“Inequality is the root of social evil“-Pope Francis.
Income inequality in the U.S. is now “probably higher than in any other society at any time in the past, anywhere in the world.”–Economist Thomas Piketty, quoted in the recent issue of Commonweal Magazine.
To put it mildly, this is worrisome. It might be religious folks who have to do something about this.
But, what can we do? I am teaching a summer session of Social Justice and I hope to get my students thinking about this question. On a practical level. In the meantime, a theological thought: we Christians believe in a God who loves and values all human beings. This means God loves the 1% and the 99%. Really.
Catholics, however, also believe that God expresses a “preferential option for the poor.” That is, God’s first love and first saving actions are directed towards those who are denigrated, spat upon, and who many of us deem “worthy” and “unworthy” poor. They are the ones most dear to God’s heart. So, what does it mean that God “loves” the wealthy, powerful, and privileged? Especially when in Luke’s Gospel portrays Jesus as saying “Woe to you who are rich…” (Luke 6:24)? I have no answer to this question. But just to spitball: maybe God’s love for the wealthy 1% is experienced differently than God’s love for the 99%. In a similar way to how MLK talked about how God’s love functions differently for and is experienced differently by oppressed and oppressors.
One example comes to mind. In Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory, the Whiskey Priest offers an interesting view on God’s love: “‘Oh…that’s another thing altogether–God is love. I don’t say the heart doesn’t feel a taste of it, but what a taste. The smallest glass of love mixed with a pint pot of ditch water. We wouldn’t recognize that love. It might even look like hate. It would be enough to scare us–God’s love. it set fire to the bush in the desert, didn’t it, and smashed open graves and set the dead to walking in the dark. Oh, a man like me would run a mile to get away of he felt that love around’” (Penguin Classics, 199-200).