Thursday, November 16, 2006

Why latifundialization?

As you can guess, from the title of my blog, 'latifundialization' is one of my favorite words. So when I come across it or a cognate I have to recognize it with a quote or other mention.
The eighth century BCE was characterized by national prosperity, which brought in its wake urbanization, latifundia (the rich swallowing up the land of the poor), and other social injustices decried by the prophets (cited above) and solved (in theory) by the priestly...from Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus: A Book of Ritual and Ethics (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004), p. 217.

Unfortunately this prosperity, that Milgrom mentions, disappeared quickly. A reminder that we shouldn't put our trust in riches or strength of arms or any of the other things bewailed by the prophets. Yet too often we seem to put our trust in things rather than God. An article in a recent issue of Time s illustrates this. (Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for pointing me in this direction in his post titled 'Blessed are the Rich'.)The reason latifundialization has meaning for me comes from my parents. My teacher, Mr. McCullough, went to make a point one day by asking 'What would your parents do if someone pulled up to the house and asked for food?' To the destruction of his point I raised my hand and answered, 'They'd be given food and my dad would see what else they needed.'

In that community my dad was a help to some refugees, getting them jobs, dragging me to some of the classes in english - since I had some french as did they - and more that I never knew. The transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich was something against which they stood.

Certainly my parents weren't perfect. I remember those classes in English where dad's voice would get louder and louder as he tried to make the students understand what he was saying. Yet the lesson he taught, in his example more than his words, was that I should welcome the stranger within the land, that I should care for the poor and homeless, that I should look at each person as my brother or sister, and that wealth coming by stepping on the backs of another is something that his family wouldn't do.

So I studied the Elijah - Elisha cycle and learned a word to describe what I'd been taught already and will keep that word as a favorite for a long time. And we're not expected to be perfect. But in the midst of recognizing our imperfections we can learn to work with and enjoy each other - even those who are different from us. In the middle of our seeking to be better we can look at our mistakes and learn. In the jumble of our daily tasks we can take time to see the stranger as our brother and sister. We're not asked to be perfect, but we are asked to love as we are loved. And loving each other is something that we can do.

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