deal separately with the so called "deserving poor" and with what we call here abouts the "sorry". All must be treated alike because they all cause the same problems for society.

But not so for individuals and churches. Churches who are in the community can get to know the people there. They can, and do, discriminate between the sorry and the needy. If all largesse were left up to such as the churches, it would be impossible for people to make a career out of milking the system, an inter-generational career.

So you are right, the government (and liberal) notion that the only way to make sure the "deserving" poor get assistance is to give it to all who will lower themselves to ask for it makes it impossible for the churhes to do likewise. It doesn't mean that the churches couldn't provide for all those who actually ARE needy and can do no better.

My schtick in this area, and it's a whole other endeavor besides the Eleutheros persona, is an advocacy of whole, bulk foods for the sake of health and economy ... even for, or especially for, those who can't grow it for themselves. To ply this advocacy, I don't care who's in office, what the laws are, who has funded what. And some small smattering of good has been done. But when I hear the wail that some family can scarcely afford food, I have a standing offer to buy all their food for them for six months (and I am a man of modest means) but under my conditions:

1. I choose the food
2. I must deliver it to them personally
3. If they don't have the skill to prepare it, I will teach them
4. If they don't have the tools to prepare it, I will provide them

How much would this cost me for a family of 4? About $300. (price is going up somewhat of late) Good, square, whole balanced meals. And for half a year the family could spend their food money on other things that would set them on the road to being out of poverty.

How many takers have I had in 17 years?


Marty said...


I haven't been reading here long, so thanks for the 27th time of explaining. I am growing a deep respect for you and the way you have chosen to live your life. Not everyone has the will, the brain, or the brawn to do it. I'm going to read your archives. My husband will inherit land in the future, that is certain. His parents have a farm of about 150 acres. They grow their own food. The land has been in the family for over 100 years. My husband helps his dad as he is getting up in age now and not well. I've posted a picture, taken thanksgiving, of the old farm house on my blog. It is quite deteriorated, but my husband would like to fix it up. He is up to the task, he has the skills. I'm quite the city girl, however. I like its conveniences. Perhaps I'll learn something from you on living off the land if it should ever be needed. We won't solve poverty here, but perhaps we'll learn something from each other.

Eleutheros said...

" The big question here becomes; why is poverty so attractive to some people that they refuse to work themselves out of it."

There are two aspects of that I would offer, although no one has an actual answer, not throughout history.

1) In my misspent youth, I worked for three years at my state's school for the deaf. Half the staff was deaf and half not. There were several individuals there, three stick out in my mind, who were very mildly hard of hearing and yet they feigned more profound deafness and identified very strongly with the deaf culture. How do I know the status of their hearing and that they affected more of a handicap than they had? I evaluated their hearing as part of an audiological training at the nearby university using the new tympanographic technology. In the ususal way of testing hearing, the person indicates when they begin to hear tones of various frequencies and for whatever reason, some people fake it. But there is a muscle in the ear (typanor tensi) that pulls the auditory bones tight when the brian percieves a sound at a certain level creating a change in pressure in the middle ear which can be detected. This in order to test the hearing of people who have no language ability. Turns out these three people really had a hearing loss, but it was very mild.

So why pretend to be deaf? Because they could blame all their problems on it, people didn't expect as much from them, they didn't expect as much from themselves.

I often find poverty that way. For so many it is comfortable. Nobody expects so much from a poor person. The particular type of stress associated with success can be avoided.

Along of this is that just as the government creates and fosters corporate welfare, it also fosters the nourishes the 'poor' industry. Many people have a lot at stake in the poor game, they earn their living bemoaning the lot of the poor and a suggestion that the problem might be self-solving is a threat to their livelihood.

2) But this is my second answer: what some call 'poor' is just another person's ordinary life. During the 60's the federal government instituted (among other things of its kind) the ARC (Appalachian Regional Commission) to address the supposed grinding poverty of my area. They were utterly, utterly ignorant of the culture. Here (because of our Celtic background) people are Poor (as opposed to being poor with a little 'p'). It is a normal state and does not involve the perception that we are wanting or lacking. We expect life to be this way and don't expect it to be much different. But from time to time it IS different. Times get good, coal booms - as it is right now, and people enjoy a lot more of the material things. But when it's over, it's no cause for despair. It only means we are now Poor again, like we've always been.

The gazillions of dollars poured down the ARC has not changed this.

