Advocates for the Sheep
I’ve been finding something frustrating with local Christian leaders, of late.
Consider part of the Gospel reading from this past Sunday’s Catholic Mass readings:
Jesus said to them in reply,
“Go and tell John what you hear and see:
the blind regain their sight,
the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear,
the dead are raised,
and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”
The lame walk, and the dead are raised, yet the poor do not “have their pockets filled.” Instead, they receive the good news. A few chapters later, Jesus mentions the poor again:
Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to (the) poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Jesus doesn’t tell the rich man to procure for the poor a “living wage.” He doesn’t mention ensuring adequate revenue flow through a charitable government. Instead, the young man “went away sad, for he had many possessions.”
Our own Bishop Tobin offers related lessons:
We can get lost if we get wrapped up in materialism, secularism or hedonism, worshipping the false gods of this world instead of the one, true God.
The thing that frustrates me, with reference to the foregoing, is the all too common chastisement published as a recent editorial in the Rhode Island Catholic:
The Gospel this weekend reminds us that Jesus comes to us to bring sight to the blind, let the lame walk again, cleanse the lepers, bring hearing to the deaf, raise the dead and to proclaim the good news to the poor. The news is not good for thousands of Rhode Island poor families. They face devastating cuts in assistance and aid from state agencies. Many of them face the prospect of no health insurance coverage for themselves and their children.
“The news is not good”! But the News is good by definition — by faith. I realize the sentence was meant as a turn of phrase, but by such turns do we “get wrapped up in materialism.” Through the echo of professional activists do we stumble into secularism. It is unfair — perhaps immoral — of Christian leaders, such as those who publish the Catholic, to leverage religious mandates when offering specific policy opinions without in tandem seeking to help the objects of the chastisements to make the difficult decisions:
These are disturbing financial times in our nation but especially in Rhode Island. There are no easy answers and no quick fixes to the huge deficit. However, we urge Governor Carcieri and the leadership of the General Assembly to remember that the state budget is more than a fiscal plan; it reflects our values as a people. Budget choices have clear moral and human dimensions. The poor and needy should not be forced to endure choices that force them to live without health care, affordable housing, and basic needs.
At whose door, then, would it be most moral to lay the budgetary shortfall? That of public employees? Unions? Taxpayers? High-paid non-profit executives? Is there no case for simultaneously improving our economic ecosystem and nudging the needy off the public lifeline into it?
There’s a cowardice to solely declaring that the flow of resources to the poor must not be decreased. And it’s a cowardice that allows the leeches and corrupt aristocrats to lay the responsibility on the next most vulnerable group: the regular, hard-working citizens. Oughtn’t the Church be advocating for us, as well?