Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Parable of the Talents in India

This researcher found that for an exceptionally impoverished group of women in India, of the Dalit
caste,  there's a connection between becoming a convert to Christianity and improving their economic situation.  The Christian converts, as opposed to their Hindu and/or Muslim counterparts, invested monies they received from a microfinance program thus generating more capital for themselves and improving their lot.  Say, there's something to the parable of the talents after all!

Also noteworthy is the importance of owning a home, something those of us (even those who rent) in an affluent, free(ish) and democratic (still more or less so) society may take for granted.  As the researcher notes:
The impact of home ownership is crucial, since “by being able to own a house, these poor women were able to get bank loans, commercial loans, which they didn’t have access to before that. When you have a house you can get a loan at 3 percent, instead of from a money lender at 18 percent.  So having a house is a very important investment in your future, so you can have access to very affordable credit.” 
 An unexpected finding linked home ownership among these women with a greater likelihood of seeking help for abuse at the hands of husbands.   I think, though, that it's not so much the home ownership that does this, but rather the sense of worth that the Christian faith builds up in these women who realize the value of their existence. They become secure in the knowledge that they matter, that the fruits of their labor matter and that they don't deserve to be beat up by a bully not yet acquainted with the special gifts offered by Christianity.   The providential effects of Christianity for women have not gone unnoticed over the ages, being written about most recently by our own Cardinal Dolan.  He wrote up a good riposte to the imaginary "war on women" so popular with some in our society.  The cardinal writes specifically about the way in which early Christianity and now Catholicism elevate women, beginning with Mary, a teenage girl who finds herself pregnant and unmarried and becomes one of the central figures of the Catholic faith. 
Historians of the Roman Empire document how much the Church’s elevation of women threatened the status quo: in an empire that treated women like chattel, the Church declared her equal in dignity to man; in a culture that declared she could be dismissed from a marriage by a selfish husband (she could never divorce him!), the Church taught, with Jesus, that marriage was forever; in a society that coerced abortion against the natural maternal instinct, the Church proclaimed, no! In a culture where women were viewed as objects of pleasure for men, Christianity objected, raising sexuality from just the physical to a very icon of God’s love for us: personal, passionate, faithful, forever, and life-giving.