The Personalist Project

Who is my Neighbor? Christian Charity in a Globalized World

David Thunder

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When:8:00 - 10:00 p.m., Friday Feb. 10
Where:at our home, 519 North High Street, in West Chester, PA

We are all familiar with the story of the good samaritan, and the simple message it carries that we owe a duty of charity even to strangers - that they too count as our "neighbor". But the very term "neighbor" seems to suggest a distinction between those who count as our "neighbors," who can exert some legitimate claim on our assistance, and those who do not. The Good Samaritan story does not specify the limits of neighborliness. But as our social universe expands, and we have the technical capacity to communicate with millions of different people across the world, we are surely invited to ask the same question with renewed urgency: "Who is my neighbor?" It is not easy to come up with a philosophically and theologically satisfying answer, because drawing clear-cut limits to charity seems somehow stingy and out of keeping with the Christian spirit of superabundant love; whereas becoming a universal philanthropist seems superficial and ill-suited to the human heart, which deals in particulars. In this talk I will try to highlight the puzzle of charity in a globalized world, and I will suggest that the idea of vocation may help us mediate the tension between the universal and the particular.