The Virtue of Hospitality

We tend to equate hospitality with parties and social gatherings or gracious resorts and expensive restaurants. To us hospitality is an industry, not a practice, one that summons Martha Stewart to mind more quickly than Jesus Christ. But to ancient Christians hospitality was a virtue, part of the love of neighbor and fundamental to being a person of the way. While contemporary Christians tend to equate morality with sexual ethics, our ancestors defined morality as welcoming the stranger

Unlike almost every other contested idea in early Christianity, including the nature of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity, the unanimous witness of the ancient fathers and mothers was that hospitality was the primary Christian virtue.

Diana Butler Bass, A People’s History of Christianity

When reading this passage I can’t help but think about the health care “debate” going on right now in the U.S.. One so often hears of the inherent “Christian” nature of our country but it seems very strange that providing health care for all is a kind of blasphemy. When reading the gospels, it’s hard to find a sliver enthusiasm for the free market philosophy where it’s just tough shit if you can’t afford care.

The fact of the matter is that hard working people are denied basic health care in this country each and every day. We’ve failed as a society to be hospitable, be it privately or publicly.

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2 thoughts on “The Virtue of Hospitality

  1. in other words, should we be more proud of pleasing God with our defense of laissez faire capitalism or with our defense of the voiceless/lobbyist-less working poor and lower middle class, who are the ones this debate matters to anyway?

    Also a good reminder that our help for others isn’t dependent on the gov’t, though when we can employ the gov’t to that end it is a good thing, probably.

  2. In one of my classes at Fuller we discussed the “Theology of Suburbs.” It was interesting to find that zoning laws for suburbs were initially designed to keep out strangers, the wording is actually in the laws. If there were a coffee house located in a community, then a stranger would have reason to be there.

    We are taught to fear strangers, not love them.

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