Maimon Schwarzschild put up a thought-provoking post last week about charity in the world. It starts thusly:
The New York Times ran a front-page story recently about an elderly man who starved to death in Japan, having been denied help by the welfare bureaucracy. The man kept a diary as he died: heartbreaking to read. The Japanese welfare bureaucracy seems to have been notably heartless, and not only in this case. There are other, similar cases of starvation in the past year or two in Japan, according to the Times.
There is this brief throwaway in the lengthy Times story:
With no religious tradition of charity, Japan has few soup kitchens or other places for the indigent. Those that exist — run frequently by Christian missionaries from South Korea or Japan’s tiny Christian population — cater mostly to the homeless.
Say what you will about the “Abrahamic” religions - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam - can there be any doubt that they have brought an ethic of charity into a world that would otherwise be a crueler place?
The ancient, pagan world, for all its brilliance, was coldly cruel. The Hebrew Bible put enormous emphasis on charity, which was something radically new.
Some of the commenters have their own issues with Muslim charity (little at all, or only to other Muslims).
Maimon winds up with this thought to chew on.
If the Christian world is on its way to being post-Christian, will the tradition of Christian charity persist?
Or is the ethic of charity liable to go down with the faith that inspired it?
[tags]Maimon Schwarzschild,Abrahamic religions,Christianity,Judaism,Islam,paganism,charity[/tags]