Wednesday, July 20, 2011

WWJD? A good question in times of recession

By Ken Sawa, MSW, LCSW
CEO/Excecutive Vice-President, Catholic Charities San Bernardino/Riverside

Budgets are based on values.  This is true when parents decide to forego something they need at Target, so instead a child can pay to go on a school field trip.  Or a mom’s frugality during the week makes it possible to afford the extra gas needed to visit family that lives out of the area.  Anyone that has to manage finances makes decisions about how to spend their pool of never enough money based on what’s most important and most necessary to them.
Beginning in our childhood and throughout our adulthood, our Catholic Faith is a loyal and constant reminder of the deeply held values of our Catholic Community.  As people who belong to the Catholic Community, it is our job to live out those values, so we will make the right choices as we journey through life.  The phrase “What Would Jesus Do?” found on bracelets and posters is quite instructive as we each strive to be like Christ in all ways – to be Christ in the world.
 There is a very important question looming now that people of faith must contemplate. What would Jesus do during these times of budget crisis at the federal, state, and local levels of government?   How would Jesus decide on necessary spending cuts or tax increases?
There are three major themes in Catholic Social Teaching that clearly outline the values of Jesus that can help us think through seemingly complicated budgetary issues that are currently being debated across our country. 
Dignity of the Human Person:  Human life is sacred, and the dignity of the human person is the starting point for a moral vision for society.
Preferential Option for the Poor:  The moral test of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable members. We are called to look at public policy decisions in terms of how they affect the poor and those on the margins of society. 
Common Good and Community:  The obligation to "love our neighbor" has an individual dimension, but it also requires a broader social commitment. Everyone has a responsibility to contribute to the good of the whole society, to the common good.
Talk of budget deficits, tax increases, percentage of the US budget spent on the military, corporate welfare, Medicare, and budget cuts can be overwhelmingly complicated.  Though many of us have grown weary and frustrated by the partisan grandstanding we hear about day after day, we must not grow complacent and just let “them” handle it.  For this is a tremendous opportunity for people of faith to interject OUR values into the budget debates occurring now in our cities, counties, state, and country. 
We must stand firm on our belief in the value of constantly striving for the common good – not what is in my best interest or in the best interest of other particular individuals or groups who already have their fair share of the economic pie.  Seeking the common good also  requires that resources are available for the most vulnerable in our society.  And our value of the sacredness of life and the dignity of each human person demands that budgets must aim to enhance the lives of people and their families not redlining their needs as too expensive.
Though economics, politics, law, and public policy may be quite complicated for most of us, our values as Catholics are not.  It is time for us to make our values known in the public arena as the discussion continues about how to best spend or not spend government resources.  Money is spent or cut based on what is most important.  So what is most important to a follower of Jesus?

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