I believe that my faith calls me to be a fully responsible and active participant in our society.
As a Christian, I am called to follow what Jesus called the two greatest commandments—to love God, and to love my neighbor as myself. But this kind of “Golden Rule” statement is not unique to Christians. In the Jewish tradition, the rabbi Hillel said, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor.” Native American holy man Black Elk said, “All things are our relatives; what we do to everything, we do to ourselves. All is really One.” In addition, the book of Acts highlights sharing resources as central to the lives of the early Christians.
While not rich by societal standards, my husband and I are richly blessed—with families and friends who love us, and experiences that have enriched our lives in non-quantifiable ways. Our faith traditions call us to be thankful—and the faithful response is to share our many gifts in ways that contribute to the welfare of all.
Personally, this means reaching out to neighbors in need with a smile, a kind word, and a helping hand. In community, it means joining with others to ensure that all have daily bread, a safe place to sleep, and opportunities for health care, education, child care and living wage employment.
The days of believing that all who work hard enough can pull themselves up by their bootstraps are over; some people really have no bootstraps. Education systems have failed. Millions of living wage jobs have been outsourced. Our society is endangered by the widening gap between the haves and have-nots. Even Alan Greenspan, in 2005, said, “The income gap between the rich and the rest of the US population has become so wide, and is growing so fast, that it might eventually threaten the stability of democratic capitalism itself.”
While my faith informs my participation in civil discourse it does not do so to impose my faith upon others but to help those in need. I believe that faithful civic participation requires sacrifice by those who have. I recognize that all I have comes through the providence of a greater power, and I must share that bounty. But the needs are overwhelming, and individual efforts can’t close the gap. My “Golden Rule” sensibility makes me aware that helping neighbors in need benefits everyone so my notion of civic responsibility encompasses all of society. Our society has enough resources so everyone can have enough. That being the case, I believe we have a responsibility to work for public policies that truly work for the common good. This requires speaking out and holding our public officials accountable for their actions.
When I look into the faces and hearts of my neighbors I see reflections of myself, with similar needs and fears. Our common humanity undergirds my belief that love of neighbor requires our communal, faithful and active political participation for the welfare of all.
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