The upward movement promoted by certain capitalist systems is the experience – not a “crude and naïve trust” — of a large majority of Americans. “Trickle-down” is not an apt description of what has happened here; rather, what has been experienced is wealth “welling up from below.” Exactly this is what continues to attract millions of immigrants into our economy.
In addition, the English translation of Evangelii Gaudium
insists that there are people who believe that economic growth will inevitably
produce greater justice and inclusiveness (equidad e inclusión sociál
But the Spanish text does not use a word that would be properly translated as “inevitably.” The more moderate (and accurate) expression used is por si mismo
, or “by itself.” Unlike the English translation, the original Spanish gets it right: It takes a lot more than economic growth to make a system “equitable.” It takes the rule of law, the protection of natural rights, and the Jewish/Christian concern for the widow, the orphan, the hungry, the sick, the imprisoned — in short, effective concern for all the vulnerable and needy.
Despite its glaring faults, especially in its entertainment sector — obscene and sexually explicit pop music, decadent images and themes in movies — the American system has been more “inclusive” of the poor than any other nation on earth.
* * *
Two things I especially value in Evangelii Gaudium. The whole of the cosmos, and the whole of human life, are upward-leaping flames from the inner life of the Creator, from caritas – that outward-moving, creative love that is God. As the erudite and brilliant Pope Benedict XVI showed in his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, everything crucial to human life begins in God’s caritas. Think of this in your own life: Is not the love you have for your dear spouse, children, and close friends the most “divine” experience you know?
That is one reason why Catholic social thought begins in caritas. It is also why the poor are so close to the center of Christian concern — and Christian worship.
The second point I most value is the focus Evangelii Gaudium places on the main practical task of our generation: breaking the last round of chains of ancient poverty. In 1776, there were fewer than 1 billion people on earth. A vast majority of them were poor, and living under tyrannies. Just over two centuries later, there are more than 7 billion human beings. Rapid medical discoveries and inventions have helped to more than double the average lifespan, vastly reduce infant mortality, and provide relief for hundreds of diseases. Thanks to economic progress, six-sevenths of the greatly expanded human race have now broken free from poverty — over a billion people from 1950 to 1980, and another billion since 1980. There are another billion more still in chains. The Jewish, Christian, and humanist task is to break this remnant free.
Whatever one prays in worship on Sunday gets its truthfulness from what Christians actually do in their daily lives to help the poor. If one doesn’t come to the aid of the poor, one does not love God.