Sunday, December 1, 2013

Give Til It Hurts vs Buy Til It Hurts: Francis Challenges Traditional American Christmas Greed

"The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us."

Black Friday always brings out the worst in American greed, and last week's was classic, with violence in parking lots and in stores all over the country. It made the retailer happy, the store managers cringe ... and the pope sad. It showed the manipulations of a got-to-have-it culture by cold and calculating capitalists. His first official published work was about this form of economic self-pleasure. For many, it was as if Francis was whipping the Waltons in the Temple, but for others, it looked like Francis was taking his papal whip to revered Madison Avenue Santa Clauses.

Such audacity from a pope will not be tolerated! So much has been said about the pope's missive concerning rampant capitalism that one wonders if the Right (Christian or otherwise) can keep up with all the "restrained" disagreements let alone the undignified ones.

Christian Post:
"This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope," [Rush] Limbaugh declared. The commentator noted that, until this letter, he had admired Pope Francis. Now, however, he must distance himself. On economics, the pope is "totally wrong, I mean dramatically, embarrassingly, puzzlingly wrong."
Of course, Limbaugh doesn't see anything wrong in the disparity between himself and the poor. 

David Brooks:

I guess I would wish he would emphasize two things, first, that capitalism over the last 25 years has been an incredible moral good. It has reduced poverty more in the last 25 years than ever before in human history, mostly in Asia. But that's been a phenomenal good. That's relieved suffering. And that has been a product of capitalism.
Brooks seems to think that capitalism itself reduced poverty, but capitalism itself doesn't see to a living wage. Francis is talking about unfettered, run-amok capitalism, the kind that George Bush gave free rein to during his tenure.

Perhaps the most forceful statements were made by FOX's Stuart Varney who said that "capitalism is liberating" and that Francis should stay out of the world economic arena simply because Varney does not want to mix religion and politics.

Huh? He might get canned from FOX for that last statement, or at least get a tongue lashing from Mike Huckabee. And as for capitalism being "liberating", he certainly doesn't address the sweatshops of Bangladesh.

The Juggernaut of Santa

In the world of greed, it's hard to beat the jolly old elf's bag brimming with toys - for good children or good adults. Change that last to "successful" adults, for in most of American culture success equals goodness. Asking some people to forego the signs of their success is like asking them to give up their souls - their reasons for living. Unfettered capitalism depends upon an unbridled drive for success and acquiring displays of success. 

In essence, the American Christmas is one huge display of success. What Pope Francis proposes is to stop the display and reverse course: show your success as a human being by helping others. Lessen the gap between rich and poor.

That will never do. Not for the Waltons, the Koch Brothers, prosperity preachers like "Bishop" Eddie Long or Pat Robertson. 

Yes, in his first substantive missive, Pope Francis has taken on Santa Claus. It's a pity he won't win. Not by a long shot.

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