Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Why Simplicity? A Complex Answer, Part V


CoveredBridge1a_Paint1
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Marshall was saying...

I realize it is inconvenient, but [simplicity] as a lifestyle choice, especially for one so concerned for the poor, it makes absolutely no sense.

If it makes no sense to you, then I'd suggest you ought not embrace simplicity.

It makes perfect sense to me and many others. Why? The reasons are many. A few starters...

1. We have finite amount of potable water. The more demand for clean water, the more water prices increase, the less affordable water is to the poor. Possible conclusions?
a. Consume less water.
b. Use rainwater.
c. Build in ways that slow runoff (which leads to polluted waters and other problems)
d. Drive less (or not at all - driving contributes greatly to water pollution)
e. Advocate for less road building, more mass transit, bike lanes, sidewalks
f. Advocate AWAY from the personal auto solution and towards healthier solutions as policy matters.
g. Some of the same responses in section 2, below.

All of which I believe ultimately helps the poor.

2. We have a common world to share, it is not ours to exclusively pollute. Additionally, pollution tends to hurt the poor more (the poor are more likely to live in polluted settings, to suffer from asthma, cancers, etc) Possible conclusions?
a. Pollute less.
b. Drive less.
c. Live in smaller circles.
d. Shop locally (stuff shipped in from 1000 miles away comes with 1000 miles worth of pollution/toxins/costs).
e. Grow more of my own food.
f. Some of the same answers in section 1, above.

All of which I believe helps the poor.

3. Dependence upon foreign oil has many negative consequences, many of which directly and indirectly harm the poor. When we wage war in a foreign nation to defend "our" oil, it is often the poor who are killed as "collateral damage." When we wage wars of any type, it is often the poor of both nations sent as cannon fodder.

Possible solutions?
a. Many of the same already mentioned...
b. Drive less
c. Live in smaller circles
d. Consume less Stuff that is dependent upon foreign fuels for its production/transport
e. Shop locally
f. Advocate against policies that keep us tied to foreign oil and fossil fuels in general

etc. We have many global and local problems whose origins are found in our lifestyle choices. Simplifying our lifestyles could/would have many positive results for the world in general, and the poor specifically.

Marshall...

That is, it is incompatible with a real desire to help the poor as it limits one's ability to impact the greatest numbers.

Says you. I am wholly unconvinced that the answer to the problems of poverty is more charity (ie, Dan trying to make more money so he can give away as much money as possible to help the needy poor), which can be debillitating and less than helpful, at least at times.

As the saying goes (sort of):
Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day.
Teach a man to fish, and he eats for as long as he can fish.
Work to enable the man to have good health and clean water in which to fish, and he eats for a lifetime.

Teaching a man to fish does no good if his water is toxic sludge. If the man has cancer from air pollution, teaching him to fish does little good. If the man is in a wheelchair and unable to travel to the water, teaching him to fish does little good.

Charity has its place, to be sure. But more important to me is to work for systemic justice, part of which suggests to me simple living sorts of answers.

Marshall...

One could ask to Dan, what is more important? Living simply or helping the poor? One of these seems just talk.

You set up a false dichotomy. Who says we have to choose between living simply and helping the poor?

Only to the uninformed would simple living seem to be just talk. Our life choices have consequences for us and beyond us. Giving money to problems can be a good thing, but better still is working to end the problems and ending our part in contributing by our lifestyles to those problems.

Giving money to establish a job skill training program can be a very good thing and help some people.

Being an entrepreneur that creates good jobs and just working circumstances can be a very good thing and help some people.

AND, living in ways that don't contribute to pollution or people losing their way of life is ALSO a very good thing that helps, it seems to me, even more people.

37 comments:

Alan said...

I simply do not understand the need that many busybodies, fusspots, tattletales, and scolds have to criticize how a complete and random stranger chooses to live your life.

I mean, fine, the BFTSs are free to disagree, but a zillion comments later, it is a mystery why anyone would be that invested in how a complete stranger lives his/her life.

I guess some people just have nothing better to do with their lives but bitch on the interwebs.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

When I was in seminary, I discovered something. In particular during my first year, class discussions could get pretty heated, although truth be told, nothing compared to discussions like those in Systematic Theology and the seminar I took on Liberation Theology. I decided the reason for the level of barely suppressed rage was how close some people identify their religious beliefs with their larger identity. The most general description of some aspect of the Christian faith, given in an academic setting, was taken as a personal attack, an affront not just to their own religious beliefs, but to them as individuals.

There just didn't seem to be a way to take in information about, say, the precarious position of the historic kingdoms known as Israel and Judah and the triumphant presentation in the Hebrew Scriptures without it being a personal insult. In much the same way, when someone offers something on the internet as Dan is currently doing, that offers an entirely different set, as it were, a new perspective from which to view how to live the good life, it is seen not just as one person offering a view rooted in his/her life experiences and understanding of those things one holds dear. Instead, it is an implicit attack on how all others live their lives. It is a demand, even if worded politely enough, that others have an obligation to live in a similar fashion.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

Years ago, I was naive enough to forget that lesson, when I first started interacting with Marshall, with Eric Ashley, with Mark, and of course, He Who Must Not Be Named. My hope - and it was an honest, earnest, if misguided hope - was that an exchange of views could lead to some kind, perhaps not of mutual understanding, at the very least some interesting conversations.

Except, alas, contemporary conservatives, it seems, cannot hold their own lives at a distance, entertain the possibility that even as they move forward under certain assumptions, some held much of their life long, that their points of view are limited, contingent, and quite possibly wrong. I could be insulting and decide this is the result of intellectual or moral inferiority. Or, I could be more generous, and see it as the result of fear in the face of all the various social and cultural winds that seek to blow us down, clinging to something that seems strong and steady to keep away the fear inherent in our current situation. I vacillate between these two views.

That is, I think, at the heart of much of our current social and political and cultural nonsense. Marshall can't read Dan and think, "Wow, this is interesting. I don't agree with it, but I can honor that Dan is being conscientious and purposeful in his living." To do so would be an implicit rejection of his own life-choices, which would be intolerable.

I can read Dan, celebrate his choices, agree in some places with his reasons, disagree in others, and it provides food for thought for me. That my wife and I have had similar struggles over the years, over much the same set of scriptural and contingent realities helps me to understand Dan's position, I think, a bit more than others might. That we have landed in some other space is testimony to our own experience.

For conservatives, as I often point out, difference is error. For me, difference is just difference. That's at the heart of this matter, I think.

John said...

I think that the best way to help the poor is to expand, as much as possible, the sphere of liberty for each individual. A society in which people are free to pursue their individual self-interest and the rule of law prevents infringements of their lives, liberties, and properties is more prosperous than that one which does not. It's not a coincidence that freer countries tend to have less poverty and less free countries tend to have more poverty.

Now this statement relates only tangentially to the environmental issues that Dan has written in this post, so I'll address them directly. Because air and water pollution cannot be contained within property boundaries, there's some need for environmental regulation. If I burn toxic chemicals on my land, I'm necessarily harming my neighbor because the air and groundwater flows over his property. And since I simply can't contain such an activity within my property, it's reasonable for use the force of law to prevent me from doing so.

It's unfortunate that we cannot make do without government. We can, however, get along quite nicely with a minimalist state.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

John wrote: "We can, however, get along quite nicely with a minimalist state."

First, this is just factually inaccurate, historically ignorant, and in light of the massive evidence of the previous Presidential/ideological administration, I cannot imagine how any thoughtful commentator can write a sentence like that without it being satire.

Second, none of this post has anything at all to do with politics. Why is it consistently read that way? Why? Why?

I am going to write that sentence again: Second, none of this post has anything at all to do with politics.

I'd write it a thousand times, if I thought it would help get it through to folks who wish to read it that way. It isn't about politics. It isn't about politics.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

John, here is what happens when people live with minimal government. Please, please stop.

John said...

John wrote: "We can, however, get along quite nicely with a minimalist state."

First, this is just factually inaccurate, historically ignorant, and in light of the massive evidence of the previous Presidential/ideological administration, I cannot imagine how any thoughtful commentator can write a sentence like that without it being satire.


Are you arguing that the Bush Administration was an example of minimalist government? Or that the Bush Administration significantly diminished the size and scope of government? If so, how? Please be specific.

Second, none of this post has anything at all to do with politics. Why is it consistently read that way? Why? Why?

Because Dan wrote political statements like this:

e. Advocate for less road building, more mass transit, bike lanes, sidewalks

And:

3. Dependence upon foreign oil has many negative consequences, many of which directly and indirectly harm the poor. When we wage war in a foreign nation to defend "our" oil, it is often the poor who are killed as "collateral damage." When we wage wars of any type, it is often the poor of both nations sent as cannon fodder.

And:

f. Advocate against policies that keep us tied to foreign oil and fossil fuels in general

Now, Geoffrey wrote:

I am going to write that sentence again: Second, none of this post has anything at all to do with politics.

Please see the above statements that I have quoted.

I'd write it a thousand times, if I thought it would help get it through to folks who wish to read it that way. It isn't about politics. It isn't about politics.

Again, please see the above passages which I have quoted.

John, here is what happens when people live with minimal government. Please, please stop.

Please explain how the case to which you have linked -- one in which an innocent child was killed by government agents -- can be blamed on the desire for a minimalist state.

Also: Geoffrey, in a previous thread, I confronted you with evidence that directly refutes your notion that poverty is growing in America. You've yet to respond. Perhaps you'd like to take that opportunity now.

John said...

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John said...

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Marshall Art said...

Geoffrey,

That link, and whatever connection you think it establishes with minimal gov't, constitutes a new definition of "wacky". Kudos.

Here's more:

"In much the same way, when someone offers...one holds dear."

Followed by:

"Instead, it is an implicit attack on how all others live their lives. It is a demand, even if worded politely enough, that others have an obligation to live in a similar fashion."

As to the first truncated part, I do indeed see what Dan is doing as an expression of his perspective and philosophy. (duh!) But note, dimly-lit bulb, the series is entitled "Why Simplicity?" Who do you think asked the question? I did, for one. And I did after he offered it as an alternative in discussions at this and other blogs in the past.

And to merely mention an alternative path ("I do things THIS way") is indeed an implicit attack on other paths, or at the least, an indication that other paths are deemed inferior, for why would anyone boldly state that they knowingly took an inferior path?

And, in those discussions mentioned above, I won't go so far as to say that Dan has overtly "demanded" adoption of his path, but as he demands that the wealthy cough up a greater percentage of their hard-earned money than he's willing to cough up of his own through his support for progressive taxation policies, so too will he "demand" adoption by support of legislation that will align with his chosen path, as John so clearly pointed out for you above.

Well, this has been fun. Maybe tomorrow I can actually get to Dan's post and respond to his ressponses to my comments. Or something.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

Art: "That link, and whatever connection you think it establishes with minimal gov't, constitutes a new definition of "wacky". Kudos."

