Nothing says Merry Christmas like a nativity sermon extolling the virtues of pilfering over prostitution. Which is exactly the sermon Father Jones of St. Lawrence church in York gave. Appalled by the treatment of the poor and dejected by polite British society, Father Jones advised his congregation that “It is far better for people desperate during the recession to shoplift than turn to ‘prostitution, mugging or burglary’, he said.” Because as Father Jones explains “‘My advice does not contradict the Bible’s eighth commandment because God’s love for the poor and despised outweighs the property rights of the rich.’” Fair warning, prostitutes, muggers, and burglars aren’t covered, unless of course they shoplift, and then they come under the “God loves the poor more than the rich (GLPMR)” clause. But only for the shoplifting, let’s be clear, God is still angry about the whoring, mugging, and burglarizing.
Now before everyone gets too excited, Father Jones does have some guidelines for God endorsed stealing.
“‘I would ask that they do not steal from small family businesses, but from large national businesses, knowing that the costs are ultimately passed on to the rest of us in the form of higher prices.
‘I would ask them not to take any more than they need, for any longer than they need.”
Ok, just so we’re all clear, you can steal from Haldanes, but not from me. And, you can only take what you need, nothing more. It also follows that you can no longer bother me on the street for money either, because now you can go steal your own stuff. I am not stealing for you. I’m not the poor person here.
Yes, I can see the poor and downtrodden really rallying behind these guidelines. I envision the Old Woman who lived in a shoe and Tiny Tim walking merrily down the Super Walmart soup aisle taking just what they need and not a farthing more. Don’t forget the can opener. (Everyone always forgets the can opener)
Seriously though, how did England get so bad that even the clergy are advocating crime as a reasonable solution? The good Father has an answer for that.
“‘I offer the advice with a heavy heart and wish society would recognise that bureaucratic ineptitude and systematic delay has created an invitation and incentive to crime for people struggling to cope.’
He added that he felt society had failed the needy, and said it was far better they shoplift than turn to more degrading or violent options such as prostitution, mugging or burglary.”
Well which is it Father? The government or society? Or maybe both. Let’s examine this argument for a moment. The “bureaucratic ineptitude” of the British government has created an invitation and incentive to commit crime for people who are poor. In order to agree with that statement I need to back the truck up a bit and go this direction with it. First, I argue it was the socialization of the British government that created multiple generations of an entitlement class, who view every hardship they encounter as the fault of someone else and therefore a problem for someone else to fix. The adjudicator of the solution for their problems has been the British government, for over 50 years. It can safely be said that in trying to solve one problem (poverty) we create the mother of all problems. I say we, because “we” here in the U.S. have the exact same issue.
Which brings me to my second point and that is this, the government should not try to legislate nice, kind or compassionate. They should govern and get out-of-the-way for society to be nice, kind and compassionate. The unintended consequence of government mandated compassion is a society apathetic about compassion. Father Jone’s shock at how society has failed the poor is a direct result of the policies and practices of the Socialist government, that same society, has charged with fixing the problem.
Richard M. Ebeling
in his review of Robert Whelan’s, The Corrosion of Charity
, puts it this way,
“As the government began to create the welfare state, many of the private charities found it increasingly impossible to compete with the ‘free’ services supplied by the state. And, at the same time, many people now paying higher taxes to finance government welfare programs came to believe they had paid their ‘fair share’ through taxation, so private giving was either not needed or no longer affordable.”
Now let’s look at the solution. There are so many things wrong with the solution it makes the problem seem fun and cute. First, the premise that God loves poor people more than the rule of law is preposterous. God has a tremendous respect for the rule of law. Jesus addressed this when He was challenged by the Pharisees on the issue of paying taxes to Caesar. “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (Matt 22:15-22) There was no caveat to this statement excluding the poor. We are all to obey the laws. But that only answers part of it. The second part is faith. And that does not fit neatly into any government proposal. Either God is who He says He is, the God of everything in the Heavens and on the Earth
, or He is so weak and incompetent that His flock has to resort to stealing in order to care for themselves. Or He doesn’t exist and the point is moot. If anything, Father Jone’s sermon is an appalling indictment of how impotent God must be, that shoplifting is preferable to faith. Gee, I want to come back next Sunday for more of that good news.
I’d mention Jonathan Swift’s modest proposa
l for the problem of the poor, but I really don’t want to be credited with that sermon.