When deciding who is an is not poor, we must not fall into the practice of saying the if people aren't exactly like us, they must be poor.

Sylvia said...

Interesting that the biblical arguments for mercy were cited from the New Testament and those against cited from the Hebrew Bible. Goes along with your theory, Dan.

I would add that just because there are warnings against sloth, drunkenness and other ways of ruining your life, AFAIK there are no warnings against helping those people once their lives are ruined. On the contrary, the Lord COMMANDED his followers to meet the needs of the less fortunate. He also discredited the practice of blaming the poor and sick for their situation (e.g. the man blind from birth). That's mercy.

I don't think anyone can dispute the fact that governments do a much better job of relief than private citizens or churches. The latter can't even pick up the slack right now, even though people have more than enough disposable income to do the job. If people were naturally charitable God wouldn't have had to come to earth and spell it out for us! and it seems His message is as hard to hear today as it was two millenia ago.

Daniel Levesque said...

"How much would this cost me for a family of 4? About $300. (price is going up somewhat of late) Good, square, whole balanced meals."


I would dearly love to know how to do that. I spend that much on food every month for just 2 people. I'm serious. Food is amazingly expensive here in Alaska.

Sylvia said...

Eleutheros wrote:

"So why pretend to be deaf? Because they could blame all their problems on it, people didn't expect as much from them, they didn't expect as much from themselves."

You're could very well be right, but that is not even half the story. You haven't asked how they got to be that way. What life experiences and circumstances have shaped them? What traumatic experiences in early life have robbed them of their vitality? What kind of pain do these people have that they have to take such drastic measures just to cope?

There is a reason Jesus taught us not to judge--because we humans cannot know all the circumstances that lead to a particular person's situation. Even the person in question may not know why they do what they do. The answers are too deep for us to know; only God knows. Our job is to comfort and provide the necessities of life. Showing mercy to someone who has known no mercy can be healing in itself--to both people.

Marty said...

Sylvia said: "There is a reason Jesus taught us not to judge--because we humans cannot know all the circumstances that lead to a particular person's situation. Even the person in question may not know why they do what they do."

I agree. This discussion has sparked a blog post on a couple of homeless guys I knew.

Eleutheros said...

As far as Jesus and his teachings on compassion, let's see what he said the Kingdom of Heaven was like, and if unconditional mercy described in this thread applied:

Parable of the prodigal son:

Son squanders his inheritence and finds himself destitute. When did the son get close enough to the father to receive mercy? When he admitted to himself that he alone was the cause of his problems. The father didn't go looking for him, he waited until he had learned the lesson and then took him back.

Parable of ten vigins. It ends with the master shutting the gate and saying to the five foolish virgins that he didn't recognize them. He DIDN'T say, "Well, who really knows your circumstances. It doesn't matter why you are late, we have to be compassionate in all cases" No, instead he slammed the door in their faces.

The parable of the ten talents. When the master interviewed the man with one talent the man began to carp an whine, "Well I was afraid of you ... etc." What did the master say? Did he say, "Well, I have to take into account your circumstances, after all who knows what happened to you before, it doesn't matter that you did nothing while I was away, how can I really judge that." No rather he said, "Thou wicked and slothful servant".

When Jesus dealt with the woman taken in adultery (The 'first stone' incident) ... he didn't say, "Owing to your circumstances I suppose you can keep doing what you were doing, we can't really expect you to change..." What he said was "Go and sin no more."

When Jesus speaks to the church at Laodicea in Revelation, he doesn't say, "Well, there are things in your past that shape the way you are, we can't really expect you to be any different ..." Instead he says "I will spew thee out of my mouth ..."

I could go on for some time. The paradigm for the kingdom of God is not unconditional, unexamined acceptance of any behavior whatever in the name of compassion and mercy.


Likewise, let's apply the principle proffered evenly. How can you judge what Bush is doing? You don't know what went on in his past that makes him go to war. What about the corporations? We don't know what pain and misery those CEO's have gone through that makes them exploit the poor and the environment.

Dan Trabue said...

I'll agree that I think we all must make judgements, that Jesus' lesson about Judge not lest ye be context was about not being hypocritical in our judgements but to make judgements in full knowledge of our own selves.

And you have compiled a fine short list of places that Jesus' compassion is tempered by expectations, but it's not a lack of compassion he's showing.

No one, least of all those in the helping fields, is advocating blind compassion (oh poor thing, let me comfort you) and I've repeated this here several times. We/they're all about finding ways to help people reach their potential, about holding them accountable; tough love, if you will.

What we're saying is that:
1. We are called to compassion (and what I hear from many - not necessarily here - is not tough love, it is hateful derision). I think the story of Jesus and the rich man who could not give away all he owned even for heaven is a good example. Jesus did hold him accountable and sent him away, but it saddened Jesus. He had great compassion for that man caught in his wealth.
2. There seems to be plenty of outrage out there towards the welfare queens and their cadillacs (largely a myth), but not so much towards the wealthy exploiters and that this is inverse to biblical teachings.
3. It only makes logical/fiscally responsible sense to try to assist those who struggle.

Dan Trabue said...

" The big question here becomes; why is poverty so attractive to some people that they refuse to work themselves out of it."

I say this is a myth. I live, work, play and worship with the poor, including some on welfare and some on the streets, and by and large, no one finds poverty attractive. They don't particularly want to be there but there they are nonetheless.

And El,
One other thing on the parable of the ten talents:
It has been suggested that this parable has been interpreted exactly upside down from Jesus' intent.

For a fine reinterpretation of this story (that I prefer and think you will find interesting, too, Eleutheros, as it's a Babylon-blasting interpretation):

In summation:
The ruthless rich man with dubious business practices does NOT represent God in this parable (as typically interpreted). The two obedient slaves create wealth where there was none and are praised by their master as they remain slaves. (We might say that these slaves are more captive than ever to the world controlled by their lord.)

And the one slave who buried his talent was the whistle-blower and was punished by the master. I can see you in this third servant, Mr. El.

For what it's worth.

Dan Trabue said...

One final thing for now:

I agree with Marty, El. You are an interesting fella. You ever consider writing a book, holding classes, etc, etc? Not only are you interesting (though sometimes dead wrong) in your opinions, but you express yourself well in your writings.

I might buy an Eleutheros book (as long as it wasn't on the topic of violence-as-solution where you are soooo wrong).

Sylvia said...

E interpreted:

"Son squanders his inheritence and finds himself destitute. When did the son get close enough to the father to receive mercy? When he admitted to himself that he alone was the cause of his problems. The father didn't go looking for him, he waited until he had learned the lesson and then took him back."

First of all, the father didn't "wait until he had learned his lesson" to accept his son. He ran out to meet his son while he was still a long way off, before hearing any explanations. He was overjoyed that the beloved son he thought was lost had returned. Furthermore he held a feast for him, and put rings on his fingers. If that's tough love I want some of that!

And what was the son's supposed sin? It wasn't leading a dissolute life. (This is important.) The prodigal son's sin was wanting to be independent, wanting to be free of obligations to his father (i.e. God), wanting to be the master of his own destiny. He refused to acknowledge that everything he had and was came from his father (God again). He wanted to *own* his life. The parable not only warns against the illusion of independence and "making it on your own," it also shows that God's mercy, like the compassion of a loving father, will be there when you hit bottom.

The older son's sin was different. He grumbled against the mercy and favour shown to his brother who had been disobedient when he himself had been obedient all his life. There's something for everyone in this parable. ;)

Marty said...

Thanks for visiting my blog Dan. Your blog has become my favorite place to visit.

And Eleutheros :"Likewise, let's apply the principle proffered evenly. How can you judge what Bush is doing? You don't know what went on in his past that makes him go to war. What about the corporations? We don't know what pain and misery those CEO's have gone through that makes them exploit the poor and the environment."

I've had a simply awful day at work. When I came home and read that .......ROTFLMHO...Thanks for the laugh, I needed it. But I'm still going to bash Bush on my blog, just because he's an idiot. :)

Sylvia said...

Off Topic:
Eleutheros, do you have your $50 a month food plan posted somewhere? That would be very helpful for people. Are we talking organic? I'm guessing your plan depends heavily on dried staples bought in large quantities. Are fresh organic veggies included? What about spices, condiments, and meats? I'd be interested to know the details since I'm trying to cut back myself (although it's a bit hard with amaranth at $9 a kilo).

Marty said...

I just finished reading Wow. That is the first time in all my years that I've ever heard the parable of the 10 talents interpreted that way. Makes a huge difference and is much more in line with the context of the whole. Thanks Dan.

Eleutheros said...

Concerning the parables:

Dan. You are right. I very much like that interpretation. I especially hope you were paying attention to that natrual growth (pastoral economy) and growth by swindling and usury (debt/consumerism). But, alas, the exegete is dreaming. Here Jesus is telling a long string of parables clearly identified as the so called "kingdom parables" and then suddenly says the equivalent of "Oh all this kingdom stuff side, boys, here's a stock tip .."
Not likely, I'm thinking.


First, the father did NOT seek out the prodigal son, but waited on him to return. It shows that God will meet us more than half way IF we come to understand that we are the cause of our problems, all we have to do is embrace that realization. Same in the mundane world. Providence and prosperity rushes out to meet us like the eager father just as soon as we realize that we are what's holding us back.

But that's unimportant compared to this:
"The prodigal son's sin was wanting to be independent, wanting to be free of obligations to his father (i.e. God), wanting to be the master of his own destiny."

This interpretation is the very cause of every thing evil that has been done in the name of Christianity. God does not want you to think or act on your own behalf, wait on instructions from Moscow. Oh, what's that you say, God isn't actually here giving you instructions? Well, yes, heh, heh, that's right. But he wants ME (pope, preacher, patriarch, televangelist, king, abusive husband, child abuser) to act in His stead. So don't think, don't evaluate, just do as I tell you because I am acting for God.

It was the cause of the Crusades and every other religious war, it is the cause of slavery, the source of indentured servitude, the means by which poverty has been inflicted on countless millions. No indeed! Don't act independently, don't think independently, that is evil and an abomination to GOd. Are you not thinking for yourself now, good! Now here's what God told me He wants you to do ......

God does not want to make sniviling spiritual parasites of us. The one pharse in the bible that stands out above all others was used by Jesus, and it emphasises why he used parables instead of much direct preaching, it is the phrase 'ti dokimazete?' "What do YOU think?"
(Matt 21:28 for example)

Eleutheros said...

Sylvia and Daniel,

I don't have the plan published anywhere accessible, and it isn't just a list, it takes in an understanding of food, nutrition, and how it is available and distributed. If I just published the list, most people would per force react with "The hell, you say!?"

And you are right, Sylvia, it does depend heavily on dried staples. The mode is to establish a base line of a default peasant-type diet and add to it. As such there is nearly no meat although a good supply of vegetables is in it, just not a lot of variety.

The $50 a month is a stop-gap. Once the food money stops pouring out of the persons's purse just to barely be fed, then we can stand back and take inventory and add a lot of very good things for very little extra money.

It also has to be modified regionally. But the core of it would be available anywhere.

As it turns out a lot of it is orngainc, but I've no confidence any longer in the organic label (another whole thread on another whole topic). Much of it is not, but I can demonstrate that most of the time, it doesn't matter.

Just as an example, this morning I made 100% orgainc whole grain buckwheat pancakes, augmented with flaxseed and oats for nutrition, with caramel syrup. The only thing that I didn't buy was the egg in the batter. It was enough to feed eight people and the whole thing cost about $1. That's total, not per person.

But this discussion here is going very well and I don't want to sidetrack it, maybe we can talk about that in another forum or under another topic.

Sylvia said...

My ability to think for myself came from God, and was shaped by my environment and experiences. I didn't create it. I don't own it. It's a gift. My very "self" is a gift. I don't exist apart from God. That's the point. The prodigal son wanted to exist independently, apart from his source, his father, and found it was impossible. We cannot create something from nothing, the way God creates, we can only receive, and work with what we're given. What we receive includes our abilities, our strengths and weaknesses, and the degree to which we can cope with the difficulties of life.

Unfortunately we humans have a hard time conceiving of a dependence that is not degrading, exploitative, and coercive. This is why the Christian God is portrayed as a loving Father. Do children resent being dependent on their parents? Of course not. Neither should we be like the prodigal son and resent being dependent on our "Father" for self and sustenance.

warpedrefraction said...

Poverty is merely a by-product of a flawed macro civilization. It does not effect those who have not succumbed to the idea that the Earth is something for them to conquer and consume (and these people are few and far between nowadays). Because macro civilization is fundamentally flawed in itself, no sort of political or policy reform will ever make a difference, and we've seen society prove that point countless times. The human population has been expanding at a discustingly bloated rate for a few generations and starvation is merely us living outside the means and capabilities of our habitat. Feeding people doesn't solve starvation it compounds it by spawning further reproduction. Giving people money doesn't stop poverty it compounds the problem by perpetuating a flawed society. This problem was created through pain and suffering and it will have to be fixed accordingly.

the Contrary Goddess said...

ooh, warped, I think I like you. At least you are one person in addition to Eleu who makes sense.

