The Virtue of Charity

Reagan charityIt’s Christmas Season and for me this seems to be a good time to discuss the virtue of charity (also because I’m trying to head off some objections to the last blog on the evils of liberalism even before they’re made).

In my previous blogs I have made the point that claiming we have a responsibility to help “those in need” is evil because it denigrates those supposedly in need because it says that they are not responsible for their situation, that their need is not a result of their actions, that they do not have free will, and reduces them to something less than human…and I still stand by all of this.

Now some may claim, incorrectly that this excludes the virtue of charity.But it does not.

So the easiest way I can start here is to begin with what is charity, and more importantly, what it is not.

Charity, as defined by Merriam-Webster is:

1: benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity
  2 a: generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering; also: aid given to those in need b: an institution engaged in relief of the poor c: public provision for the relief of the needy  
3 a: a gift for public benevolent purposes b: an institution (as a hospital) founded by such a gift

Now in common usage we’re probably more concerned with definitions 2 and 3, but in reality these are your usual corruptions of language that we see in a bastard language like English.I want to focus primarily on definition 1 for the moment.

Benevolence–goodwill–love.

Where do we find this in human relations?

Well, for a minute I want you to think about the ways you can deal with another person.There are only three ways you can deal with anyone: force, reason and love.You can deal with them through force either because you are a brute or they are a brute and incapable of being dealt with in either of the other ways; in either case you are assuming the person you are dealing with is inferior to you (usually because they are incapable or unwilling to use reason, which does make them less than human and more like an animal). Obviously this would seemingly have nothing to do with charity, but sadly this is the way most people view charity, especially the evil that is modern liberalism. Liberals, and government in general, say “you are incapable of raising yourself out of whatever problems ails you without our help, you are inferior to us, and no amount of education or good luck will ever get you out of your problems on your own.You NEED our help, and will die without it.You are less than human.”As such, liberal charity given without regard to who receives it, and welfare especially, is quite like violence, although probably not as honest as bloodshed.

Then as suggested by the previous statement you can deal with people through reason. Reason is a faculty of being human and to use reason suggests that the person you are dealing with is reasonable, thus human, and thus reason is an expression of ‘I view you as an equal.’Now a reasonable person can be foolish and not recognize that the person they are dealing with is incapable of reason (for instance Neville Chamberlain or U.S. foreign policy of wanting to “talk” to Iran) and a reasonable person can also act through violence when confronting someone who is unreasonable because that is the only logical answer (for instance there was no way to deal with the Nazi’s or Iran in a reasonable way that doesn’t involve a massive tonnage of high explosives). Just because someone is reasonable does not mean they are always logical, it just means that more often or not they are willing to listen to reason.But the main point I want to make sure you get here is that reason is a meeting between equals, between two humans who are capable of reason.This area too has no true place for charity, because we have a word for dealing with people who use reason: capitalism. Every one gives and receives in terms of equal value and the true beauty of capitalism is that everyone comes out a winner (so long as the government enforces rules and doesn’t encourage theft and fraud like it’s now doing).

So where is charity?

Now if you were Ayn Rand you would say that these two ways (force and reason) are the only ways to deal with people. But there is actually a third way to deal with people: through, getting back to that first definition of charity, benevolence, goodwill, friendship and love. Love and friendship are neither violent nor are they completely reasonable. Another way to look at it is that if reason is a function of the mind, then love is the function of the soul.But isn’t it also between equals, just like with reason?It may seem odd but it isn’t quite a recognition of equality…and no it isn’t saying that the person you feel love to is superior to you either.So what is it?Well, there is this great word in Sanskrit “Namaste” it means “the spark of the divine (Christians may feel free to use “piece of the Holy Spirit”) within me recognizes the spark of the divine within you.”Love is the recognition that there is something superior to just your human nature in both you and the person you love, it means you are willing to honor that better part of both of you and see only that perfection.

As such true charity is not about helping the “needy” as the incorrect 2nd definition above claims.Rather it is giving to help to those who may be suffering at the present, but to whom you recognize have not need but potential and divinity.

Think about it this way.Giving to that bum on the corner everyday isn’t charity. It’s done to boost your own rather insecure ego. Giving welfare checks to someone who would rather sit on their ass all day and do nothing isn’t charity because it is given on the belief that they can’t do better than that kind of life and would fail without your help. It’s more arrogance on the part of the giver and is closer philosophically to violence than it is to love and charity.Charity is giving to someone to help them get over the temporary problems in life: to provide education, to give money to a friend who has fallen on hard times and just needs a little to get through the next month but will be fine in the long run, to give advice, to show basic kindness, giving to an organization that promotes the best not helps the worst. This is true charity and this is the basis for the Christmas season, giving to those whom we recognize something better in, and whom we want to honor that better part. And this is what individuals need to strive to achieve in their lives, for it is only this kind of charity that betters the lives of the giver and receiver.

But notice that this is a virtue that any organization (and especially government) is incapable of reaching, because organizations do not have the spark of the divine within them (again especially government), thus they cannot recognize it in others. Charity should be individual. Short of that it should be an organization that is voluntary and freely given. But the enforced nature of government falls short on every level.

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