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Taking What You Need May Be a Listed Crime, but That Doesn't Mean You Shouldn't Do It!

December 22, 2009

PLEASE TURN TO PAGE 246 in your songbook, to Saint Steven’s hymn, Shoplifters of the World Unite.

Man Bites God

Father Jones, 42, was discussing Mary and the birth of Jesus when he went on to the subject of how poor and vulnerable people cope in the run-up to Christmas.

‘My advice, as a Christian priest, is to shoplift,’ he told his stunned congregation at St Lawrence and St Hilda in York.

‘I do not offer such advice because I think that stealing is a good thing, or because I think it is harmless, for it is neither.

‘I would ask that they do not steal from small family businesses, but from large national businesses, knowing that the costs are ultimately passed on to the rest of us in the form of higher prices.

‘I would ask them not to take any more than they need. I offer the advice with a heavy heart. Let my words not be misrepresented as a simplistic call for people to shoplift. [Daily Mail]

Concerned, friendly atheist, Hemant Mehta, zooms past the myriad moral issues that result in modern-day people finding themselves poor, vulnerable, struggling to make ends meet and running out of options. He zeroes in instead on the hairsplitting he groks the priest is engaging in:

Because burglary is very different from shoplifting? [Mehta]

Well, when you really look at it, yes. Yes it is.

Burglary is personal. The victim feels that their home, their personal space has been violated. If the victim is also struggling to get along in lean times, they are harmed in their need for the stolen effects.

Shoplifting from a large national business, as the priest specifies, is not personal because a large national business is not a person. What’s more, being large, it is more able to absorb petty losses to shoplifting.

This priest, religious context aside, offers sound, pragmatic advice for people who find themselves languishing toward the left end of our graphical diagram of human nature, that is, people that could be said to be ethically justified in the use of force for self preservation.

“I would ask them not to take any more than they need,” is sound, pragmatic advice for everyone, in a general sense. Especially for those who approach life in society with deference to subsistence.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 22, 2009 10:48 PM

    You make a very persuasive case, Monsieur Tag. Subsistence: a worthy goal, indeed.

    • December 23, 2009 8:56 AM

      “the dishonest taking of property belonging to another person with the intention of depriving the owner permanently of its possession”

      read a certain way, (emphasizing the words ‘person,’ ‘intention,’ and ‘permanently,’) this legal definition might indicate that stealing to put food on the table in the manner described in the article might not even rise to the level of a crime, let alone sin. you know, so long as the defendant can afford a good defense attorney.

  2. December 30, 2009 3:47 PM

    I’m suddenly having uncomfortable feelings of lustiness for Father Jones. (fans self)

    I also now have a Smiths song stuck in my head.

    But why is it that we think that property has more rights to sit unmolested by people than people have to unused property needed for basic sustenance?

    • December 31, 2009 11:09 AM

      ahh, the sweet ache of unrequited lustiness.

      almost totally unrelated, but each time i visit the blog Stop Me Before I Vote Again, i come away with the Smith’s Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before stuck in my head.

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