Pope Francis on Greed and Hunger

via the AP:

During his homily Monday, Francis lamented that many people find their life’s meaning in possessions when the biblical story of Christ’s birth emphasizes that God appeared to people who were poor when it came to earthly possessions, but faithful.

“Standing before the manger, we understand that the food of life is not material riches but love, not gluttony but charity, not ostentation but simplicity,” Francis said, dressed in simple white vestments.

“An insatiable greed marks all human history, even today, when paradoxically a few dine luxuriantly while all too many go without the daily bread needed to survive,” he said.

Why All Neutral Baseball Fans Should Back the Royals

Traditional sources of community have been frayed in modern American life. People change jobs more frequently, are more likely to relocate across the country from their family and friends, and local clubs and organizations have declined in membership. One enduring source of community, however, is sports.

While the players might come and go more frequently than they once did and athletes might not be as big a part of the community now that their salaries have soared, there is still a bond that comes with supporting the hometown team.

The rich might be in the luxury boxes and working class people might be in the nosebleeds, but they are united in their passion for the success of the team they love. It creates a bond that cuts across race, gender, and class. It is a source of pride for a community.

That is what makes the Giants attempt to push the Oakland A’s from the Bay Area such a despicable act. It is the ultimate expression of the corporate mentality over the belief in community—in fact, it’s an active attempt to destroy a community that exists. The nauseating greed of the Giants’ ownership has crowded out any sense of civic spirit or responsibility.

As a lifelong A’s fan, I am hardly a neutral observer. But even in my Maryland home, my house bears the markings of a Bay Area partisan. Raiders, 49ers, A’s, Warriors, and Sharks pennants dot the walls. While I could not stand Barry Bonds, I harbored no enmity toward the Giants for years. I wore number 24 because of Willie Mays, admired Marichal and McCovey, and liked Giants players from Trevor Wilson to Bill Mueller to Buster Posey.

I even rooted for the Giants in 2010, not because I wanted to see the ridiculous fans rewarded who throughout that very season had been calling for Manager Bruce Bochy’s ouster on a daily basis on the Giants’ radio station KNBR, but because I wanted my friends who weathered the cold of Candlestick’s swirling winds to experience championship glory.

And I hoped that winning a championship would reduce some of the insecure pettiness many other Giants fans had displayed toward the A’s. The Giants-A’s and Giants-Dodgers rivalries are real, but the intensity had always been stronger on the Giants’ side, almost certainly because of the total absence of championships in San Francisco until 2010.

Rivalries in two-market areas are not a bad thing. They can be fun and competitive. And while there are hardcore partisans on each side, it is not uncommon to see people jump on the bandwagon when a team is successful in the postseason. This is inevitable in a community like the Bay Area.

But attempting to drive a team out of the area to corner the market and maximize profits is everything people have come to hate in sports. And rightly so. For a team to push another team out is a gross violation of loyalty to the people of the Bay Area, including, but not limited to, loyal A’s fans. It deserves nothing but opprobrium and condemnation.

It is not simply about disregarding the importance of community. The Giants’ ownership is willing to fracture a community out of corporate greed. Rivalry is turning into genuine hatred. And much of it has nothing to do with what takes place on the field. It is a toxic situation that is about economic domination, not just baseball. And in some places, it is turning friend against friend and neighbor against neighbor.

How did we get to this point? In the early 1990s, the Giants tried to move to San Jose. My family of A’s fans supported it. San Jose is the tenth most populous city in the country; it deserves a team. We did not want to lose our area’s National League team to St. Petersburg, Florida. The Bay Area has the population (over 7 million), media market (6th biggest), and wealth (first in high-tech jobs in the country) to support two competitive teams. This is beyond dispute.

At the time, the owner of the Oakland A’s shared this civic-minded mentality and loyalty to the Bay Area. He ceded the territorial rights of the A’s to Santa Clara County, where San Jose is located, so the Giants could move there and the Bay Area could keep its two teams. What compensation did he request from the Giants? None. Not a single penny.