Dan Trabue said...

OK. Interesting stuff (and a welcome to warpedrefraction, you're welcome back anytime).

Eleutheros (and others), let's suppose I agree with many of your points about poverty (as, indeed, I do).

Let's suppose that many of us agree that we've created poverty in accepting the terms of agreement of this capitalistic system, where we have to indenture ourselves to make the payments on an increasingly costly lifestyle - one that we cannot "afford" unless we have a good deal of cash coming in and one
that the world literally can't afford.

As a result, we have many people trapped in poverty that is as much a mindset as anything (at least in the US).

But given that those people trapped in this conceptual poverty are suffering actual problems (poor
education, miserable jobs, poor health, homelessness, etc), how do we best deal with this conceptual
poverty (and its real pains)? How do we deal with the more serious, life and death poverty that is found around the world?

How can the mother struggling to make ends meet buy her property large enough to grow her own food?

How can the mentally ill man with his issues, the elderly woman in a wheelchair, how can they "make it" in your economy?

How do we all leave Babylon?

Marty said...

I hope those outside Babylon can answer your questions Dan. My Dad is 89 years young. He grew up outside Babylon. He left that life behind in 1935. There were no jobs, so he joined the army. Got out, got a job. In 1942 was drafted, married my mom and spent three years in China/Burma/India. Got out, went back to his job. Raised a family. Retired after 45 years. Never looked back. He'd rather die than go back outside Babylon. Ask him who the best president was in his lifetime..he'll tell you FDR.

Eleutheros said...

Your father is like most of our fathers, and alas, like most of us. But our ability to live in the heart of Babylon is squarely based (says I) on three things, the three legged stool (tripous) that is stable until one leg is removed:

1) Exploitation of the environment
2) Exploitation of the rest of the human population
3) The willingness to accept poor quality for the appearance of abundance

One and three are perhaps for another discussion, but two is my answer to Dan's question about what we do about the REAL poverty around the world. People of Marty's dad's generation are proud that they began in the relatively primitive condition of the early thirties and can live mechanized lives of leisure now as if it were some mark of worth and merit. Yet that very lifestyle is balanced on the back of the world's poor.

We imagine, based on much of what I read on threads such as this, that we can somehow reach down and pull the world's poor up to our level of consumption and waste. We cannot. The world can scarcely afford us, the wheels and axles of the bandwagon are groaning under our weight. We cannot take on any more on this ride of consumerism. The stark truth is that the path to world equality is not to raise the world's poor to our standard of living, but for us to move toward theirs.

So the only, only, only solution, worlds without end Amen, is for US (pun intended) to consume less. Far less. Far, far less.

We hear talk of how the single mother working to buy a life for her and her child work hard and are tired. Do you think that we outside of Babylon don't work hard and become tired? Don't get me started or I'll begin to catalog what I and my clan did today just to take care of the ordinary work of life here. Don't talk to me about 'too tired' until you've tried this lifestyle for a few days. If we are to relieve world poverty, we're ALL going to be living much more like that single mother. We are going to work hard and we are going to be tired.

Can you find even one problem of poverty and conflict anywhere in the world that does not stem from North America's overconsumption of world resources?

Marty said...


That's the reason my Dad ran toward Babylon. Life outside is hard hard hard. But I do see your point, you make it very well. When my in-laws retired to work the land, my Dad thought they were nuts. They are in their 80s now and going downhill fast. What if my husband and his sister were too far away to help? What happens outside Babylon when you're too old to work the land and there's no one to help? There were 10 kids in my dad's family. They all left and moved to the big city and never went back.

Eleutheros said...


"What happens outside Babylon when you're too old to work the land and there's no one to help?"

You die.

Better to live free while you can and die when you can't, says I.

But it's a hypothetical. 'No one to help' is what happens IN Babylon, not outside it. If you start in your 80's out of Babylon, you will get what advantages you can. Better, says I, than the alternatives. But just like my 60 year old smoker friend. She can begin to eat better, meditate, and quit smoking and all that will give her a better life. But there isn't any way to give her her lungs back. So the octagenarian who would decide to breathe the freer air and live for a turn outside our sick society. There are SOME things you can do to have a better life, but is won't be the same as having lived that way and raised your family that way since your youth.

Dan Trabue said...

Interesting. I'm thinking...

Dan Trabue said...

