Okay, so in the last blog I think I’ve shown all the idiots who claim Christmas is a time for redistribution are without basis. Why? Because Christmas is a time of charity, and taking money by force is not charity.
Charity is not blind altruism and denial of self.
Charity is not government redistribution of income.
Charity is not welfare or entitlements handed out by the state.
But just tearing down bad philosophy is only half the job. You need to show what charity should be. And as a New Ager I have a tendency to look to all the world’s spiritual teachings (not just one book but many) for insight into truth. So don’t take my word for it…but let’s start with that one book most in the West turn to…
“A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. “
Clear and simple. Charity is a virtue. But notice that it is not given as an order but advice that it benefits the giver. Odd it doesn’t seem to mention anything about “fair shares” or “moral duty” or “adequate mechanisms for the redistribution of wealth.” No, it seems to be personal charity and personal charity alone that is praised and rewarded here.
“Be careful not to do your `acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. “
Seems to me that this is saying that charity and generosity are supposed to be private acts done by individuals. And the closest thing to welfare and government entitlements at the time (the synagogues) is condemned as the work of hypocrites because it is done neither for the spiritual good of the giver or the desire to help the receiver…only for the vain attention that the public act of giving brings. How much more despicable and ethically reprehensible it must be to demand that others give but that you don’t have to.
Or we could turn to the East…
“Give up kindness, renounce morality, And men will rediscover piety and love.–Tao Te Ching 19
We have this in amongst the Tao numerous libertarian statements we have this one which suggests when you no longer demand altruism and rigid standards of morality and duty that people are once again allowed to deal with each other like human beings and then will treat others as such.
Or we could go to one of my favorites…
“Charity given for the sake of righteousness, without expectation of return, at the proper time and place, and to a worthy person is considered to be in the mode of goodness. But charity performed with the expectation of some return, or with a desire for fruitive results, or in a grudging mood, is said to be charity in the mode of passion. And charity performed at an impure place, at an improper time, to unworthy persons or without proper attention and respect is said to be in the mode of ignorance.”—Bhagavad-Gita Ch17. 20-22
Notice how all conceptions of income redistribution and welfare seem to meet more the definition of “mode of ignorance”…and really it’s only called ignorance because I think Krishna thought “shit-for-brains” lacked the poetic nature that the rest of his words in the Gita had.
All of these quotes seem to be saying that charity and generosity should be personal, not a massive more by society. They seem to be saying it should be done to improve the soul of the giver…not all that concerned with improving the state of receiver because you have no way to control the free will they have (although both the Gita and Christ seem to imply you should not give indiscriminately, but rather choose the object of your generosity to be a person worthy of such a gift). All of these seem to suggest the amount to be given is a personal choice not some concept of what your fair share is as determined by society. All of these are concerned with your soul, not with ending poverty (in fact I think Christ said something about there always being poor and you should worry more about personal connections with loved ones than with the poor…but then again, unlike many liberals who say they’re Christians, I’ve actually read the Bible).
So be charitable. But because it feels good, not because you have any duty to do it.
And I’ll leave you with this from my favorite book, A Course in Miracles.
“The teacher of God is generous out of Self interest.” A Course in Miracles Manual For Teachers Chapter 4 Part VII