Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Being Vigil-ant

So Rick tells me I should post more blogs, and I try to do what he says, wise man that he is.

We did this vigil last Wednesday night, and it went quite well. It was called the Vigil for a Moral Budget, and it was just that--prayer for a change in the tide of the budget process, which seems bent on rewarding those who have already rewarded themselves (through hard work, certainly, but I'm not the first to say that the rich "have received their reward"). The federal budget, when all is said and done, will likely be one of the most lopsided, rich up/poor down, budgets ever written. So we gathered to pray about that, and mainly to pray for those who will be left out when the goodies are distributed.

Wednesday, it turns out, is not a great night to invite people of faith to a vigil. I invited a lot of folks who had other engagements. December, it turns out, isn't the best time for folks either. But there were twenty folks there, on a chilly, windy Kansas City evening, gathered in prayer for our elected officials, who don't always seem like "ours" any more.

I believe in the power of government. I believe in democracy. I believe that there are many women and men serving in our democratic government who really want to do the best for the citizens of this country. Unfortunately, there isn't one great answer to the question "what is best?" Well, maybe there is. It is found in the words of the prophets--Amos, my favorite cranky proclaimer among them. It is found in the words of Jesus. It's also found in the proclamation of the Buddha, Muhammed, the Tao, and the scriptures of virtually every religion.

Those with more should give to those who have less--that's pretty much The Answer in a nutshell. And they should do it directly, toute suite. Not by "investing" it in business and waiting for it to trickle down. Come on, we can't really with a straight face (or as close as we can manage) ask a mother trying to raise four children by herself on a meager salary to wait for some help to "trickle down." In fact, we probably ought not to have governmental practices that involve the word "trickle." Language has power, and that language has the power of actually conveying what's really going on.

So the process is broken, and the government seems broken, and soon all of those who've read those scriptures and try to live them may be pretty brokenhearted. Brokenheartedness isn't enough. As hard as it is to try to speak a word of justice to the nations (see Isaiah), it must be done. And we can feel good about ourselves after we speak that word, but our work is not yet done. There are still a lot of people without food in a country with more than enough.

What would happen if we redistributed the wealth of this nation to those who need it the most? Some of them would make really poor purchases. Some would buy drugs and X Box 360's (which may not be that different). That's always been the argument, hasn't it, for keeping the poor on a short leash? They just spend their money on things they don't need. But if "spending your money on things you don't need" was a real reason for the government to control people's access to wealth, then all the yacht companies--not to mention the restaurant where I earn student loan payments--would go out of business.

I happen to think that most hungry people, if given enough money to live on, would buy food.

S o let's just give them the money. And wait for it to "trickle up." What an interesting world we'd live in then.

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