The slowdown showdown in Washington has captured the attention of a people weary of constant repetitive battles in a government that no longer governs. Washington has abandoned its mission to govern and has abdicated its role to protect and provide. Jim Wallis, who does as good a job as anybody in bringing a Christian perspective to national affairs, has written a perceptive article about the showdown:
The biblical purpose of government is to protect from evil and to promote the good — protect and promote. Government is meant to protect its people’s safety, security, and peace, and promote the common good of a society — and even collect taxes for those purposes. Read Romans 13 by the apostle Paul and other similar texts. The Scriptures also make it clear that governmental authority is responsible for fairness and justice and particularly responsible to protect the poor and vulnerable. Read Isaiah, Amos, Jeremiah, the Psalms, and even the book of Kings to see that God will judge kings and rulers (governments) for how they treat the poor. And it wasn’t just the kings of Israel who were held accountable for the poor, but also the kings of neighboring countries — all governments. That’s what the Bible says; so let me be as clear as I can be.
There are two ways the political extremists are being unbiblical. First, to be hostile to the role of government is unbiblical according to the Scriptures. Second, because of their hostility to government, many of those who are promoting this crisis are also hostile to the poor, who are supposed to be protected by the government. They blame the poor for their poverty instead of asking how government can protect the most vulnerable and even help lift them out of poverty. (http://sojo.net/blogs/2013/10/03/why-government-shutdown-unbiblical)
Needless to say that in budget battles, as in war, each faction believes that God is on its side. Wallis makes it perfectly clear the TEA Party cannot claim to have God on its side. Justice is the prime biblical value. Conservatives will quickly assert that the Bible and Jesus say absolutely nothing about justice with justice being defined as everyone having a right to an equal amount of resources. However, if you define justice as everyone having a fair share of life’s abundance, then justice is a prime value. God has a special care for widows, orphans and strangers. Jesus himself proclaimed that he had come so that we might have life, life in abundance.
Personally, I am working hard on deriving meaning from daily scripture readings. This week I have been reading parts of Baruch. My post-modern mind and heart will not allow me to interpret Baruch in a literal sense. I find it hard to believe that God directly punishes those who miss the mark; however, I can delve into metaphor and irony. Look at this passage from Baruch:
“Hear, you neighbors of Zion!
God has brought great mourning upon me,
For I have seen the captivity
that the Eternal God has brought
upon my sons and daughters.
With joy I fostered them;
but with mourning and lament I let them go.
Let no one gloat over me, a widow,
bereft of many:
For the sins of my children I am left desolate,
because they turned from the law of God.
Metaphorically, I can see Washington mourning over us, the children who inherited the Constitution which was framed to “protect and provide.” I can see Washington mourning over the fact that the biblical value of the common good—justice for all—has been excised from the Constitution by a group of extremists who claim to abide by that very Constitution. Whether it is healthcare or education or housing or food and shelter, the common good requires government to provide for the least among us. The role of government is to make sure everyone has enough. Washington should mourn and wail and lament over the lost promise of liberty and justice for ALL—not just a select few who have been blessed by structures put in place by many others and who climb the wealth ladder on the backs of the least among us.
Our land is indeed desolate because we have lost our moral compass, our true north. A consumer society hell bent on continuous material progress distorts the American promise and the Constitution. In a sense, is the Constitution not like the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes? The Beatitudes bless a lifestyle totally different from the perils of consumerism which fuels material prosperity. Providing for the people by making sure every person has enough goes against the grain of vulture capitalism.
Sacred Economics shows an alternative to the scarcity mentality which drives consumer capitalism. Sacred economics is based on abundance—God’s bounteous provision to be shared fairly by all.
It is tithing season in church. All that we have a Christians is gift—pure gift from a gracious creator who flares forth through all of creation and life. Giving back so that others may have a fair share is not optional. It is a mandate for Christians. When we fail to live biblically, Washington does indeed mourn over us. We are not directly punished by an angry God; however, in the ebb and flow of the cosmos and the nation, what goes around comes around.
On Sundays we have a video discussion group based on John Dominic Crossan’s The Challenge of Jesus. Put simply, Jesus challenges us to be what Christians should always be—countercultural. We are called to bring Christian witness to bear on our lives and politics. Wallis’s penetrating analysis of protect and provide offers a framework for witness and action. We can help refocus Washington and bring an end to her lamentation and mourning. Like the Bible, the Constitution stands for justice for all.