The people of Santa Clara County and San Jose rejected the Giants’ bid for a new stadium. Fortunately (or so it seemed), the Giants were able to remain in San Francisco and build one of the best venues in all of sports. The Giants’ fan base grew and revenue soared. Eventually the Giants ended decades of futility and won a championship—and then another.

Yet that is not enough. The Giants’ owners love money more than the game. They love profits more than their community. And the commissioner of baseball, Bud Selig, has failed to step in to ensure that the common good trumps individual greed.

The A’s stadium is not fit for Major League Baseball, as fond as my memories are of it, both before and after the construction of Mt. Davis. It seems unlikely that Oakland can currently sustain an MLB franchise, given the financial realities of the present system. This is a shame for loyal A’s fans in Oakland, but moving within driving distance is the best possible outcome if they must leave.

The Giants’ ownership would almost certainly receive compensation or a guaranteed minimum level of revenue if they were willing to cede the territorial rights former A’s owner Walter Haas ceded for free, simply because he was a decent person. The Orioles-Nationals deal shows that there is no real barrier to fixing the situation under a new commissioner who is competent. But the Giants are doing everything in their power to block this.

An A’s move to San Jose is good for the Bay Area. It is good for baseball. But greed stands in its way.

I can’t blame Giants fans for rooting for their team in the Series. They should. They don’t have a say over whether or not their owners are greedy corporate fiends with no sense of community or decency. But for all other baseball fans, it should be obvious who the good guys are in this Series: the Oakland A’s-hearts-breaking, scrappy, base-swiping, dominant bullpen-led Kansas City Royals.

Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

Truth and Truthiness by Patrick Manning: “If we want our students to seek Christ with their whole selves, we must engage them in the fullness of their being—heart, mind and will. St. Augustine long ago offered a formula for doing just this: delight the heart, instruct the mind, persuade the will. Stephen Colbert has demonstrated that this formula is still effective in our own time.”

The Art of Presence by David Brooks: “We have a tendency, especially in an achievement-oriented culture, to want to solve problems and repair brokenness — to propose, plan, fix, interpret, explain and solve. But what seems to be needed here is the art of presence — to perform tasks without trying to control or alter the elemental situation.”

I Have Seen the Future of the Republican Party, and It Is George W. Bush by Jonathan Chait: “A Republican Party that reprises the Bush era was a grim and unfathomable prospect in 2008, and is not exactly palatable now. But in the wake of the party’s thrall to Ayn Rand and Rand Paul and Paul Ryan, a return to Bushism sounds almost comforting.”

Number of Darfur’s Displaced Surged in 2013 by NY Times: “An estimated 400,000 people fled violence afflicting the Darfur region of Sudan last year, more than the number of those displaced in the previous two years combined, the top United Nations peacekeeping official said Thursday in an appraisal that suggested the decade-old conflict there had taken a turn for the worse.”

The Populist Imperative by Paul Krugman: “A new Pew poll finds an overwhelming majority of Americans — and 45 percent of Republicans! — supporting government action to reduce inequality, with a smaller but still substantial majority favoring taxing the rich to aid the poor. And this is true even though most Americans don’t realize just how unequally wealth really is distributed.”

Silence, Outsider: The Catholic Internet, Donatism, and the Medicine of the Eucharistic Life by Timothy O’Malley: “The Catholic conversation presently operating on the internet tends toward its own self-confident (even prideful) Donatism.   There are communities of Catholics online who stand above the Church and articulate criteria that they believe essential to being Catholic.   They then apply these criteria (apart from the actual, existing Church of bishops and councils and the sensus fidelium) to universities, to parishes, to priests or bishops or popes whom they find do not conform to such criteria.”

Supporting the Euromaidan Movement in Ukraine by Cardinal Timothy Dolan: “We Catholics in the United States cannot let these brave Ukrainians, whose allegiance to their religious convictions has survived ‘dungeon, fire, and sword,’ languish.  They deserve our voices and our prayers.”

What presidents really believe about God by Michael Beschloss: “Lady Bird Johnson told me decades later that her husband had found such comfort in the Catholic Church and ‘Luci’s little monks’ that she had once thought it only a matter of time before LBJ became a converted Catholic himself.”