OK. Here's what I'm thinking. I'm not sure if it's fleshed out but it's what I'm thinking right now.

I consider myself sort of marginalized in Babylon, to use Eleutheros' concept. But I'm definitely within the system.

However, I could "leave Babylon" today. I have some resources. I have my physical and mental health (mostly). I have some skills and learning.

Just as Moses left Babylon (Egypt) as a young man. He was the prince, educated, with some privileges and resources. He left and became a sheepfarmer in the desert.

And there was some value in that. It was a stab at the System, if you will. Moses said, I reject the privileges inherent in being a Prince in Egypt and I reject the slavery of my peoples. And he left/ran away.

But Moses didn't stay away. He came back and, after MUCH tribulation and debate, Israel left Babylon/Egypt as a community.

Same for the Israelis when they left the actual Babylon later on. Same for the early church. They rejected Babylon corporately and left in community.

By leaving Babylon in community, all were welcome. The poor, the disabled, the elderly, the unskilled.

I'm glad that some individuals have left The System, rejected its values and embraced sustainability and wholeness. They serve as a great model.

But, says I, not all individuals CAN leave individually. They are Lacking in one way or another what it takes to do it on their own.

I think what I'm looking for is the Great Exodus where all are welcome. The communal leaving of Babylon. Not that everyone leaves. Some will always choose to remain.

The biblical model for leaving Babylon is a communal one, THAT's what I'm looking for. Where all who are interested can leave, even if they couldn't do it on their own.

madcapmum said...

What if you took your resources, set up a farm, and then invited all who wished to come? How many do you figure? You could show up in church every week with an open offer.

For another Biblical model, look to Noah. The invitations went out, no one accepted. Or in the N.T., again, a banquet was thrown, but the invitees had too many other commitments.

Dan Trabue said...

Good point on the Noah story, MCM, but in the NT story, after the wealthy turned down the invitation, it was offered to all the poor and disenfranchised who accepted, if that's the story you're talking about.

It may well be that the one or two individual households stepping out of the system is the best we can do for now. I'm hoping for something else, but appreciate the ones and twos who are doing something, as I do the actual communities extant (amish, mennonite, hutterite, hippyites, etc.) I just have too many friends who are amongst the down and out to want to leave them just yet.

madcapmum said...

So, you've offered and been turned down?

I have someone in my life who's determined to have a relationship with me. This person is not someone I can have a relationship with, so I don't respond favourably. They continue to ask, to push, and my answer has been no all along. It's annoying, because they disrespect my "no", as if continuing to push will eventually produce a "yes".

If you've asked, and the answer is no, well, the answer is no. I'm not saying that what you're offering isn't wonderful (because I think it is), but if they haven't said "yes" up to now, they probably aren't going to.

We've sounded out friends about some kind of loose-knit "community" based on raising our own food, but while they're interested in "community", they aren't interested in self-sufficiency and the work that involves. Really, the "community" part isn't coming together too well either; it happens very seldom because the truth is that everyone has other priorities. What people actually do is what they want to do, not what they talk about.

I wish that wasn't so true, but there it is. If they aren't growing tomatoes in pots on their apartment window-ledges, they won't be growing fields of them way out yonder.

the Contrary Goddess said...

I was thinking about the "community" aspect. And I think that community outside of Babylon is invisible to those still captive.

At least, as the years have gone by, I've been amazed by the depth and diversity of the community that we find around us, that we participate in. But we didn't bring it with us either. And it wasn't immediately evident but takes time to grow. It is, after all, organic & alive. It isn't a construction.

Maybe bringing community along is possible for some with a group identity like the Israelites had (we presume they had). White supremacists (who have every right to believe what they believe) try to do the same thing today. I don't happen to think those sorts of constructed group identities are a good thing.

I also tend to think a lot more people think they could live outside Babylon if only they had to than would ever actually choose to do it -- too hard. But see, exploitation is all that makes it "easy". And in the exploitation system, you are either exploiting someone else or being exploited yourself -- until you just flat get out of it, play a different game.

Although, truthfully, I'd have to recommend the non-Babylonian lifestyle. I personally think it only SEEMS harder, that it is really hard to be so divorced from the products of your labor, so exploitive of the world's people and resources, so disconnected, so captive.

Dan Trabue said...

Thanks, CG and all, for an interesting discussion. This is exactly the conversation that I've been having with myself and others here in the real world and there's been much said worth pondering.

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