As a pastor in New York City, I've found myself challenged to think more deeply about “stuff." I've come to believe that the truth about what we too casually name “materialism” is not so simple. It ought to be clear, after all, that God doesn’t hate stuff. Witness the creation story. God invents stuff. At the end of each of six days, God engages in self-congratulation, pronouncing serial evening benedictions on the stuff created that day: “Good!”
A half phrase from Augustine has challenged and inspired me for a half century: “God is like the nature he made.” It appears as a virtual throwaway line, quoted in José Ortega y Gasset’s History as a System (1941), in which Ortega adds a flourish connecting ideas about God with ideas about humans: the human “likewise finds that he has no nature other than
Adam is . . . scattered throughout the globe. Set in one place, he fell and, as it were, broken small, he has filled the whole world. But the Divine Mercy gathered up the fragments from every side, forged them in the fire of love and welded into one what had been broken. . . .
The Central African Republic is being torn apart by strife between Muslims and Christians. A Catholic church in one small town has taken in about 650 Muslims who are seeking sanctuary from Christian marauders. Father Xavier Fagba, the priest at the church, knows that some Muslims hiding in his church attacked Christian families in the past year. The priest is determined to keep providing sanctuary because “the Muslims discovered in our church that the God we worship is the same as their God. And that’s the vision the whole of this country needs to have,” the priest said (BBC, February 13).