Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Thou Shalt Not Steal Most of the Time

Can I call a priest a moron? What if he really actually is a moron? Then can I? Since there aren't really any rules for this sort of thing, I'm going to take it upon myself to assume that I can call him an moron and thus, I'm going to do so. You might even agree with me and want to call him a moron yourself. You can wait to make that decision until after you've read the gist of this ordeal if you'd like. I, however, am fully in the gist and will not wait any longer. You, sir, are a moron.

Today our story of moronism takes us across the pond to jolly old England and to the Church of St. Lawrence. (If you're on some sort of sightseeing expedition and would like to add this to your stops, that's in the northern English city of York.) According to a one Theunis Bates over there at Sphere, the Rev. Tim Jones presented his parishoners with an interesting direction for them to go forth and do with. According to the extremely misguided Rev. Jones, he explained to his parishoners that "...poor people struggling to survive should steal food and other essentials from shops, rather than raise money through prostitution, burglary or mugging." Um, wait. What now?

Correct. If you're poor, you should steal. Don't pimp yourself (or hooker yourself) out. Don't be burgling. Don't be mugging. Just be stealing. Plain old stealing. Hallelujiah! Let's go steal! Not so fast! It's not like he didn't realize that this would be controversial or anything. (Hmmm....I wonder if he realized how stupid it would sound. I'm guessing not. Continue.) He laid down some ground rules. Oh, good. Ground rules for...stealing? Yes! Ground rules for stealing, that is correct. OK, then. Let's look at those.

Stealing Rule One: " 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." Um, wait ! That's all they have to do to make this OK with you?! To know that the rest of us are going to get screwed by higher prices as a result of Stealy McTakes-A-Lot over there?! That's it!? Tell me something. What, exactly, is all of this "knowing" supposed to accomplish? See, because usually, when you "know" something, it's so that you won't do it. "Just so you know, you cannot fly. Thus, if you jump out of that window, you will meet your splattery doom." That makes sense to know. But I don't know what good it is to "know" something if you're going to go ahead and do it anyway! "Just so you know, you're screwing over everyone else whose tax dollars are likely already enabling you to survive. Now shove this smoked ham underneath your coat and make a run for it!"

Stealing Rule Two: Rev. Jones says "I would ask them not to take any more than they need..." Uh, Rev? Ever been poor? I don't think that you have. You'd be amazed at how much you "need" when you have "nothing". You'd also be amazed at how much you "need" when you're being enabled to "justify" stealing. While it may be true that some may "need" food, does that automatically mean that they "need" prime rib? What about lobster? What about super buttery crackers, not just Saltines? You'd be amazed at what folks think that they "need" when they're being told "Go forth, my son, and rip off thine vendors."

Stealing Rule Three: This is the second part of Stealing Rule Two which was "I would ask them not to take any more than they need....for any longer than they need." What does that even mean? For any longer than they need? Does that mean only keep something that you've stolen for as long as you need it? (Tell me how that's going to work with this purseful of pork loin that I just pilfered.) Or does that mean to only steal as long as you need to steal (as outlined by the Reverend's guidelines, I suppose)? Do you know what the difference is between the time that it takes to steal something and the time that it takes to go to work every day, earn a paycheck, cash that paycheck and then go buy that thing? It's a lopsided comparison at best!

I'm sure that you can imagine that this didn't sit too well with folks like law enforcement and UK retailers, including something called the British Retail Consortium. (Now, I don't know what that is, but it's a really cool name. Consortium. Is that anything like a well-organized militia?) The Consortium's speaker, a one Krishan Rama, said "You'd expect a vicar to appreciate the difference between right and wrong...There are no excuses for stealing." A novel concept indeed.

As you can imagine (or, at the very least, hope) this whole thieving ideology didn't really sit well with Reverend Jones's boss. No, not that boss (though I'd have to imagine that he was none too thrilled himself), but rather the flesh and bones boss, a one Archdeacon of York, the Venerable Richard Seed. (I wonder, if you are an Archdeacon, does that automatically make you venerable? I have no idea. I don't even know how one becomes an Archdeacon. It sounds kind of cool, though. It has a sort of superhero ring to it. The Archdeacon of York is here to save the daaaaayy!) He tried to distance himself from the remarks of Reverend Jones by saying "The Church of England does not advise anyone to shoplift, or break the law in any way." Finally! Someone with some sense over there in York!

But wait! Here's the best part! According to the above cited article, the Reverend later clarified his position on some British TV show. He said, in part,that he "never said it is OK to steal. It is a dreadful thing to steal." Wait. You never said it was OK to steal?! But there were rules! Three of them from what I inferred! It is "dreadful", but you said go for it! What do you mean you never said that?!

He said that "The sermon was in fact only meant to encourage worshippers to give more to charity, not incite them to snatch cookies from the corner store." Wait. How was it meant to do that? I'm not following you here. According to the Yorkshire Evening Post, you said, "My advice, as a Christian priest, is to shoplift." Huh. See, that doesn't really sound like encouraging worshippers to do anything other than steal things. Where does the encouragement for giving to charity come in? Oh, that's right. It doesn't!

This whole thing is wrong on so many levels. There's the stealing in and of itself to begin with. I think we've covered that one. But next is that now we have a priest who is lying to us! I don't think priests are supposed to lie! (I also don't think that they're supposed to be spending all of that time with those altar boys either, but that's an entirely different subject!) You really can't infer a whole lot from "My advice, as a Christian priest, is to shoplift" other than what it says! He might as well have just said "That was taken out of context." What context?! You said steal!

But here's the part that just kills me. People who are poor, just like every other kind of people, come in two kinds. There are poor people who are smart and there are poor people who are just dumb as a post. Of those who are more likely to heed such a ridiculous suggestion, I'm going to guess it would most likely be the paste eaters. Tell me something, Reverend. Just exactly how good do you think these sorts of folks are going to be at all of the stealing? Seriously. He makes the assumption that if he tells folks to steal, that God is just going to guide them into doing it correctly and getting away with it. Just because you steal something, that doesn't mean that it's going to turn out the way you want it (that way being that you don't get caught and you get your stolen item for free instead of having to work for it like the rest of us, you thieving thief). You clearly didn't think this one through, Clem. Er, Reverend Clem.

So let's just assume (making it a given would be presumptuous) that one of these divinely inspired shoplifters doesn't make it through the front door with that lobster tail hanging out of their pocket and that package of frozen peas in their boots (I'm envisioning big boots, so stay with me here). Then what? I don't know about how things work in the UK, but over here in America, we arrest people for things like that. A lot of the time, they go to jail until they are bailed out. How much money do you think Thief-y von Petty Theft over there is going to have to put towards his bail? I'm guessing if he couldn't pay for that smoked salmon in his shorts, he isn't going to have a whole heck of a lot for bail, either. Then what?

I know! Call Reverend Jones! He'll come bail you out! He's the one that suggested that you steal from businesses in the first place! I'm sure that his congregation won't mind their collection plate dues going to bail out an obedient member of their flock! Sure! No problem! Then again, how much of a flock is he going to have left after this debacle? Right. Probably the same size of a flock as he had before he became the poster child for holiday looting, not to mention holiday scrambling and lying. Whatever. As long as he and his pilfering flock stay on that side of the pond, I won't have to worry about it on this side of the pond. Dear God! Unless he's put his message on YouTube!

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