On being paid to think religious thoughts

1 12 2009

…But it went against Maimonides’ grain to use the Torah as a spade. The notion that the communities were obligated to subsidize scholars in their studies was something he regarded as an “error, for neither the Torah nor the books of the later sages have any guiding principle, any indication to support this.”

No one could demonstrate that the great teachers of the past “demanded money from the people; they did not collect money for respected and distiguished academies… Had Hillel asked for help, they would have filled his house with gold and precious stones, but he did not wish to take anything, he nourished himself from the proceeds of his work; he scorned donations for the sake of the Torah.

-Abraham Joshua Heschel, Maimonides


Actions

Information

11 responses

2 12 2009
Tom

Jared,

Why don’t you listen to and/or read what the Pope says? He’s an evangelizer, too. And he does it for free.

2 12 2009
Jared B.

Tom,

I have seen what you’re talking about. I considered getting a subscription to Envoy Magazine, published by Patrick Madrid. Then I read some more of their blurbs about it and yeah, it takes itself WAY too seriously, as if its own subscription numbers are coterminous with spreading the faith itself. So I passed on that.

I’d hardly describe *all* apologetics and evangelization efforts that way though. I think you’ve seen a few bad apples and are reading a bit too much into the motivations of a lot of these guys. Even Madrid is better than his own magazine; I’ve read most of his books and he is really about evangelization first, more so than any Catholic evangelist I know of (currently living).

1 12 2009
Tom

Mac,

Spreading the faith is different from marketing one’s own personal writings as though they WERE the faith.

1 12 2009
Jared B.

Arturo:
I’m confused (what else is new har-har). In a past blog post you were against lay theologians: people who put their ‘religious thoughts’ on paper who also have a job and wife & kids and deadlines and all that. Your quote from Heschel/Maimonides would seem to support the opposite contention, that ALL popular writers and even scholarly theologians ought to be people with “day jobs.”

That passage uses logic (and scriptural argument) that I have of course seen before, but mostly from some very low-church Protestants trying to argue against any kind of “professional” pastors of any kind (they have churches whose preachers’ only qualification is enthusiasm and an ability to project their voice, but I digress).

Given your previously stated preference for non-lay theologians, you seem to be shooting yourself in the foot, don’t you think?

1 12 2009
Mac

“That’s the entire “apologetics” and “evangelization” culture -it’s all about marketing one’s own works. Spreading the faith comes second.”

Really? So how is an artist marketing his own religiously-themed works any different? There is plenty of religiously-themed art out there already, 2 millenia old. Is it really necessary to create anything new? If one does and sells it, is one spreading the faith or marketing one’s own work?

Someone who owns a religious goods bookstore could conceivably switch over and sell secular books and give photocopies of the Imitation of Christ away or purchase candles and crucifixes at his own expense and then give them away on the side. Is he wrong for not doing this?

I just don’t see the rational line of division of categories. Frank Sheed and Maisie Ward weren’t rich, but they weren’t poor, either. Frank Sheed promoted his own work. Was he wrong to do so?

1 12 2009
Tom

That’s the entire “apologetics” and “evangelization” culture -it’s all about marketing one’s own works. Spreading the faith comes second.

1 12 2009
The Western Confucian

(I’m glad to see I’m not the only unpaid writer of articles out there, although mine mostly touch on foreign policy.)

I think the issue is not so much getting paid, but making the selling of the Faith one’s (and more importantly one’s family’s) bread and butter. In the past, theologians like Karl Adam or Romano Guardini wrote books with popular appeal, as did religious like Thomas Merton. Some still do. Others, including those with families, were philosophers first, then authors.

But now we have people whose livelihood is solely based on marketing the Faith, and themselves. There’s a huge potential for conflict of interest and abuse.

1 12 2009
Arturo Vasquez

To tell the truth, I have never cared for Mr. Mitsui’s art. De gustibus non fit argumentum.

Money? That’s why I have a day job. As a good friend once told me, one who had a PH.D. in theology from Rome and who had tried to make his living in the Church: “don’t work for the Catholic Church, because it pays badly and causes cancer”. Kind of a spiritual variation on the counsel: “don’t sh*t where you eat”.

1 12 2009
Mac

So you would never take money for writing an article that touched on faith.

Are people who sell, say, the candles in the photo in the post below this one doing something wrong? Are those who make them, then take money for them doing something wrong (picking up on a thread from a comment below.)

Were artists wrong for being paid for church commissions for their art?

I noticed that Daniel Mitsui of the Lion and the Cardinal (one of your favorites) is selling cards and prints, and seeking contacts for Catholic bookstore owners who could sell his religious art.

Is that wrong? Should he feel “not right” about doing that – about selling the physical expression of his “religious thoughts?”

1 12 2009
Arturo Vasquez

If they do, I haven’t gotten a cent. And if they are supposed to, I have never complained about it. Not that I don’t need the money. It would just feel wrong.

1 12 2009
Mac

Does “Inside Catholic” pay for articles? I thought they did.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: