At heart, a budget is a moral document. It tells us what our priorities are, what we really care about. A government budget is also a social contract, it tells us how we perceive the bonds of community, what we think are our common responsibilities, how our common life should be ordered. This budget tells us quite a lot. It tells us we do not care about the poor, the vulnerable, the hungry, the sick. It tells us we have little interest in caring for children—making sure all children are fed, educated, and have adequate health care. It tells us we are not interested in addressing global climate disruption and so really do not care about the generations that follow us. It tells us we have little curiosity about the universe, about scientific exploration and research. It tells us we care little about the arts; those disciplines that provide beauty and feed our souls. And, grotesquely, it tells us that the wealthy, the safe, the full, the satisfied, should have more than they already have. In short, this is an immoral budget.
People of faith can disagree on politics, on how we find solutions to our common problems—Jesus was not a Democrat or a Republican. However, Jesus was pretty clear about how we are to treat our neighbor (and if you are unsure who your neighbor is, Jesus answered that question with the parable of the Good Samaritan—it is everyone), how we treat the hungry, the poor, the orphaned, and the widowed. He told us whatever we do for the least of these, we do for him. And he had harsh words for those who hoarded wealth and resources, for those who hid behind religious rules to justify trampling on the poor and the needy. This proposed budget simply does not meet the “Jesus test”.
So, what do we do? Well, as always, we start with prayer. We recognize that no one of us is going to fix this, no one of us is going to save the world (as one of my good friends is fond of saying, “the job of Savior of the world is taken and your application for the position will not be accepted”). But we do what we can—what we are called to do. We call our Senators, Representatives, and the White House. Daily. If you don’t know who your Congresspeople are use this link. Volunteer somewhere you can make a difference: St. Peter’s Food Cupboard, Courtyard after-school program (contact Sean), Broad Street Ministry, local health clinics. Come to church—pray, sing, be with your fellow Christians as we support and strengthen each other, as we are nourished at the Table, as we hear the stories of God’s people throughout the ages suffering and struggling—as we hear the story of God’s great love for the world and of God’s promise of justice.
Remember that justice is a marathon, not a sprint. Remember that God seems to specialize in what seem like hopeless situations and that God works through us. So, even and especially when things seem really hard, remember that God is at work in the world, and that God always has the last word. Remember that God has promised us that ultimately all shall be redeemed, and that God keeps God’s promises. So, in the words of Moses in the Book of Deuteronomy,
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified…, for the LORD your God goes with you…and God will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Photo credit: By Nheyob (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons