Volume 35, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2015
The Politics of Poverty
A Contribution to a Franciscan Political Theology
This essay reconstructs the medieval practice of evangelical poverty as a resource for contemporary political theology. Francis of Assisi and his predecessors committed themselves to a form of voluntary poverty that directly contested the distribution of social power in twelfth-century Europe. Evangelical poverty was for them a critical and liberating practice. Yet they disagreed about how this practice was related to standing norms of ecclesial authority. Francis broke with the earlier movements by defining evangelical poverty as a posture of humility and obedience rather than as a counterclaim on apostolic authority. These movements are worth retrieving both for their shared commitment to a liberating poverty and for the questions they raise about the relationship between poverty and authority.