The fiscal cliff seems to have crowded the Nuns on the Bus issue out of the paper. Frankly, I miss it; it was so much more fun. Further, the Nuns-on-the-Bus correspondence made a very important point about attitudes connected with poverty in our country. The poor and poverty are not only at the bottom of the economic heap, but they're also at the bottom of the status heap as well. They apparently arrive at this low point immediately upon becoming poor.
For example, there's the attitude that if you're on food stamps, you're a social pariah, not worth your keep, and you need to be shamed. This attitude was on obvious display in the Nuns on the Bus incident. "Social Justice," the Tea Partiers scoffed, "It's mooching. It's free-loading. It's socialism, Liberalism, " - all the things they hate. And it was too much for them that "Social Justice" was coming to Marietta in the form of Roman Catholic nuns!
They couldn't take it. You had the feeling that these Tea Partiers felt that the Vatican should have long ago added poverty and social justice to their list of mortal sins.
This seems odd to me. If you look at Christianity primarily from the point of view of the New Testament, it would seem that Jesus was definitely supportive of the poor. What did Jesus say? He said: "What you do to the least of these you do to me. The last shall be first. The meek shall inherit the earth. Give up all you have and follow me." And, of course, his greatest condemnation: "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven."
Obviously, Jesus did not share the smug, self-satisfied, arrogant contempt that the Tea Partiers hold for those less financially fortunate than they are.
In fact, we find, much to our relief, that neither does the Roman Catholic church. Several Roman Catholics, who wrote letters to the paper and who are more knowledgeable about the Catholic catechism than the local Tea Partiers, pointed out that the social justice advocated by the Nuns on the Bus is not, in fact, the equivalent of a social disease but is a definite and positive part of the catechism of the church.
These writers cite the association of social justice with the teachings of Pope John the 23rd and Pope John Paul the 2nd.
It seems to me that the views of the Nuns on the Bus reflect the words of Jesus and, in a reasonable world, would provide the basis for a realistic and workable definition of social justice.
Given all this, we must ask: Are the Tea Partiers in fact the modern-day equivalent of the Pharisees (apparent enemies of Jesus) that we see depicted in the Bible? Modern-day Pharisees?