As I look at the struggles of this nation today, with so many families straining to meet their needs while a handful of billionaires hoard literally more wealth than ever, I look to the Gospel for a vision of a future where we can all thrive.
After time alone on the Sea of Galilee after John the Baptist’s death, Jesus arrived on shore to a crowd of 5,000 gathered to see him perform miracles up close and personal. Yet after he heals the sick among them, there’s almost nothing to feed the crowd as the day ends — just a couple fish and a few loaves of bread. Rather than leave the people to fend for themselves, Jesus miraculously multiplied the provisions, making them bountiful enough to satisfy the large crowd. The specter of scarcity reared its head for a moment, but did not prevail.
Scarcity has been the paradigm for far too long in American politics. We are constantly offered a choice of which group of people must go without, in the name of austerity: Should we cut nutrition supports for our toddlers, or health care for their parents? Times are tight, we are told — always. So go ahead and choose: who’s most deserving of that mouthful of fish or bread? Yet tax breaks for profitable corporations and the wealthiest aren’t subject to the same scrutiny.
The pandemic brought those false choices into stark relief, amid the impossible choices working families were forced to make. When schools and childcare centers shut down, millions of parents (mostly women) “decided” to leave the workforce in order to take care of their children, or to attempt to do both, and feel like they’re failing their families and their employers. Either/or. Fail at one or fail at both. Take your pick. Meanwhile, billionaires’ fortunes grew by 54% during the first year of the pandemic.
It doesn’t have to be this way. As a start in the right moral direction, the American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan move our economic policies away from a faithless austerity toward a day when we can all flourish. This plan starts from the premise that we are all worth investing in. No matter what we look like, where we live, or how we earn a living, we all deserve to rest assured at the end of the day that the people we love have everything they need.
These plans will make the essential infrastructure of family life — childcare, school, and healthcare — more robust. They create good jobs and better pay in workplaces from construction sites to daycare providers. And they lay a new foundation on everything from roads to bridges to clean energy to broadband. It all gets funded by stopping the wealthiest few from dodging their fair share of taxes. These policies lay the foundation for what we call a “holy recovery”—an economic recovery that’s experienced by all of us, in which we are liberated from constant and impossible economic dilemmas.
Tearing Down Barriers
Of course there is opposition. A faction of politicians that dominates the Republican Party defends austerity for working people and tax loopholes for the richest handful. They prop up this radical and unpopular agenda by erecting barriers to voting. If they can stop enough Black, Brown and Native voters who cast ballots in 2020 from being heard in the future, the unpopular and immoral policies that benefit a powerful few at everyone else’s expense become untouchable. We all suffer immeasurably as a result, and democracy withers. We need the For the People Act to reverse these schemes.
People of faith must meet this unholy agenda with a determined and concerted moral cry for a holy recovery. When we speak out and work together across race, place, and faiths, we can overcome austerity and bigotry with a vision of flourishing and dignity. Like a chorus, when we lift our voices together, we create an inspiring message that cannot be ignored. We can prevail upon Congress to pass the American Families Plan and the American Jobs Plan, as well as the For the People Act which tears down barriers to voting.