As a Christian, when I go to my sacred texts it's clear that Jesus spoke more about money than almost any other topic. Nowhere does he encourage amassing great wealth; nor does he support a special status for the privileged, particularly at the expense of those with less.
While there is some debate about the urgency of the moment, there is no doubt that as a nation we are at a crossroads. Will we fall off the proverbial fiscal cliff, or will we lean toward a more just, moral economy?
My fellow faith leaders and their congregations know that Jesus said nothing to support taxing the low-income and middle class to protect the privilege of the wealthy. Instead, he advocated for an economy that protected the vulnerable, the disenfranchised and the elderly.
As we collectively discuss future policies on taxation, spending and entitlements, we must remember that budgets are documents that reflect the conscience of a people. They illustrate to us and indeed, the rest of the world, who we are as a people, underscoring what we value and what we don't. A budget is a measure of our conscience.
The words of the Bible ring true at this moment of decision-making about fiscal responsibility:
"Surely this commandment ... is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. The word is very near to you; it is in your mouth, and in your heart for you to observe. I had set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live." (Deuteronomy 30:11)
I challenge us to consider these words in the context of our economic policy and the choices before us to create a fair society. The culmination of this decades-long conflict over the size and role of government will set our course not only for the next four years, but for decades more to come. When I hear the biblical mandate to "choose life," I understand that my own faith tradition inspires me to pursue an economy that supports the honor and dignity of the poor and elderly; one that doesn't run the risk of paying off the government's credit card on the backs of those most in need; one that provides opportunities for all who seek it to find meaningful work; one that builds an infrastructure that will sustain the future and protect the environment.
Faithfulness means loving our neighbor as ourselves, not only in the charitable sense of giving the Christmas turkey to those who are suffering, but also in the broader sense of supporting policies and legislation that will achieve fairness, share abundance and empower the most vulnerable among us.
In the end, all that we have is a gift to us from God, and we're compelled to share it.
So what can we, the people, do?
- We can urge our elected officials in Congress to choose life and enact policies that move this nation toward a more just and moral economy, such as policies that address economic inequities.
- We can pray and lead our congregations in prayer. People of faith -- of whatever party -- can make their views and values clear, praying that a just and moral budget emerges from Congress and is signed into law by the President.
- We can model for our elected officials what it means to repair breaches left by a bitter election season, starting in our own families, congregations and neighborhoods.
I plan to contact my Congressional representatives and urge a more thoughtful dialogue that puts people -- not politics -- first. And as always, I will "pray without ceasing."
Through prayer, compassion and active participation, our nation can lead our elected representatives away from policies that oppress and divide and toward a moral economy.