Dickens and true Christian values
TheStar.com – Opinion/Letters
Published On Wed Dec 22 2010. Frank G. Sterle, Jr
While we allow our large financial institutions to each make multiple billions of dollars in after-tax profit, Canada and the U.S., dominated by people claiming to be practising Christians, could do a great deal better in spreading the gratuitous wealth.
I, a “backslidden” Christian, believe that Christ sadly shakes His head when He observes how many Christians are neglecting society’s most needy. (I’d bet that he also angers when observing those, like some televangelists, who make a luxurious living off of Christianity.)
Those who are familiar with the teachings of Christ will know that He is Biblically described as being as far from capitalist-minded as one could be: During his physical existence, He despised gratuitous wealth and taught that one should acquire only what is needed to live; also, He was an adamant proponent of his disciples selling their assets and giving the proceeds to the poor.
Too large a portion of Christians are capitalistic and somewhat callous toward society’s most needy. Some hold the belief that God blesses His people with the right to own three cars, a swimming pool, etc.; that everyone is responsible for him- or herself and that one only need become a Christian and ask God for what one needs (or desires?). This, despite Christ’s teachings that God gives to the needy through His followers; and it’s not enough for Christians to give a certain small portion of their earnings to their churches and then go home feeling that they’ve done their moral share.
Without doubt, capitalistic Christians can be enough to make many non-Christians cynical toward the true form of this faith.
Profound and prolific author Charles Dickens expressed his dismay with such Christians through his delightfully sarcastic novel Oliver Twist. One of its pompous characters, Mr. Bumble, the headmaster of a poor house who also professes to be Christian, treats his impoverished subjects with contempt while he feasts on steaks with oyster sauce and porter. Really, after a starving, homeless man, his wife and large family come to him seeking assistance, Mr. Bumble states indignantly to a colleague: “Give ’em an apron full of coals today, and they’ll come back for another the day after tomorrow, as brazen as alabaster.”
The day after the hungry family man warns that he’ll starve to death in the street — an act which Mr. Bumble forbids him to carry out — Mr. Bumble notes that “he went away; and he did die in the streets. There’s an obstinate pauper for you!”
I hope society is not returning to such inhumane times as written about by Dickens; however, with the current, large gap between the rich and the poor widening, who knows? What I do know, though, is that more Christians — to a large extent, me included — need to get back to the Christian basics: Care for one another as you’d care for yourself.
However, rather than rightfully valuing people and their efforts based on each person’s needs and capabilities, capitalism seems to imply: “Are there no prisons? Are there no work-houses?”
Frank G. Sterle, Jr., White Rock, B.C.
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