14 February 2011

True Christian Charity Versus the Abstract "Egalite" of the Revolution

Update. Thanks to a reader I was reminded that the author of this extract is Russell Kirk from his essay, "Social Justice and Mass Culture", published in The Review of Politics 16 (1954). I started this post and now have lost the source of this passage. Still I felt it was too good to wait until I found the source again. If anyone has any ideas please let me know.

“This sincere Christian will do everything in his power to relieve the distresses of men and women who suffer privation or injury; but the virtue of charity is a world away from the abstract right of the quality which the French radicals claimed. The merit of charity is that it is voluntary, a gift from the man who has to the man who has not; while the radicals claim of a right to appropriate the goods of the more prosperous neighbors is a vice–the vice of covetousness. True justice secures every man in the possession of what is his own, and provides that he will receive the reward of his talents; but true justice also ensures that no man shall seize the property and the rights that belong to other classes and persons, on the pretext of an abstract equality. The just man knows that men differ in strength, intelligence, and energy, in beauty, in discipline, in inheritance, in particular talents; and he sets his face, therefore, against any scheme of pretended “social justice” which would treat all men alike. There could be no greater injustice to society than to give the good, the industrious, and the frugal the same rewards as the vicious, the indolent, and the spendthrift.” [pp. 442-443]

“To reduce all these varieties of talent and aspiration, with many more, to the dull nexus of cash payment, is the act of the dull and envious mind; and then to make that cash payment the same for every individual is an act calculated to make society one everlasting frustration for the best men and women.” [Page 443]

“Now the Christian concept of charity enjoins constant endeavor to improve the lot of the poor; but the Christian faith… does not command the sacrifice of the welfare of one class to that of another class; instead, Christian teaching looks upon the rich and powerful as the elder brothers of the poor and weak, given their privileges that they may help to improve the character and the condition of all humanity. Instead of abolishing class and private rights in the name of an abstract equality, Christian thinkers hope to employ commutative and distributive justice for the realization of the peculiar talents and hopes of each individual, not the confounding of all personality in one collective monotony.” [Page 444].

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Russell Kirk, "Social Justice and Mass Culture," The Review of Politics 16 (1954)


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