Posted by: Dan | February 17, 2008

Scattered Thoughts

When I was at work in the City Relief Society, before the [Chicago] fire, I used to go to a poor sinner with the Bible in one hand and a loaf of bread in the other… My idea was that I could open a poor man's heart by giving him a load of wood or a ton of coal when the winter was coming on, but I soon found out that he wasn't any more interested in the Gospel on that account. Instead of thinking how he could come to Christ, he was thinking how long it would be before he got another load of wood. If I had the Bible in one hand and a loaf [of bread] in the other the people always looked first at the loaf; and that was just contrary to the order laid down in the Gospel.
~ D. L. Moody

I recently had a conversation with a fellow from Latin America who was a part of a revolutionary movement in El Salvador back in the '70s. We got talking about the Canadian Welfare System, and he argued that it was a way of 'paying off the poor.' By that he meant that we give people enough money so that they will stay poor. They not take their fate into their own hands and take (revolutionary) action. Now I don't mean to get into the pros and cons of the Welfare System in this post, but I was struck by a comment he made about the poverty he saw in Latin America. 'Starvation,' he said, 'will remove all restraints, and all moral codes; when a person is starving nothing else matters.'

In this regard I can't help but think of the words penned by Bertolt Brecht:

You gentlemen who think you have a mission
To purge us of the seven deadly sins
Should first sort out the basic food position
Then start your preaching, that’s where it begins

You lot who preach restraint and watch your waist as well
Should learn, for once, the way the world is run
However much you twist or whatever lies that you tell
Food is the first thing, morals follow on

So first make sure that those who are now starving
Get proper helpings when we all start carving

Moody fails to realise three things: (1) the way in which poverty, cold, and starvation will dominate a person's existence; (2) the necessity of engaging in charity for charity's sake, which considers longterm problems and solutions, rather than engaging in momentary charity with ulterior motives; and, in the same vein, (3) the way in which charity and the Gospel go hand-in-hand and cannot be separated into some sort of hierarchical order. The Good News is both a Word we proclaim, and a meal that we share.

Finally, I would suggest a fourth thing that Moody has not recognised: the possibility that those who appear to reject his Gospel have, in actuality, accepted it by accepting him, but I've already written about that (cf. http://poserorprophet.livejournal.com/2004/10/30/).

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