Why, asks Kelly Johnson, does Christian ethics so rarely tackle the real-life question of whether to give to beggars? Examining both classical economics and Christian stewardship ethics as reactions to medieval debates about the role of mendicants in the church and in wider society, Johnson reveals modern anxiety about dependence and humility as well as the importance of Christian attempts to rethink property relations in ways that integrate those qualities. She studies the rhetoric and thought of Christian thinkers, beggar saints, and economists from throughout history, placing greatest emphasis on the life and work of Peter Maurin, a cofounder of the Catholic Worker movement. Challenging and thought-provoking, The Fear of Beggars will move Christian economic ethics into a richer, more involved discussion.
Kelly S. Johnson is assistant professor of religiousstudies at the University of Dayton, Ohio, and an activemember of the Ekklesia Project. This is her first book.
Catholic Register "The author's prose is clean and often elegant. . . The Fear of Beggars should be on the bookshelves of teachers, academics, religious and lay, and all those involved in Christian social justice."
Christian Century "Johnson writes beautifully and blends assertion with critique with disarming equanimity."
Choice "Immediately arresting because it takes on the issue of begging in the context of a broader Christian ethic. . . Her study makes a useful contribution to the relation between Christian ethics and economic/political theory."
Christine D. Pohl — author of Making Room "One does not necessarily expect a book on begging and reimagining property relations to sing with theological and historical insight, but Kelly Johnson's book does just that. Her account is fascinating and beautifully written. She assembles a remarkable group of conversation partners and, with them, raises provocative theological and economic questions and shows how much they matter."
Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove — coauthor of Inhabiting the Church "Thank God, Kelly Johnson is bold enough to look our fear of beggars in the face. Love drives out fear, and indeed this book is filled with love for St. Francis, Peter Maurin, and the gifts their lives offer us if only we will let go of our purse strings to receive them. Here is a wealth of wisdom gleaned from Lady Poverty, Source of all our riches."
Ched Myers — Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries "An elegant treatise. Johnson's approach defies disciplinary apartheid, weaving a rich tapestry of theological and ethical reflection on faith and economics. Her historical exegesis of churchly stewardship discourse alone is worth the freight. And her commendation of Francis's economic unilateral disarmament' is welcome wisdom in our increasingly hard-hearted 'agonistic marketplace.'"
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