Just how do we fix what needs fixing in these United States of America? For example, we hear a lot about the problems of our economy and unemployment—and it seems that the poor have become a pawn in our political brawl.
What is the answer?
There are those who think a more socialistic approach to the economy is the answer. However, a spiritually impoverished socialism is surely not the answer—and the “gospel of hope” we hear from big government advocates is shattered by their attack on religious liberty and disregard for traditional moral values.
Nor is a spiritually impoverished capitalism the answer. All we need to do is recall the birthing pangs of unions as laborers fought for fair wages and safe working conditions. Now, sadly, people seem to discern that Big Union is as dangerous as Big Government, especially when it seems that unions work for their own enrichment regardless of how their agenda affects others.
Human beings are products of their environment. We often feel lost in all the turmoil and confusion plaguing us today. But, think of the poor and disenfranchised. They are especially powerless to influence the formation of social values and policies which affect them and all citizens of a community or nation.
So, it seems to me that a spiritually impoverished Big Whatever is far from what we need to get our nation back on track.
A Voice of Reason and Hope
Pope Francis has courageously confronted the social ills and religious callousness in both the world and in our own Catholic Church. His “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”) pulls no punches as he acknowledges the obvious failures of Church hierarchy and the faithful to embrace totally the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He urges us to begin to listen, really listen, and to learn from the poor. He holds that making the poor an intimate and effective part of our society and our government, and our Church, is central to what it means to be Christian.
The pope is critical of a capitalistic vision with the sole goal of making money. He states that when the haves have it all, part of what they have belongs to the poor. He does not advocate a Robin Hood approach—rob the rich to give to the poor. He insists that part of society’s responsibility to the poor is to enhance employment opportunities with just wages.
He calls for a balanced understanding of who we are as fellow humans, all creatures of the same God, all loved by God and created to live in love and peace. He wants to see those with financial power working to free people from poverty and powerlessness.
In spite of shrill talking heads on TV and radio, he does not say that capitalism is intrinsically bad. He does not condemn private ownership of property or the right of entrepreneurs to enjoy the fruit of their genius (or maybe luck).
Pope Francis does insist that each person, regardless of race, economic and social status, has a sacred obligation to the common good. This common good includes a sacred duty to assist the poor to rise above their limitations and to achieve self-determination.
Try a Bit of Synthesis
For the sake of our nation and our positive influence in the world community, and for some semblance of sanity, let’s try a bit of synthesis:
- In our efforts to help the poor, let’s develop a true appreciation of their human dignity and their need to achieve self-determination, find jobs and have an effective voice in society.
- We need to expand our limited understanding of “helping the poor,” to include those imprisoned in “psychological poverty,” a hopelessness that they will never, ever be able to escape their pain and despair.
- Let’s set aside the tendency for self-aggrandizement and face the truth about who we are and what we do.
- We must synthesize what our Constitution says about no “establishment of religion” with its guarantee of religious liberty; we need to acknowledge God as creator and embrace again, as a nation, the fact that religious values and truth enhance social progress for all people.
I have a voice—and so do you!