That link provides access to a Mother Jones article on the sufferings of the city of Detroit. In part, not in whole but in part, those sufferings are the result of the absence of any public presence, most important the police power in the most literal sense of policing to establish and maintain order. The reasons for the situation are both complex and murky. They are, nevertheless, very real. That you think this is "whacky" just shows, yet again, how easily you miss what is obvious to so many others.

Art: "And to merely mention an alternative path ("I do things THIS way") is indeed an implicit attack on other paths, or at the least, an indication that other paths are deemed inferior, for why would anyone boldly state that they knowingly took an inferior path?"

So, you agree with my description of your position. Yet, I can read what Dan has written, feel challenged by it, feel hopeful in it, yet not the least bit believe for one moment that the decisions my own family has made are in any way in error, inferior, or under attack. Why is that? Because Dan isn't doing any of the things you claim he is doing.

Art: "And, in those discussions mentioned above, I won't go so far as to say that Dan has overtly "demanded" adoption of his path, but as he demands that the wealthy cough up a greater percentage of their hard-earned money than he's willing to cough up of his own through his support for progressive taxation policies, so too will he "demand" adoption by support of legislation that will align with his chosen path, as John so clearly pointed out for you above."

John's response missed the point because, as I said, Dan isn't writing about politics here. No matter how much he believes it may be, no matter how much you believe it may be, that doesn't mean it is. My ever-so-slight tangent referencing the Mother Jones article was meant to point out the fallacy central to libertarianism. When the state becomes minimal, the results are disastrous. That was the sole reason for that. I really have no need to respond further to John's attempted riposte because, really, I hold libertarianism to be historically ignorant, practically morally vicious, and I have dealt far too long with it to rehash here, where such would be irrelevant, all the reasons that is so.

Because, John and Art, Dan's position has nothing to do with politics. It touches on matters of politics; most things in life do. That does not make anything he has written "political". Your focus on taxation, for example, is so far off the grid, I honestly wonder why you keep returning to it.

In any event, Art, you have proved my point, yet again. I know you will respond, and will be quite happy to allow you the last word, because, really, what is left to discuss? You continue down the odd path you have chosen, and there is quite literally nothing anyone can say that will divert you. OK. Go ahead. I would much rather consider what Dan has written for what it is, rather than endlessly point out the many ways you don't or can't or won't understand it.

John said...

John's response missed the point because, as I said, Dan isn't writing about politics here.

You wrote this, even though I quoted three passages in which Dan advocated specific political activities.

No matter how much he believes it may be, no matter how much you believe it may be, that doesn't mean it is.

So you're arguing that even though Dan advocated specific political activities, he's not actually writing about politics at all?

My ever-so-slight tangent referencing the Mother Jones article was meant to point out the fallacy central to libertarianism. When the state becomes minimal, the results are disastrous. That was the sole reason for that.

Ah, I see. So when the state kills an innocent child, it's not the fault of the state, but those who advocate a reduced state.

I really have no need to respond further to John's attempted riposte because, really, I hold libertarianism to be historically ignorant, practically morally vicious, and I have dealt far too long with it to rehash here, where such would be irrelevant, all the reasons that is so.

I guess that this is easier than actually addressing the challenges that I have made.

Because, John and Art, Dan's position has nothing to do with politics. It touches on matters of politics; most things in life do. That does not make anything he has written "political".

So even though Dan advocates specific political proposals in three separate passages within his post, that means that he's not writing anything political?

Also: Geoffrey, in a previous thread, I confronted you with evidence that directly refutes your notion that poverty is growing in America. You've yet to respond. Perhaps you'd like to take that opportunity now.

Alan said...

"I could be insulting and decide this is the result of intellectual or moral inferiority. Or, I could be more generous, and see it as the result of fear in the face of all the various social and cultural winds that seek to blow us down, clinging to something that seems strong and steady to keep away the fear inherent in our current situation. I vacillate between these two views."

Never underestimate the need of some people's overdeveloped egotism to be busybodies, fusspots, tattletales and scolds.

But why pick? My guess is all those reasons: abject stupidity, moral inferiority, fear, and the insistent need to be crotchety old biddies and fusspots are at play in one way or another.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

Let us assume, for the nonce, that some weird amalgam of ego and cowardice, of assumed moral superiority and rage against the precariousness of one's position leads some to read in Dan's explication of his position regarding simplicity an implicit attack upon all other ways of living. Let us further assume that this odd alchemy also leads to the constant badgering.

All the same, this seems rooted in the to me odd idea that there is only one answer to the question, "How do we live our lives as fully human members of our communities, local, national, and global?" Yet, even a glance from my perch out here on the prairies, across Lake Michigan to Ann Arbor, Alan, and southward to Kentucky where Dan lives leaves me simultaneously in awe and frustrated at the sheer variety at the ways people try to figure out how to live their lives. This reality is explicitly denied by the arguments being presented here.

How is it possible to live that way? How is it possible to cross the street, drive a car, interact in the post office, or McDonalds, or work, holding in one's head the near-constant thought that the rest of the world is living less-than-full human lives?

Dan's articulated position, it seems to this reader, is liberating and challenging. How it might be possible to read this as some implicit, or explicit, attack on the ways others live their lives is, quite simply, beyond my capacity. Even Marshall Art's explanation doesn't help (which isn't really a surprise).

