Shalt Steal

Thou Shalt Not Steal:

Far be it from me to argue theology with a priest, but...

But his advice was roundly condemned by police and the local Tory MP. 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.'
Now, Christianity does have a strong sense of sympathy to the thieves and beggars, the poor and forsaken. Jesus himself was not unkind to a thief or two, although that's more the Easter than the Christmas story. Furthermore, I understand the concept that it's better to shoplift than to commit armed robbery; and I'll accept for the sake of argument that it's better than prostitution.

Nevertheless, I think this is a fairly radical departure from normal Christian ethics. Surely it's Christian to forgive, yet say "Go forth, and sin no more"; but I'm not sure it's fitting to say, "Go forth and sin, but try not to be piggish about it." It's surely Christian to say, "Charity is the greatest good"; it's arguably Christian to say, "The government should enforce charity through taxes where it is insufficient"; but I'm not sure it's right to say, "Go ahead and steal from big chains, as it's just another way of creating a transfer payment from us to you."

But, again, I'm not a priest. I'm just a man who's interested in the subject.

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