McCarraher on Love & Debt
In his magnificent sermon, "Poverty and God," the late Father Herbert McCabe reminds us that God is our Creator, not our creditor, nor some demanding investor in our earthly pursuits. "God makes without becoming richer it is only creation that gains by God's act." (As Henry Miller once put it, "God doesn't make a dime on the deal.") Thus, God is literally poor because he "has no possessions nothing is or acts for the benefit of God." We can't "give back" to God, or win his love with an impeccable credit history. His delight is to be with, not hound his children, like a rude collection agent; what parent thinks of a child's life as a loan to be repaid or a debt to be squared?Come to think of it, the God of Jesus Christ has no business sense at all, and violates every canon of the Protestant Ethic. He pays the same wage for one hour of work as for ten, and recommends that we lend without thought of return. (Finance capital could not survive a day with this logic, which is one excellent reason to recommend it.) He's an appallingly lavish and undiscriminating spendthrift, sending his sunshine on the good and the evil. He has a soft spot for moochers and the undeserving poor: his Son was always inviting himself into people's homes, and never asking if the blind man deserved to be cured. How can you run a decent economy this way?He calls us his friends, and friends share all things; as Thomas Merton knew, "to be a Christian is to be a communist." And divine friendship is to live without debts by "throwing ourselves away"giving (not charging) according to our ability, and receiving according to our need. "To aim at poverty," McCabe said, "to grow up by living in friendship, is to imitate the life-giving poverty of God, to be godlike." By comparison, the American Dream is a shabby hallucination. As the American Empire totters and slides into history's graveyard of hubris, the glorious poverty of friendship will be our only hope of moral renewal. It's a model of another, very different empire, one innocent of creditors and debtors: the people's republic of heaven, the realm of divine love's utterly unearned, unarmed, and penniless dominion.
About the Author
Eric Bugyis teaches Religious Studies in the Division of Politics, Philosophy and Public Affairs at the University of Washington Tacoma.