a tricky phrase

Some comments of mine from recent Jesus Manifesto discussions (part of this relates to the essay I wrote about idolatry)...

"We had to ask him to leave" is a pretty tricky phrase, Brandon. We don't really "have to" put people out; it's always a choice we make, based on the consequences we are willing to accept. But I think I can understand the pressures you were dealing with. I've seen a good number of people taking (unholy) advantage of hospitable Christian communities; and we got to the point of asking a couple different guests to leave the Catholic Worker (due to untreated alcohol addiction and mental illness--see my journal entries here, here, and here).

I didn't feel good or justified in those decisions, however. It felt more like those in power (us) kicking out those weaker than us (and homeless). Even if they deserved it, and weren't being helped very well by staying in the house, putting them back on the street can hardly be called love. That's not the kind of thing I went to the Catholic Worker to do.

I actually began to wonder if the apparent impossibility of acting completely like Christ (in difficult hospitality situations like those) raises the more fundamental question of why we have settled into the position of ownership (control of property) in the first place. Jesus didn't seem to face those apparently impossible dilemmas. But then he also didn't own a house. His hospitality was of a different sort.

And he did talk a lot about "sell all and give" and "those who leave house and lands for my sake will receive a hundredfold now and in the age to come"...

I wondered if we should have been holding on to the house so firmly that we felt we had to act coercively towards someone (a weak, lowly someone) rather than lose control of it. And I still wonder if property ownership (another form of wealth) is part of the power of institutions, and fundamentally problematic in the following of Jesus. It certainly seems that property ownership is intimately tied into the greater institutional powers of our society (deeds, taxes, police enforcement, etc).

I think this is one of the ways those powers influence our choices and behavior, so that we feel we have no other option, but can only choose the "lesser evil."