Election Week Musings

A guest post from Tiffany, mother of three

I count among my friends believers of varying religious stripes and political persuasions (and nonbelievers, too). And I deeply hope that any friend of mine would not only be tolerant and respectful of all variations of opinions and beliefs, but also willing to listen/read/contemplate them with an open mind and a tender heart. If you simply don’t like others’ ideas about government, that is your prerogative, but, as Peter wrote, please be hospitable and charitable and courteous to one another. Without grumbling.

Government is neither inherently good nor inherently bad. Government is what we make it. We are the people. We can be a miserly and avaricious people or a compassionate people.

Just as a family is organized to care for each individual member’s needs, the state is our country’s way of taking care of our citizens’ collective needs. Giving a homeless person a dollar may be a selfless act, but it is easy and has little lasting effect. What is hard but effective is to put energy into efficiently organizing our society so we can help the needy. I used to work at a food bank that did wonderful, difficult work. But a charity is a stopgap, not a solution in scale with the problems of the poor.

Unemployed people are generally not very happy. If you’ve ever been unemployed, you may find it harder to convince yourself that fellow unemployed workers want to stay unemployed, that they don’t wish to work, and that they’re unworthy of help. Humans can justify their lack of benevolence only when they are rigidly unwilling to view themselves in someone else’s shoes. Every human being is worth something. We show our belief in the innate value of a soul by not turning a blind eye to suffering or convincing ourselves that their disadvantages are their own fault but rather by empathizing and using our power for good.

And what would Jesus do? I feel confident in speculating that today, Jesus would continue his work to help the poor. He would spend each day washing feet, sharing food, visiting criminals, and healing the sick. He would advocate for living, breathing, suffering children and the diseased. He would say, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” Rather than advocating for folks who don’t want their tax rate raised from 33% to 36%, he would advocate for those who don’t eat dinner or who were never read to as children. He would say, “Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.” He would not say, “What’s mine is mine. Go get your own,” but rather, “Give ye them to eat.” He would not say, “Don’t share with that lazy person,” but rather, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” He would look on the poor with pity, not scorn. He would not assist the wealthy in tearing down their barns and building greater ones. He would say to the man with great possessions, “go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor . . .” He would say it is possible but very difficult for a wealthy man to enter heaven because his heart is where his treasure is. He would teach that we should treasure our neighbors, loving them as ourselves, and that we should show mercy as the Samaritan did. Whether you are Christian or not, surely you feel in the depth of your conscience that mercy is right and compassion is right and generosity of spirit is right and true and good.

If we are supposed to be a Christian nation, as so many claim, let us behave today as Christ would. We are only as strong as our weakest link. Let us strengthen our brethren, as Jesus bade. When we make a feast, let’s not invite our friends, kinsmen, or rich neighbors but rather the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind. When they are strong, they will be capable of helping lift up others as well, and cycles will be broken. There is nothing inherently wrong with wealth, and being wealthy is not a sin by any measure. What is sinful is covetousness and rapaciousness. The polar opposite of Jesus’ teachings are found in Ayn Rand’s anti-Christian works; they encourage individuals to be selfish and behave selfishly because the selfish become wealthy while the poor are parasites. In fact, the first socialists in recorded history are found in the Book of Acts; they were the first Christians, the ones who knew Jesus personally and attempted to implement his teachings among themselves.

Capitalism results in both booms and busts, and capitalism will not save us. All the wealth of our industrialized nation that has been produced by our capitalism over the years has proven not to reduce the poverty of the many, but rather only to concentrate wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer individuals. The fact is that society has always been unfair economically, and systematically so. In this way, a large segment of society is always systematically denied opportunity. People make good choices when they have good choices to choose from. How can you choose the best option if it’s never an option for you? What is right and fair would be not 100% egalitarianism but 100% equality of opportunity, and that can only be achieved systematically. Equality benefits not only the poor but the wealthy, too. Businesses will have many more consumers able to buy and interested in buying their products and services as more citizens pull out of poverty and into the middle class.

The wealthiest and happiest nations in the world are both capitalist and socialist. You will find that no one system will be met by the approval of 100% of its citizens. But time and time again, the most content citizens belong to those nations that have systems in place to ensure political and economic rights for all its citizens, thereby engineering a more equal society. Those highly taxed Scandinavian countries we’re supposed to be afraid of all have extremely low rates of unemployment, debt, poverty, sickness, homelessness, and crime while enjoying fantastic benefits such as free higher education, universal health care, job training, job security, subsidized child care, liberal maternity/paternity/sick leave, robust social security, efficient public transportation, long life expectancy, and the highest happiness rates in the world. Successful businesses acknowledge that there is always room for improvement and seek to implement best practices; our government will be successful when it does the same. Let’s put our best and brightest to the task of making a society that’s truly efficient in its compassion.

When we help another, we feel light and warmth in our soul, down to the innermost fibers of our being. You and I alone cannot solve this nation’s problems, but if everyone works together cooperatively instead of purely competitively, just imagine the living reality of that “Love one another” goodness. Our society does not have to be one with only the economic “survival of the fittest.” When we band together as a society we can use our collective good will to help each other, and we can all thrive together.

If ours is the best nation in the world, let us treat our citizens in the best way. Let’s soften our hearts toward our brethren and sisters. Let’s make sure our heart is pure and our intention is pure, and, please, let’s not use trickery or deceit to persuade.