Of all things that man has … his soul is the most divine and truly his own.

Plato, in Laws, Bk. VI

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Robert J. Samuelson, an economics reporter for The Washington Post, wrote a column in the March 28, 2016, edition of that newspaper in which he asserted, in contradiction to Donald Trump’s words, that the United States is not a poorer country than it once was.

In Mr. Samuelson’s response he makes the case that we are still a wealthy country and does so convincingly by using valid measures and putting our recent economic history into context.  Yes, I think he is correct in what he says – but not astute.  Nor is Mr. Trump astute in his articulation that we are “a poor country now” if one takes these words to be limited to economics.

In the law we might say thinking literally about Trump’s comments focuses us on a “red herring,” chases the wrong thing.

So what am I saying?  I am saying that Mr. Trump, perhaps unbeknownst to himself, has tapped into another kind of poverty being experienced by those to whom he has appeal.

The discontent that Trump’s supporters convey is a spiritual poverty – a loss of identity, security, relationship, morality, stability, community, family ethos, the institution of marriage, humility, normative gender relations, patriotism, love of country, optimism, liberty, reliance on constrained and predictable reading of the U.S. Constitution, trust in the federal government and other once venerable institutions, access to and respect for work and a welcomed place for religious faith in this culture.

It is the loss of these things that make us poor and register as our poverty today.  For our wealth is in our sacred beliefs, in the Divine and our relationship with God and when we lose that, when that is attacked and under siege – we lose confidence and contentment dissipates, our soul is put to hazard.

When the Spirit wanes our soul lives as if in a cold, dark cave.  That, Dear Friends, is the poverty in play – that is at the bottom of the widespread discontent and worry among us.

That, not trade or economics, fuels the anxiety and unhappiness we see expressed today.

My advice: remember prayer is the voice of the soul, and prayer speaks with heart not words … yet, words are a reassuring comfort for those who pray.

Shalom.

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