Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Positive Paternalism

Today St. Paul tells the people of Thesolonica,

like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you

He was in a word paternalistic. I'm not sure when we decided that that was a bad thing. Truth be told every one of us, no matter what our chronological age, can behave like children. It would be a good thing if by that we meant childlike. But more often than not it means childish.

On a more serious note, I look at how we have simply abandoned the seriously mentally ill. In the name of not being paternalistic we "set them free" and so they sleep on the streets in filth, freeze to death in the winter, and we only intervene when they break the law, and then we encarcerate them. And this is some how better than treating them as a father would his children.

In every community there are those who do not mature either spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, or psychologically. And we cannot simply wash our hands of them. St. Paul was addressing a lack of spiritually maturity and so he responded by doing three things:

Paraklao- to call near, to invite

Paramarheomai- to encourage, console, comfort

Martyromai- to testify

He called them, encouraged them, and gave testimony of Jesus to them. For St. Paul that's what it meant to treat them as a Father would his child.

Perhaps we should rethink whether or not our society needs to be more paternal and maternal toward those who are in need, whatever form that need may take.