Why government spending matters

Brothers and sisters, I have spent a long time wrestling with how to phrase and post this blog – as the conversation in Washington, DC, has gotten more and more heated around issues of our debt and deficit, and around cutting spending and not increasing taxes to do so. Action alerts have been going out from Peace Witness Ministries asking you to call on your Senators, Representatives, and the Obama Administration from a variety of angles – from a Brethren sense of mutuality, from a sense of seeking things that make for peace, from our predisposition toward service, and from the perspective of standing with those in poverty and who hunger.

All of those perspectives are extremely important, but today I want to just say it bluntly – government spending matters. It is how we take a world and economic system that is certainly not based on scripture, and seek to give everyone as equal an opportunity as possible to establish self worth, to know themselves to be the beloved children of God that they are. Government spending matters.

I want you to consider the story of Nancy – and watch her story in the youtube video below:

Nancy’s story is just one of many. Half in Ten, a coalition of poverty and hunger related groups, has been collecting these stories to give a face to these programs. When you consider what the voice of the church should be in advocating about government programs, I want you to think about people like Nancy. They are people in our churches, whom our Brethren homes serve, and who come to soup kitchens in our churches. They are your friends and neighbors, and, brothers and sisters, they are the faces and realities of the programs that are now in danger of being cut.

There are lots of reforms we need to do to government spending. It is certainly true that we need to contain the deficit, and not allow it to spiral out of control. But the voice of the church says that what we spend our money on – where we put our wealth, is a foundational statement about who we are as a people. And right now, we are choosing to invest in wars and things that make for wars, and in tax breaks so that individuals can keep more of what they have – rather than extending the table, as we talked about at Annual Conference, and meeting the needs of the broader community around us.

Church, it is time to say no more. Call your Members of Congress today, and tell them you will not stand by while they keep playing these games with programs that are life and death to those most in need amongst us.

Peace in the Marketplace

“While refugees go homless
and die before they live,
while children have no future –
our apathy forgive!
Where hope fades to drperession,
despair erodes the soul,
restore in us a passion
to make the broken whole.”

– From Great God of Earth and Heaven

Those words were part of a hymn we sang during closing prayers yesterday – marking the end of a day that may see the most difficult conversations for US participants – peace in the marketplace. To hear stories of what our economic vitality has brought to the rest of the world – environmental degradation, exploitation of workers, and colonialist economics … it is hard to hear that the way in which we live, the products which we choose to buy, the stocks our pension funds invest in – pretty much everything which economically sustains our lives – wreaks havoc on the rest of the world.

If we are to be a church that seeks peace, we must address the way in which we interact with the world in the marketplace. And not just our governments – it is about the individual decisions we all make. It might be a little more expensive, it might take a little more time and research, but we can make good decisions in the consumer marketplace that support fair wages and treatment of workers around the world, that support not exploiting resources, and more. And when we start to speak through our decisions, the government will start to take notice.

We prayed these words last night:

“This evening we remember before God the people of the world who hunger and thirst for justice and peace, for bread and dignity. And we hold up before God the peacemakers who build harmony and right relationships after the pattern of The One who has made peace by the blood of His cross, even Jesus our Liberator and Redeemer.”

May we be those peacemakers.