Author: Kelly Johnson

Overcoming the Fear of Beggars

Strange but true: the OED has no word for the irrational fear of poor people. Perhaps we have assumed that fear of poor people is more rational than fear of spiders (arachnophobia) or mushrooms (mycophobia) or the number thirteen (triskaidekaphobia). More than ten years ago, I published a book called The Fear of Beggars. It argued that fear of poor people, particularly the ones who do not endure their lot quietly at home but publicly ask for help, is more important than we’ve realized to our economic thinking. That fear influenced both modern economic thought and shaped Christian talk about “stewardship,” both of which claim that responsible ownership, not redistribution of property, is the way to deal with poverty. And poor people who want change should wait (gratefully) for owners to bring that change about. I did not think much about migration at that time. I did not imagine a caravan of migrants walking from violence and life-damaging poverty toward the US. I would have thought it hyperbolic fantasy to think the US would respond to such a move by deploying the military at the border. I didn’t understand the reach of vicious misinformation. It never occurred to me that in the US an anti-Semitic nationalist would kill Jews at prayer because they were, as Jews, associated with an organization that resettles refugees. I had, in truth, no idea...

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Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time: What Wisdom Sees

Ignorance is bliss, they say, and it’s tempting sometimes to think the only a willful refusal to face reality can give us happiness. Find a way for yourself in the world, take pleasure where you can find it, and tune the rest out: it’s one recipe. But the texts today talk about a different sort of wisdom, and that is good news.

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The Queen of Heaven, the Queen of Soul, and Sex Abuse

It’s tempting to minimize the sin in order to honor the feast, but that’s the wrong move, as though to proclaim resurrection we need to say that death isn’t really all that bad. The truth of sin and proclamation of the good news aren’t contradictions. The Queen of Heaven, who is also the Mother of Sorrows, cries out that God has “shown the strength of his arm, scattered the proud in their conceit.” Oh, Mary, don’t you weep. However deep the sin we sink in, grace is deeper still.

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