It seems like I haven’t written my thoughts downs for months, but it has only been a week. I have this yearly Bronchial problem that when I get a cold, it migrates into my lungs. I then have to take antibiotics to get rid of the virus. Ah, the results of developing asthma. Such is life and we move on. Finally feeling like my old self. I might even take Lucy for a walk this morning before school.
I have to admit I was fascinated by the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI, something that hasn’t happened in modern times, and the subsequent choice of the conclave. The Cardinals have chosen a Jesuit from Argentina, the first Pope in history to be from the Americas, although his family is from Italy. The new Pope will be called Francis after St. Francis of Assisi, a champion for the poor. Years ago I read some wonderful books about Francis and his humility. Pope Francis wants to take the church on a “Path of love. After so many scandals, so many souls who have abandoned the faith, here is a chance for a cleansing of the Vatican stables, a root-and-branch reform of the Curia and Papal administration, and a radical new emphasis on the core mission of the church; to reach out to the world.” The WSJ described the new Pope as someone who stayed true to his roots. It appears that the Cardinals want to return the church to its simpler roots of dedication and pilgrimage. It will be interesting to see how the Healing and new direction congruent with the gospel of Jesus Christ will play out with 1.2 billion diverse Catholics.
I want to shift gears, leaving a discussion about heaven to one about hell. The opinion piece that caught my eye this morning was “Escape From Spending Hell.” The article ends with this comment, “Paul Ryan budget: $4.6 trillion of spending cuts and no new taxes beyond the fiscal-cliff increases. The Patty Murray budget: a $975 billion spending cut and a $975 billion tax increase.” Talk about a huge divide. Maybe congress should be watching the Catholic Church to see how not to, and how to, do things. This is not a compromise in the least sense. Here we go again.
The Economist Alberto Alesina, a Professor at Harvard University, and several other Economists over the last 10 years have studied how economies have recovered from recessions. According to the WSJ their conclusion is our spend-more solution is the opposite of what we should be doing. “There is a general agreement on at least two things about the current U.S. economy. It is emerging from the deepest recession since the great Depression, and its debt level is unsustainable.” Alesina echoes this by saying, “The path-back to stronger growth is a combination of significant, permanent cuts in public spending and relatively small tax increases, if any.” Interesting advice from an Economist who teaches at a university not know for it conservatism.
President Obama and our congress have lost so much credibility over the last five years because they cannot agree on anything. Thus, our level of public debt continues to grow because of our insatiable appetite for spending more than we make. This has to change.
By now you are probably thinking, why did he mention a religious group and the government in the same blog? There is a reason. At the end of Acts chapter two and chapter four there are some interesting words from Dr. Luke. In chapter two under the heading “A Vital Church Grows.” In verse 44 it states, “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.” In chapter four starting in verse 32 Luke states, “Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.” The community looked at the Church being the church and grace was on them all. They took care of one another.
This was not a government taking money from its people, this was a group of people who recognized how much they were given and therefore had much responsibility they had to serve. The early Church stepped up, recognizing the social problems of their community, and did what they could.
The reason I have been thinking about this is because of a team I am on discussing education of religion majors. In light of the changing environment how do we prepare the students for future ministry? We are a Christ-centered institution, that is Urban and diverse, with a foundation in Liberal Arts. And Social Justice is an important part of our ethos. With all that on our plate, as Francis Schaeffer stated, “How then should we live?” This discussion included a discussion at lunch on Acts two and four, that I can’t stop thinking about it.
Can we as successful people tell the poor that all they have to do is pick themselves up by the bootstraps and they can pull themselves out of poverty? If they just take initiative and follow true north they can make it? I do believe this, but I also have seen so many young people with potential that get beaten down by the established systems that they give up and go back to what they know, whether it is a Rez or inner city. Much of our government spending goes for marginalized and disadvantaged people. If we cuit that spending, how does that need get met?
Church, we need to step up and do the work of the Church. Peter said at one point in time, “Silver and gold have I none, but what I do have I give to you, in the name Jesus Christ stand up and walk.” Somewhere along the line we have lost our focus, and I think it is time to recapture our love for service. It does not mean we change our political systems, but it does mean that if we cut spending the need that is there must be met some other ways. We that have should give. We that have been given resources should recognize God’s grace in our plenty and share with others. But we should also create systems that support initiative and innovation, so instead of creating a system that hurts when it helps, it creates self-dependency and autonomy. Creating a system that does not hurt people by just giving handouts, because this creates oppressive dependency, but creating a system that develops the desire to grow and contribute within marginalized people. It is time to stop relying on government for these handouts and be the Church.
And that is my thought for the day!