I was intrigued by the way David Bentley Hart ended his fascinating piece, “Christ’s Rabble” (October 7). He tells us that in translating the New Testament from the original Greek, he was surprised at just how strongly and unequivocally Christ condemned the people of his time who lived in material comfort. By that measure, Hart writes, modern Western society holds few if any truly practicing “Christians.” He also says that none of us can—or would want to—literally live from hand to mouth as the first Christians did. Or he seems to say it. His ending leaves me wondering: “To live as the New Testament requires, we should have to become strangers and sojourners on the earth, to have here no enduring city, to belong to a Kingdom truly not of this world. And we surely cannot do that, can we?” It’s that “can we?” that intrigues me. What is he really saying?
BLESSED ARE THE POOR?
I serve as a peer reviewer for a national medical journal. When I find a paper suitable for publication, I am asked to say whether or not it should be accompanied by an editorial and, if I think editorial comment appropriate, to suggest a qualified editorialist. Had I reviewed in similar manner the recent Commonweal essay by David Bentley Hart, “Christ’s Rabble,” I would surely have urged editorial comment, although I do not know by whom.
Hart’s thesis is that Christ, as well as Paul and other early followers, had a view of earthly wealth radically different from that of modern “Christians.” He bases his assertion on careful review of the New Testament, which he himself has recently translated. He finds in these texts unequivocal signs that the first Christians found wicked any accumulation of personal wealth. They were strict Communists, holding all assets in common, and very few of those.
Ironically, “Gain & Pain” (October 7), the editorial you did publish, bemoans current economic inequality in the United States, where many struggle to get by. If Hart is correct, the editorialists should instead rejoice that thanks to upward distribution of income and savaging of the social “safety net,”many more are enabled to live in the true Christian manner, hungry and impoverished, while they wait for the end times to arrive.
Thomas F. Mulrooney, MD
Mendota Heights, Minn.
ONLY A GOD CAN SAVE US
Matthew Boudway’s essay on Cormac McCarthy, “Children of God?” (November 11), reminded me that you hardly begin reading Child of God before coming to this phrase: “A child of God much like yourself perhaps.” In much of McCarthy’s novels we view a world bereft of the thin veneer of civilization. Thus, The Road and Blood Meridian in which the breakdown of civilization is predominant. In Child of God McCarthy shows us how such breakdown plays out in one person who—yes—could be you or me. For such a person and for such a world there is but one hope: divine intervention.