I'm kind of with you, Alan. Why there are those out there who believe - actually believe - that the lives of strangers are fodder for comment; that these comments, from strangers to strangers, should be given any moral weight - it's a mystery. I don't pay attention to people I know who tell me and my family our lives are wrong. Why on earth would I listen to someone with this kind of effrontery?

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

John, here's the answer you were looking for.

Alan said...

"How is it possible to cross the street, drive a car, interact in the post office, or McDonalds, or work, holding in one's head the near-constant thought that the rest of the world is living less-than-full human lives?"

Ego. How many egotists does it take to change a lightbulb? Just one. They hold the lightbulb and the world revolves around them.

"Why there are those out there who believe - actually believe - that the lives of strangers are fodder for comment; that these comments, from strangers to strangers, should be given any moral weight - it's a mystery."

Well, comment - singular - is one thing. As I sit here on my couch watching Michigan lose yet again on my big screen HDTV hooked up to my Dolby 5.1 surround sound system, typing away on my shiny Macbook Pro with my iPhone next to me, I'm obviously not doing much to live simply. So...OK, whatever. After all, Dan is putting his thoughts out there on a public blog for comment.

But zillions of comments are something altogether different and point to an obvious underlying pathology and insecurity.

I was raised in the midwest, and never learned an appreciation for eating fish, seafood, or shellfish. (When I was growing up, the Filet o Fish was the gold standard of seafood in these parts.) Even today I still don't like those things. Yet somehow, I am able to restrain myself from trolling from blog to blog arguing with complete strangers who happen to be seafood lovers about how fish tastes and smells like a rotting corpse, or haranguing people about the dangers of mercury in lake fish, or carping at people about the disgusting texture of scallops.

Fortunately my parents taught me the benefits of minding my own business instead of spending my life obsessively heckling at people like some cranky old biddy or crotchety old codger.

Marshall Art said...

"That you think this is "whacky" just shows, yet again, how easily you miss what is obvious to so many others."

What is wacky is, as I said, that you use this story in support of your notion of minimalist gov't. What is also wacky is that you think even the most hard core libertarian (I am not a libertarian) favors no law or law enforcement agents storming homes and mistakenly killing the inhabitants. When you can find me a libertarian that would have no issue with the cops in this story, present him here. BTW, which party has dominated the Detroit political scene in the past fifty years? Libertarians?

"Yet, I can read what Dan has written, feel challenged by it, feel hopeful in it, yet not the least bit believe for one moment that the decisions my own family has made are in any way in error, inferior, or under attack. Why is that?"

I can't think of a reason Dan wouldn't regard as ungracious, so I'll pass. One thing is for sure, I would not have worried one iota about my lifestyle being under attack by Dan's description of his, or even considered the possibility until you pointed out how his doing so is indeed an implicit attack (though not so much an attack as a mere comparison which implied he discarded other considerations in favor of what he chose). I was perfectly content simply pointing out what I found to be inconsistencies between his choice of lifestyle, his concern for the poor and his support for taking a greater percentage of other people's income than he's willing to give of his own. Why you insist on bringing up this other crap is beyond me.

"Your focus on taxation, for example, is so far off the grid, I honestly wonder why you keep returning to it."

The grid, small brained-one, is greater than this particular post. I could pretend that it stands alone and that our many conversations over the years have never taken place. Then I could just look at his desire to live simply and say, "Oh, that Dan Trabue! What a dear boy he sounds like! Riding his little bicycle to work and wearing jeans and planting his little garden! How perfectly charming!" But this whole thing doesn't exist in a vaccuum like that pea within your cranium. It is part of a larger on-going conversation regarding wealth, poverty, consumerism, progress, technology, resources and yes, tax policies.

"I would much rather consider what Dan has written for what it is, rather than endlessly point out the many ways you don't or can't or won't understand it."

Funny thing is, I never requested your help in understanding Dan's lifestyle choice. Funnier still, I doubt you're capable of understanding it in the first place or that you could explain it properly. Funniest of all, it's not the lifestyle I don't understand, it's that he thinks it's compatible with all the other crap he supports.

Marshall Art said...

"Let us assume, for the nonce, that some weird amalgam of ego and cowardice, of assumed moral superiority and rage against the precariousness of one's position leads some to read in Dan's explication of his position regarding simplicity an implicit attack upon all other ways of living."

Who in the hell are you talking about? Cowardice? In what manner?Rage? Who's angry? There's nothing precarious about MY position. And the irony of someone like you and little Alan suggesting stupidity or moral inferiority is immeasurable. (Good for a laugh, though. Thanks, Al!)

"All the same, this seems rooted in the to me odd idea that there is only one answer to the question, "How do we live our lives as fully human members of our communities, local, national, and global?""

No. It's rooted in the question, "What's up wit day?" as regards Dan's positions. Strange how you so expertly missed that point (Not really!).

"How is it possible to cross the street, drive a car, interact in the post office, or McDonalds, or work, holding in one's head the near-constant thought that the rest of the world is living less-than-full human lives?"

I just threw up a little in my mouth. What pretentious crap.

"Even Marshall Art's explanation doesn't help."

Two possible explanations for this:
1. You're incredibly stupid. Extremely likely, but not the gracious answer Dan expects of his guests.
2. You're a hateful and vindictive lefty who won't be satisfied until you can uncover some negarious intention behind my interrogations. Equally likely, actually.

"I don't pay attention to people I know who tell me and my family our lives are wrong."

Good for you, little Geoffie! You tell 'em!

BTW, if you can provide any quote where I said any such thing about Dan, the implication of the above quote compels you do so.

Marshall Art said...

"But zillions of comments are something altogether different and point to an obvious underlying pathology and insecurity."

...or questions left unanswered. But hey, if it makes you feel better to suspect pathology or insecurity on my part, I suggest you assuage your pathological insecurity by believing what you like.

"Fortunately my parents taught me the benefits of minding my own business instead of spending my life obsessively heckling at people like some cranky old biddy or crotchety old codger."

Sorta like what you're doing now.

Marshall Art said...

Dan,

Henceforth, I will ignore the Bobsey Twins and focus on your post:

First of all, I have a problem with the limited resources angle. Sources are all over the board as regards estimating how long we can go, for example, with our oil supply. The average is in the several hundred year range. Not much different with potable water, with the difference that our technology already has myriad ways of purifiying water for drinking. The Navy sends its ships to disaster areas with purifying sea water as one purpose.

Then there's the car issue. This piece gives a pretty honest look at what it means as far as conserving energy to go with mass transit. Plus, such advocacy ignores people's desires to move about as they please when they please and as quickly as they want or need to get there.

Your second point suggests that people pollute with no care. In the past, your arguments against various corporate activity does not seem to take into account jobs put at risk in order to halt productive activity that also pollutes and ignores steps many, if not most, companies take and are taking to adjust their activity to accomodate such concerns.

To get to it more directly, everything you advocate would make a ton more sense if we were not already where we are. That is, I can't see how your simple living advocacy will benefit the USA now that we've come this far in this manner. It certainly won't help the poor of the world if more people hear reject their ways and adopt yours. And the poor here would increase as jobs will dry up when polluting companies cease operation until they can figure out how to operate more cleanly.

What problems our lifestyle choices and desires present are always collateral in nature and once realized are dealt with as time goes on.

You talk about living in smaller circles. What about health care? Do we build more hospitals so that we don't have to risk trying to get people by bicycle a hundred miles away? How expensive would THAT be to have all the many and varied facilities available to each small community? And who would pay for it?

I'm all for living within our means. That's responsible. I'm all for living in a manner that puts God and one's fellow man before possessions, or more accurately, not letting "stuff" get in the way of helping people out. I'm all for finding cleaner ways of doing business and moving about. But I'm for doing business and moving about as well. I'm for providing for my family and my posterity to the best of my ability and to whatever heights that ability allows so as to reduce their burden as much as possible, and to do for my fellow man. I can serve in my present state or I can do more by improving myself.

Marshall Art said...

I said,

"That is, it is incompatible with a real desire to help the poor as it limits one's ability to impact the greatest numbers."

Dan replied, "Says you."

Says reality and logic. I've always made a point to refrain from asking you your net worth or annual income. But suffice to say that whatever it is, to improve upon either would without a doubt improve your ability to impact greater numbers of poor. It could not do otherwise without conscious effort on your part.

"I am wholly unconvinced that the answer to the problems of poverty is more charity..."

Good. I never suggested so. But it is ONE answer and I continue to encourage everyone to dig as deeply as possible for the sake of those in need.

But expanding one's own wealth translates into an expanding economy that results in more jobs. Imagine everyone at Jeff St increasing their incomes by half and then try to tell me that the economy in your area wouldn't benefit. Heck, if all they did was repairs or upgrades on their homes that they were putting off, lots of people would be busy and some would have to hire help. And you could still live simply.

Marshall Art said...

"You set up a false dichotomy. Who says we have to choose between living simply and helping the poor?"

Not at all. I'm merely working on the basis of the sentiments. But what follows the above quote throws another wrench in my understanding. Are you now saying that you don't to anything more for the poor aside from living in a manner that won't hurt them? I can't believe THAT'S the case. If so, it would be little different than a rich guy sending a check and I'd dare say quite a bit less.

No. You've mentioned more than once (at the risk of bragging) all the wonderful things Jeff St does for the needy.

"Only to the uninformed would simple living seem to be just talk."

So if it ain't that, then it's concern for the poor, as I said it was one or the other. I probably should have said that one is not more important than the other, or that you can't serve two masters. Let's put it this way: I don't write about the poor anywhere near as often as you do but helping the poor and needy is definitely on my list of reasons for increasing my wealth.

But it seems the poor will have to wait in your case because you're apparently not going to do anything for them that simple living won't permit. While I try to increase my wealth and income so as to more adequately provide for myself and family, as well as supporting causes of mine, I'll be consuming which will spur economic growth which provides jobs which reduces the poverty rolls.

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall, we seem to be talking about two separate, but perhaps related, issues.

One is simple living. Not spending/consuming so much, being content with what one has. Driving less, walking more, living in small circles, gardening more, supporting local stores. Simple living.

You don't SEEM to have a problem with this idea so much, although perhaps with some of its ramifications.

The second is the deliberate effort to try to increase one's wealth. You are suggesting that those who are concerned with the poor have an obligation to try to increase one's wealth so that they can give more away. And, IF one is trying to increase one's wealth, that is a noble reason for doing so.

My position, though, is that the Bible suggests to me that deliberately trying to increase your wealth (for any reason) is not a good idea. That there are traps in the effort to increase one's wealth. We don't see Jesus or any in the early church trying to do so, so we have no role model for such an approach.

This issue is sort of separate from the strictly "simple living" ideas which I'm mostly speaking about and so it might help to acknowledge that, since we don't appear to disagree as much with those ideas, at least until we begin speaking of public policy.

