Over the last several blogs, we’ve been discussing various aspects of charity. Let’s continue the discussion by looking at the situation at the southern border where a massive number of children are entering the country. It is a dire situation, which is likely to grow worse, and a case has been presented by some that we have a duty to support and care for all of these children. Who could argue that it is not right to provide help for another human being in need? Many liberals are, of course, demanding that public monies be expended to help them all. But is this the right action? Is this what we’ve been called to do? Is this charity as some have presented it?
As mentioned previously, philosophy attempts to provide answers to the big questions around existence, morality, and knowledge. Performing charity is a moral act. Therefore, we’ll start the discussion by looking within one of the greatest documents about morality ever written – the Bible. You can look at either the Old or New Testament. The message is the same. We are to love, both our Creator and our fellow man. Deuteronomy chapters 6 and 10 and Mathew 22 provide just a few examples. We are to especially care for those who are in need; numerous passages specifically mention the disadvantaged – such as the poor, the widows, the orphans, and the aliens living within a land. That is who we are to care for. What about the how? We are essentially to give freely from what we have been blessed to receive, as can be seen in passages such as Exodus 22, Leviticus 25, Proverbs 22, Mathew 6, and Luke 6.
Notice that it doesn’t say that the government should be the one to offer help. Nor does it even say that it should be the church. Indeed the church as we know it today did not yet even exist. But some form of both governance and religion existed then. The passages above could have said that charity was the responsibility of one or both of these groups, but they do not. Instead it is we as individuals who are called to help, by giving out of what we each have been blessed with. It is our responsibility, and we will be judged by both our actions and our heart.
Let’s turn next to those big questions. First existence. Greek philosophers understood that the First Cause must be infinite; it can only be described in terms of what it is not. As man is finite, he is simply insufficient to explain existence – let alone be the cause of it. Only First Cause could provide the source of existence. Some instead choose to worship that which has been created. But Clement of Alexandria responded to this notion in his Exhortation as follows, ‘For if the heavenly bodies are not the works of men, they were certainly created for man. Let none of you worship the sun, but set his desires on the Maker of the sun; nor deify the universe, but seek after the Creator of the universe.’ It is in His image that we have been created. All of us. It is this idea that forms the basis of our society.
Next, morality concerns itself with righteousness, an uprightness of character, or in a word goodness. Our Creator is good. He loves each one of us. How do we know? From Clement again. ‘For assuredly He does not hate anything, and yet wish that which He hates to exist. Nor does He wish anything not to exist, and yet become the cause of existence to that which he wishes not to exist. Nor does He wish anything not to exist which yet exists. If, then, the Word hates anything. He does not wish it to exist. But nothing exists, that cause of whose existence is not supplied by God. Nothing, then is hated by God, nor yet by the Word. For both are one—that is God. . . If then He hates none of the things which He has made, it follows that He loves them. Much more than the rest, and with reason, will he love man, the noblest of all objects created by Him, and a God-loving being. Therefore God is loving.’
This is where knowledge comes into play. Knowledge begins with understanding oneself, for when we truly understand ourselves – and our fellow man – we begin to understand our Creator. A few final quotes from Clement. ‘It is then, as appears, the greatest of all lessons to know one’s self. For if one knows himself, he will know God; and knowing God, he will be made like God, not by wearing gold or long robes, but by well doing, and by requiring as few things as possible.’ This is because creation was created for a specific use - to assist us in reaching our true destination. ‘No one is a stranger to the world by nature, their essence being one, and God one. But the elect man dwells as a sojourner.’
These three ideas of existence, morality, and knowledge all merge together in our purpose and that purpose manifests itself in performing acts of charity. From Augustine, ‘For we are, and we know that we are, and we love to be and to know that we are. And in this trinity of being, knowledge, and love there is not a shadow of illusion to disturb us. For, we do not reach these inner realities with our bodily senses as we do external objects . . . But, without any illusion of image, fancy, or phantasm. I am certain that I am, that I know that I am, and that I love to be and to know.’ Our true purpose is to become better ourselves each day and that will come about in expressions of charity to others if we are on the right path.
So, back to the original questions posed at the beginning of this post. Do liberals have it right? Here are a few simple questions to consider in forming your answer. Have they opened their wallets, or are they merely asking others to give in their stead? Have they opened their hearts and their homes, or are they asking others to do this either directly or indirectly through the use of public funds? Money is only one of the things these children will need. It will address some of the short-term needs, but in the long-run it is not likely to be their most important need. Instead that will be the need for the love of caring adults and a good education. Are those calling for taking these children in leading by their example, or merely iterating a form of ‘Do as I say?’ Is the course they are wanting us to take consistent with our purpose as expressed to others through individual acts of charity, or is it just elitism wrapped in a false package of compassion?
Liberals generally tend to argue about the ends appealing to people’s emotions. But it is not just the ends that matter, but the means by which they are attained. This is a more difficult course; a course which requires both reason and faith. Does the plight of children such as these call to you? What will you choose?