On March 22, 35 co-sponsoring organizations of Christians, Muslims and Jews submitted the 53-page “Priorities for a FAITHFUL BUDGET—Acting With Mercy and Justice as One Nation Under God” to The United States Congress. The document was their answer to “The Ryan Budget,” which was submitted and voted on by the House of Representatives.
The effort was called “A Call to Action from the Faithful Budget Campaign. Why was this response needed? The religious leaders of the various faith traditions saw the House of Representatives’ budget as totally lacking in anything that resembled charity or distributive justice for the poorest in our society. It sinned against the poor and powerless and rewarded those already rich with more.
In the Catholic Church, our bishops said the approved budget was “immoral” because it placed the burden of reducing the debt squarely on the backs of the poor and powerless. Rather than just rail against the injustices of the budget, the Faithful Budget Campaign leaders formulated a budget that represents the values inherent in the various faith traditions that signed on.
The Faithful Budget is based squarely on the scriptural call that Christians, Jews and Muslims share—a just society and a healthier world. The message to our national leaders: “Act with mercy and justice by serving the common good, robustly funding support for poor and vulnerable people both at home and abroad, and exercising proper care and keeping of the earth.”
The poor and the powerless were always on the mind and heart of Jesus. He read the Hebrew Scriptures, he heard Isaiah say: Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed to free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not hide yourself from your kin? (Isaiah 58) And He Himself laid out a very specific set of mandates to reach Heaven in Matthew’s Gospel, the 25th Chapter.
And along side Isaiah and Jesus, the Holy Qur’an says: Never shall you attain to true piety unless you spend on others out of what you cherish yourselves; and whatever you spend – verily, God has full knowledge thereof. (The Holy Qur’an 3:92)
The unfortunate reality, having said all of the above, is that so many of our citizens are convinced that our government is not the right place to address the ills of the society, but solely on the individual religious persons.
My hope is that this wonderful and faithful budget presented by our religious leaders will change minds and hearts. The challenges we face as a nation need the government, a government that embodies the principles of love, mercy, and justice for all.