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

Imagine everyone at Jeff St increasing their incomes by half and then try to tell me that the economy in your area wouldn't benefit.

It depends. There are too many variables to answer that question reasonably.

How have we made that money?

Did it rely upon practices that are unsustainable?

Were we able to get that extra income in ways that didn't tempt us to buy more and more stuff?

Did it come at a cost to our family (in terms of spending time with them, in terms of what it takes out of us spiritually and emotionally)?

Was it the path we feel God wants us on?

I would not be able to answer that for all Jeff Streeters (or anyone else beyond me) which is why Geoffrey and others rightly understand my points here to be questions raised, ideas considered rather than rules to be followed.

In terms of the question of "making as much money possible to help the most people possible by giving away more...," I just don't think that is the right point to give the most consideration in considering jobs. Might that have SOME place in the mix for considering jobs. Sure, but it's not high on my list of criteria for job seeking.

And, once again, some of the reasons for that have been mentioned (We are told not to pursue wealth, Jesus didn't choose that path, the early church shows no indication of choosing that path, the many warnings against wealth in the Bible, etc...)

Marshall Art said...

But you haven't shown that we are NOT to seek wealth, only that seeking God should come first. It doesn't say to avoid wealth, only that with seeking it comes a different set of temptations.

Jesus didn't seek wealth because He was concerned with saving souls and spiritual matters. Not wealth and poverty. The same with the early church. As to members of the early church, simply because it didn't speak of any character expanding his personal empire didn't mean it didn't happen or wasn't commonly attempted. You're making assumptions the text doesn't support.

As far as the Jeff St hypothetical, it doesn't "depend". I assume nothing more than the terms stated in a hypothetical. I simply said they increase their personal wealth. Any honest assumption should include that they'd do it every bit the same way they've acquired what they now have. They'd simply increase their efforts by whatever necessary to increase by half. (They may or may not mean increasing efforts by half if the initial efforts are efficient to begin with.) So the only response is "Yes, the local economy would benefit."

And what of "consuming too much" or "overconsuming"? Who does this besides gluttons? The average person consumes what he needs or feel he needs to satisfy whatever standard he has set for himself. Even amongst the "filthy rich/super-duper wealthy" (so as not to confuse them with you), buying for the sake of buying, with no other purpose, is something I doubt is commonplace. If you want to limit spending strictly to need, then all we need is the next meal, the clothes on our back and shelter. Anything more is also over-consumption. Are you going to determine the limits of consumption by YOUR standards? If not, then nothing changes. People will consume based on their own standards just as they do now. Even if they agree with the general sentiment of "simple living", a billion variations will exist with many appearing to look like what we now have in Western society.

Driving, for example. I don't drive unless I have to. "Have to" is dependent upon many variables, the details of which wouldn't mesh with YOUR version of "have to". You might look upon my version as wasteful. I might look at the time you spend walking to your destinations as wasteful. Now what?

Tell me later. I gotta go.

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

But you haven't shown that we are NOT to seek wealth, only that seeking God should come first. It doesn't say to avoid wealth, only that with seeking it comes a different set of temptations.

One of the things that I find generally (not always, just generally) different between more progressive/anabaptist/quaker-ish Christians and more fundamentalist-ish Christians is the idea of using the Bible to "prove" our positions. I'm not trying to tell you what God wants you to do. I have not tried to "show" you that my interpretation is the one true way to understand God.

What I said was, "My position, though, is that the Bible suggests to me that deliberately trying to increase your wealth (for any reason) is not a good idea."

THAT is my position, that the Bible SUGGESTS to me that avoiding the deliberate pursuit of wealth is a wise and good thing. I have no role models in the Bible demonstrating that, certainly not Jesus, my Lord and savior. Additionally, I have passages like Paul's in 1 Timothy 6...

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.

Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.


"Be content with food and clothing."

"Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap."

"But you... FLEE FROM all this..."

These passages suggest strongly to me that the pursuit of wealth is not a good way to spend our time.

If Paul had said, "Those who want to pursue fleshly desires fall into a trap," would you think that means, "but SOMETIMES pursuing fleshly desires is a good thing, it all depends," or would you be rather dogmatic about it?

I find the case convincing and see no good reason to pursue wealth and many warnings to NOT do so. You'll have to judge for yourself.

Tell me, though:

Do you know of any circumstances in the Bible where ANY of our "heroes of the faith" deliberately pursued wealth? Even one?

Also, I'd still like to know what you think Mary meant when she said, "You have filled the hungry with good things but sent the rich away empty?"

Marshall Art said...

First off, Paul is instructing Timothy in his preaching. Paul was accused of sinning by not accepting money for his teaching, for if he didn't take money then his words had no value. It was more of a warning against trying to get rich off of the work of preaching because of the temptations of wealth. Not really good for a teacher of the Word.

But even so, none of it suggests that one couldn't and still maintain, but only that some wander from the faith as a result.

As to Biblical figures "deliberately" pursuing wealth, I doubt I could find such a thing. But that doesn't mean the the wealth they acquired was accidental. As to some who possibly became wealthy on purpose OR by circumstance:

Abraham
Issaac
Jacob
Joseph
Solomon (David had a few samolians)
Job
Zacchaeus the tax collector
Joseph of Aramathea
Roman Centurion who believed (Matt 8:5-13)
Philemon
Joseph, called Barnabas Acts 4:36-37
Lydia Acts 16:14-15

I'm not certain this is a complete list.

