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Lord, make me an instrument of your peace . . .

18 February 2015

Christian civil activity

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
   releasing those bound unjustly,
  untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
  breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
   sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
   and not turning your back on your own.

                     Isaiah 58

So the Christian world begins the season of repentance today.  One of the tenets of the Church is a call for fasting.  Isaiah words for today's Office of the Readings call for a kind of fasting that implies a civil activity that is counter to most folks ideas for our political system.   People today say that church folks should stick to praying and worship.  But, when we see texts like this, how can we refrain from speaking out against actions of our governments (federal, state, local) that run counter to this command to help the most vulnerable in our society.  On the other hand, Christians are counter-cultural.  We are required by our belief to have, in the words of our Bishops, a "preferential option for the poor."  How can we just sit by and let our governments create tax relief and programs for those who don't really need the help while so many people in this country go without. 
Today in his budget message the Governor of Illinois basically said that those who are poor can just go looking somewhere else.  The State of Illinois doesn't care about your problems.  We will balance our budget on your backs.  The US House of Representatives in DC wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act and relieve some 11 million people of their health insurance.  They don't want to fix the problems, just repeal the entire thing without having something to replace it and help those who wouldn't have any health insurance any other way.  The US Senate and current Administration wants to maintain total free access to "health care" options for women that end the life of unborn babies.  How can we just sit by and not respond to these grossly indecent and uncaring policies?
By virtue of our baptism as Christians, we must enter into the political life of our country and speak out for and promote programs that care for the most vulnerable.  Was it Gandhi who said, " A nations greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members."?  Many other writers have expressed the same sentiment. So, in today's social construct are we to allow the poor to go it on their own?  "If they'd rather die, then they had better do it and decrease the surplus population. Good night, gentlemen." (Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol"; Charles Dickens)  Is that the message that we want to pass on to all of those less fortunate, many of whom are there because of certain business policies that line the pockets of the mega rich at the expense of their employees and former employees? 
As Christians we have an obligation to speak out against injustice; to act in the presence of policies that leave out a large segment of the populace from the benefit of the American wealth.  Or, are we just to repeat the unlearned lessons from the 1920's and allow the rich grow their wealth at the expense of the rest of the country and face, yet another, financial and economic collapse.

As put by Living Space (sacredspace.ie) for the Thursday after Ash Wenesday:

The only way to live is, like Jesus, to offer our lives for the benefit of others in love, in caring, in solidarity, in compassion, in justice. This is the only way truly to find ourselves and to come out winners. What is the good of winning the whole world – becoming incredibly rich and famous – and to lose one’s integrity, one’s self-respect, one’s dignity as a person, one’s happiness?

I think that it is high time that all Christians, Jews, Muslims, and all other people of Good Will should make a stand against the policies that intentionally exclude a large segment of people from the goodness of the United States' economic power.  Though our lobbying of our elected leaders, participation in the upcoming election, and protesting on the streets, we must signal that this direction of our culture is indeed wayward.  Part of the implication of "all men are created equal" is that everyone should have equal opportunity to the benefits created in this type of government and that we all have a obligation to help those who are less fortunate to learn how to raise themselves up in pride, dignity, and with grace.  Let's begin this revolution today.

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