Grace Emerges

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


by Brad Duncan
Elitism is when people with more of something look down on those with less of it. [my own definition]
More of what?  Material things, education, social acceptance, success, good looks, power and status, to name a few.

Elitism is the pride of abundance, in contrast to the neediness of others. The greater the abundance, the greater probability of pride. In contrast, the greater the poverty, the greater the need that is felt. 

That's the economics of elitism - the law of pride vs. need. More stuff = more pride.  Less stuff = more need.  Pride leads to disdain for the less-privileged.  We're proud of our success, and work so hard for it, that we look down on those that succeed less than us.  Anyone can suffer from pride - it's all a matter of looking down on someone lower than us, and there's always someone relatively lower in the proverbial pecking order.

More specifically, spiritual or religious elitism is when those with greater opportunity, piousness, privilege, popularity, education or institutional power elevate themselves above those with less of those things, claiming that God favors them more and the other person less. Elitism says "God likes me better. I thank God that I'm not like that guy. I have my problems, but boy oh boy that guy REALLY has problems. If I get a chance I'll straighten him right out".  

Dear God: I thank you that I’m not like everyone else—crooks, evildoers, adulterers—or even like that other guy.   paraphrased from Luke 18:11 (Common English Bible)

Jesus put spiritual elitism and social elitism on the same level and called them both out as corruption.  In many teachings, from the Sermon on the Mount to the Parable of the Good Samaritan, he used example after example of how NOT to do religion by calling ourselves better than someone else, but rather taught us to follow his teachings in order to live generously and graciously.

What is Jesus' message in Luke's Beatitudes (lists of blessings and woes)?

Jesus raised his eyes to his disciples and said:
“Happy are you who are poor,
because God’s kingdom is yours.
Happy are you who hunger now,
because you will be satisfied.
Happy are you who weep now,
because you will laugh.
Happy are you when people hate you, reject you, insult you, and condemn your name as evil because of the Human One. Rejoice when that happens! Leap for joy because you have a great reward in heaven. Their ancestors did the same things to the prophets. 
But how terrible for you who are rich,
because you have already received your comfort.
How terrible for you who have plenty now,
because you will be hungry.
How terrible for you who laugh now,
because you will mourn and weep.
How terrible for you when all speak well of you.
Their ancestors did the same things to the false prophets. 
(Luke 6:20-26, Common English Bible)

Is his point that being rich is terrible?  No I don't think so.  The point is that the economics of pride and elitism is the cause of corruption of men's hearts.  Jesus sought to reverse the pattern - to meet the needs of the poor and to reduce the pride of the rich - through a revolution of the system of elitism.  How?

Read on in Luke 6 to see the plan of Jesus for ending elitism.  It's called Equality!

“But I say to you who are willing to hear: Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on the cheek, offer the other one as well. If someone takes your coat, don’t withhold your shirt either. Give to everyone who asks and don’t demand your things back from those who take them. Treat people in the same way that you want them to treat you.

“If you love those who love you, why should you be commended? Even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, why should you be commended? Even sinners do that. If you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, why should you be commended? Even sinners lend to sinners expecting to be paid back in full. Instead, love your enemies, do good, and lend expecting nothing in return. If you do, you will have a great reward. You will be acting the way children of the Most High act, for he is kind to ungrateful and wicked people. Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate. 
“Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good portion—packed down, firmly shaken, and overflowing—will fall into your lap. The portion you give will determine the portion you receive in return.” 
(Luke 6:27-38, Common English Bible)

Elitism is a stealth reality of abundance.  Having good things, status and privileges can lead to pride, and can lead to disdain for those that don't have those good things.  Being "right" with God can lead us to look down on "those sinners."
Luckily, unlike many problems that don't readily have solutions, Elitism is one problem that has a cure.  It's called Equality!
Since it's a matter of the heart and spirit, elitism in ourselves can be eliminated.  By a reversal of "heart economics".  By loving those with less.  By acceptance of outcasts.  By humility.  By treating all people equally.  By a revolution of kindness.  

Notice in the last verses above (Luke 6:37-8) the reversal of economics.  Those that give more will be the ones that have more in reality.  Generosity leads to abundance.  Those that forgive more will be the ones with the peace and joy that comes from forgiveness.  Jesus applied this reversal of economics equally to material and spiritual privilege, teaching us to be generous and humble in our treatment of others.

If we all take this teaching to heart, then we will help cure the problem.  We will reduce the pride in our hearts, and through our acceptance and generosity we will help alleviate the need felt by someone else.

Elitism is a condition of the heart, and has a cure.  Do your part to help END ELITISM !

1 comment:

  1. It seems that elitism has found its way into many hearts in one form or another, no matter what a person's income level or status in society. Excellent post.