As to what Mary was saying, I'm not sure we can be certain she wasn't talking about being filled spiritually. At best one must assume both spiritually AND physically. The fact that the rich were turned away suggests a bias agaisnt the rich that does not exist. God does not judge based on wealth or lack thereof. Thus, if it was not more a spiritual thing, I can't see that it would have even been said.

Dan Trabue said...

Thanks, Marshall, for some on point discussion.

Let's look at what you're thinking...

First off, Paul is instructing Timothy in his preaching.

This is true, Paul is giving Timothy some thoughts about how to handle ministry. And in so doing, Paul says...

These are the things you are to teach and insist on. If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

Paul's commentary here about money is not restricted to ideas about preachers handling their own finances. These are general truisms Paul is saying ought to be taught. Insisted upon.

Marshall...

It was more of a warning against trying to get rich off of the work of preaching because of the temptations of wealth. Not really good for a teacher of the Word.

I don't think the scripture supports this conclusion, that Paul was ONLY warning against preachers trying to get rich off the ministry? That isn't in the text. Paul is speaking of slaves and masters, of things to teach and insist upon to everyone, not just preachers.

cont'd...

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

But even so, none of it suggests that one couldn't and still maintain, but only that some wander from the faith as a result.

I believe I have been quite clear that I think that rich folk can be Christians. One can have wealth and still be Christian. It's the pursuit of wealth that gets to be problematic...

"if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation..."

Who is Paul speaking to? THOSE WHO WANT TO GET RICH.
What is Paul's counsel? BE CONTENT WITH WHAT YOU HAVE, as long as you have food and clothing.
What is Paul's final counsel to Timothy? But you, man of God, FLEE FROM ALL THIS, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.

Do I think it possible for someone to wish to get rich SO THAT they can help the poor and needy? Sure. Do I think the Bible counsels that we should do so? No, not at all. Do I think it a wise course of action? No, at least not for me.

Again, I see no biblical role model for doing such and I see no biblical counsel to do such. It's an extrabiblical model that MIGHT lead to good, but I believe the notion would have been foreign to Jesus and the early church.

I'm not saying it's wrong to have as a goal to make as much money as possible so that you can give to the poor, I'm saying it seems unwise to me (the "have as a goal to make as much money as possible" part).

Consider the rich man who asked Jesus what he should do to be saved. Did Jesus tell him to try to make as much money as possible in order to give to the poor? No, he said simply, "sell what you have, give it to the poor, and come, follow me..." Not a single word of counsel to try to make as much money as possible as a goal, even for so noble a cause as giving to the needy.

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

As to Biblical figures "deliberately" pursuing wealth, I doubt I could find such a thing.

Then on that point, we agree.

But that doesn't mean the the wealth they acquired was accidental. As to some who possibly became wealthy on purpose OR by circumstance

yes, there are some "wealthy" individuals in the Bible. And they MAY have gotten rich because that was a goal in their lives, but there is nothing in the Bible to suggest such. Rather, it seems they happened upon wealth in the pursuit of a good life.

Abraham, for instance, didn't TRY to get the wealthiest, healthiest land when he had the chance. He gave the choice of land to his nephew Lot, who chose the wealthiest looking land, leaving Abraham the more dried out, dead looking land. And yet, that land prospered. We see nothing in the text to suggest that Abraham tried to get wealthy, not that I can think of.

So sure, we could speculate all day about what MIGHT have been the goals of folk in the bible, but it's just speculation. My speculation was that the wealth came about as hard work done in an honest and just manner, NOT by way of a goal to get wealthy.

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

As to what Mary was saying, I'm not sure we can be certain she wasn't talking about being filled spiritually. At best one must assume both spiritually AND physically.

I don't think an unbiased reading of these sorts of passages can result in suggesting Mary (or Jesus or James, later on) isn't speaking of REAL actual hungry people, about real actual rich people.

I rather doubt that you could find any/many commentaries that would support a fully symbolic take on "hungry" and "rich" in Mary's Magnificat.

The Adam Clarke commentary:

God is here represented under the notion of a person of unbounded benevolence, who is daily feeding multitudes at his gates. The poor and the rich are equally dependent upon him; to the one he gives his affluence for a season, and to the other his daily bread. The poor man comes through a sense of his want to get his daily support, and God feeds him; the rich man comes through the lust of gain, to get more added to his abundance, and, God sends him empty away-not only gives him nothing more, but often deprives him of that which he has

Coffman's commentary (which references Barclay):

Barclay found in this gracious hymn the "dynamite" of the Christian religion which has wrought in the world a triple revolution:

He scatters the proud ... this is a moral revolution. ... He cast down the mighty; he exalts the humble. This is a social revolution. ... He has filled those who are hungry ... those who are rich he hath sent empty away. This is an economic revolution.

Thus, there is in this beautiful song a prophetic discerning of the immense consequences of the religion of Christ upon the earth.


Matthew Henry's commentary...

This observation concerning honour holds likewise concerning riches; many who were so poor that they had not bread for themselves and their families, by some surprising turn of Providence in favour of them, come to be filled with good things; while, on the other hand, those who were rich, and thought no other than that to-morrow should be as this day, that their mountain stood strong and should never be moved, are strangely impoverished, and sent away empty.

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

The fact that the rich were turned away suggests a bias agaisnt the rich that does not exist. God does not judge based on wealth or lack thereof.

I don't know that you can stake this out as a biblical position.

"To whom much has been given, much will be expected."

Those who have had many benefits will be judged more harshly than those who have not, this is a persistent theme in the OT.