‘Cold call’ pope strikes again by John Allen: “One more was added to the record Friday, as the Italian paper Corriere della Sera reported that Francis called an Italian woman named Filomena Claps on Monday evening, reaching her at her husband’s bedside in a hospital in the city of Potenza.”

More Imperfect Unions by Ross Douthat: “So one hypothetical middle ground on marriage promotion might involve wage subsidies and modest limits on unilateral divorce, or a jobs program and a second-trimester abortion ban.”

It’s cardinal v. cardinal on divorced and remarried Catholics by John Allen: “A rift has seemingly opened between two cardinals with significant Vatican influence, as the head of the pope’s Council of Cardinals has suggested that the Vatican’s doctrinal czar needs to be more ‘flexible’ in his views on divorced and remarried Catholics.”

Greed Is Not Good: The Social Usefulness of Progressive Public Policy by Charles Reid Jr.: “Progressives must never abandon appeals to fairness and concern for the vulnerable when advocating on behalf of sound public policies. But we must also bear in mind that many in our audience have been conditioned, through years of exposure to appeals that pander to the selfish side of human nature, to ask what a particular policy can do for them.”

A New Gilded Age Threatens The State Of Our Union by Howard Fineman: “Study after study shows that we are in the midst of a new Gilded Age, in which a yawning, gold-plated gap between the richest and the rest of us risks collapsing the American ideal of fair play and democracy itself.”

Pope Francis on Greed

Pope Francis pulled no punches in his homily this morning on the perils of greed and attachment to money. Pope Francis notes that this is a “day-to-day” problem. It’s something we all must think about, not just those with exceptional wealth or who want to be a billionaire as bad as Travie and Bruno Mars.

The pope explains how money can rip families apart:

How many families have we seen destroyed by the problem of money? Brother against brother, father against son. This is the first result that this attitude of being attached to money does: it destroys! When a person is attached to money, he destroys himself, he destroys the family.

Pope Francis describes how money can enslave us, stripping us of the very freedom we hope to achieve by accumulating it. He notes:

Money destroys! It does, doesn’t it? It binds you. Money serves to bring about many good things, so many works for human development, but when your heart is attached in this way, it destroys you.

Greed destroys the possibility of joy, as no amount of money is enough to satisfy us. At this point, money has become a false god, an idol that captures our hearts and pulls us away from relationships rooted in love:

Having more, having more, having more… It leads you to idolatry, it destroys your relationship with others. It’s not money, but the attitude, what we call greed. Then too this greed makes you sick, because it makes you think of everything in terms of money. It destroys you, it makes you sick. And in the end – this is the most important thing – greed is an instrument of idolatry because it goes along a way contrary to what God has done for us.

He then contrasts the vanity of greed, where we place ourselves at the center of all existence, with the humility of Christ:

Saint Paul tells us that Jesus Christ, who was rich, made Himself poor to enrich us. That is the path of God: humility, to lower oneself in order to serve. Greed, on the other hand, takes us on a contrary path: You, who are a poor human, make yourself God for vanity’s sake. It is idolatry!

When we think of greed, we often think about people like Gordon Gekko of Wall Street, who have turned wealth and power into their gods and greed and selfishness into the chief virtues. Some discard religion; others distort it. A friend of mine, a devout Catholic, explained to me how million-dollar Sweet 16 birthday parties are charitable because they are good for the economy. When the market becomes an idol, it can provide an ideology that justifies greed and excess. Sadly many Christians have mixed this idolatry with their Christian faith. They find ways to mask their individualistic pursuit of self-interest with talk about service to others, sometimes even fooling themselves.

Yet materialism is so deeply ingrained in our culture, we must all be on guard. We are provided with a million justifications for every bit of excess, every indulgence. Suddenly our needs begin to closely resemble our wants; the superfluous has become the necessary. We’re all pulled in this direction. It takes active resistance to break the hold of materialism and eradicate any greed in our hearts. The first step is to acknowledge that it might be there.