Yes, yes, God does not condemn people simply because they are rich or give folk a "pass" simply because they are poor. But, the truism "to whom much has been given, much will be expected" is a consistent biblical and logical theme, seems to me.

Thus, if it was not more a spiritual thing, I can't see that it would have even been said.

"More of a spiritual thing?"

I'm saying it's an actual thing, speaking of ACTUAL poor and ACTUAL wealthy and this has spiritual implications. Both/and. But certainly not to the exclusion of literal hungry, literal rich.

Marshall Art said...

Regarding Timothy, it is certainly an instruction for him and his ministry, but though the warnings regarding the seeking of wealth are wise for all, the concern is always allowing money to interfere with our duties as Christians; putting money before God. It's always about attitudes regarding money. Note verses 17-19. That definitely speaks to attitudes.

"I don't think the scripture supports this conclusion, that Paul was ONLY warning against preachers trying to get rich off the ministry?"

HE is in v 3-5, and from there puts things in perspective until in v 11 he tells Tim not to be that way. Here he calls Tim a man of God. Some take this to mean that for anyone to be a man of God they should heed the same warning. But while that might be good practice, I believe Paul uses the term as "minister" of God.

I'm gonna leave it here. It's taken me a long time to type these few words due to the lame computer I'm using. Please don't respond just yet as I'd like to catch up before you do. I'm hoping to get my computer back tomorrow.

Marshall Art said...

"Again, I see no biblical role model for doing such and I see no biblical counsel to do such. It's an extrabiblical model that MIGHT lead to good, but I believe the notion would have been foreign to Jesus and the early church."

That depends on whether or not you throw out certain verses. For example, you like to refer to "do not lay up treasures for yourself" but forget what comes after, which is, "Seek first the kingdom of God" (or words to that effect). This doesn't suggest don't seek wealth, but to do so in a particular manner. The same could be said for any kind of ambition whatsoever. Instead of power, seek first the kingdom. Instead of fame, seek first the kingdom. Instead of anything, seek first the kingdom. IF one has God and is devoted to pleasing Him, anything else in life that one seeks will be guided by that devotion so that the achievement is pleasing to Him and will honor Him. It's a matter of having the right perspective.

That is, in fact, the point of the rich young man scene. In his case, his hang up was that he was so tied to his wealth. There is no indication that Jesus meant for every Christian to divest himself of his wealth or even his pursuit of it.

"So sure, we could speculate all day about what MIGHT have been the goals of folk in the bible, but it's just speculation. My speculation was that the wealth came about as hard work done in an honest and just manner, NOT by way of a goal to get wealthy."

I'm not looking to speculate. What's clear is that you have no more justification for your speculation than I do for supposing that some of them, if not all, intended to prosper. If there is nothing inherently wrong with seeking to prosper, and the Bible does not suggest that there is, then there is no reason to believe that one shouldn't try as long as one keeps God and His Will first. To be more clear, warnings of the trappings of wealth is not a suggestion that seeking wealth is in any way wrong.

Dan Trabue said...

Whatever it is you're saying, I'm not seeing it as especially biblical or believable thus far. For instance, you say...

That depends on whether or not you throw out certain verses.

But I have not thrown out any verses. You are the one who appears to be doing that. Paul SAID don't pursue wealth, but you don't think he really meant that. Paul said "FLEE from all of that sort of behavior!" but you don't think it REALLY meant that except for Timothy (or preachers?) Paul said, "Be content with what you have," which you interpret to be, "But if you WANT to try to get more, well, you really ought to."

I have not said that Jesus did not say "seek first," remember, I'm the one who likes quoting those verses. So, I'm not sure what you're saying, but it's nothing I have found especially convincing.

Marshall Art said...

But it IS Timothy who Paul is guiding and instructing. Before typing this comment I've reviewed several commentaries (Googled the chapter) and ALL suggest that though the teachings to Timothy are great for all to adopt, it was without a doubt specific to Tim and his ministry. There were troubles in the church where Timothy was, including false teachers who were seeking profit by their preaching. Also consider the effect of someone new to the Word being instructed by someone getting fat on the earnings of his trade.

Heck, we see this now. How often do we hear people chastising the Catholic Church, for example, for having so much while so many are needy. Paul's teaching to Timothy was to prevent such things so that Timothy's work wouldn't be suspect. All the commentaries I've read thus far regard the term, "man of God" as a minister as opposed to "merely" any given Christian.

Yes, the the love for money is the root of all the evils Paul mentioned, it was those evils from which Timothy was instructed to flee so as to secure his status as a true and faithful and pious minister of God.

So, Paul meant what he said, but he was indeed saying it to Timothy in his instructions to him regarding Tim's ministry. If this were not so, then verses 17-19 would have to have included some encouragement for the wealthy to rid themselves of their surplus. But it doesn't. Verse 19 even references the laying up of treasure comment of Jesus in a manner that supports my comment regarding "seek first God". In other words, I don't think using the expression of laying up treasure, even though he's using it regarding spiritual treasure, was coincidental.

It seems to me, that you avoid creating wealth for yourself because you believe that you would be tempted to sinfulness. I believe that by keeping God's Will close, I can stay detached from whatever I possess. I already have a "you can't take it with you" attitude. I don't seek wealth due to a lack of faith that God will provide. I figure that it is because of Him that I have what I have and it will be because of Him should I attain more than I need. If I work hard and smart, I should attain quite a bit. I don't see that I'm encouraged to attain only so much and stop or limit my efforts to a point where I've attained a set amount and no more.