A Guest Blog by Dr. Linda Seger, author of Jesus Rode a Donkey: Why Millions of Christians are Democrats
How do we make judgments from a spiritual perspective? How do we decide what choices are in line with spiritual values, and which are not?
We can begin by looking at Scripture and theology, and identifying the sweep and scope of values that we find throughout the Bible and in the Judeo-Christian heritage. Many of these same values are found in other world religions – ranging from Islam and Hinduism and Buddhism to various other spiritual philosophies.
There are several ideas in the Scripture that are relevant to our social and political world. They are showing Justice and Mercy and helping the Oppressed. There are thousands of verses about these issues – and we are told, in no uncertain terms, that we will be judged individually and as a nation by how we address these issues.
Many government policies relate to equality among people. We need to consider how the often-disenfranchised people will be treated. The scripture can help us judge policies that affect equality.
From a spiritual point of view, how should women be treated? Not only by other individuals, but by the country that they live in. From the beginning of scripture God placed the standard of equality between all, even men and women. “Male and female created He them …” Genesis 1:27
This equal status was later confirmed and established in the New Testament; “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28
Most of the great social movements have been about equalizing what has been unequal in our society. The Abolitionist Movement, the Women’s Movement, Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, Movements over Tribal Lands, Equality for all people of color, Children’s Rights, and Freedom from Religious Persecution – all of these were founded to make a more Just society.
Equality and Policy
If we look at various issues that are being considered for national policy, we can judge them by whether they are working toward equalizing what is unequal.
For instance, an issue such as Equal Pay for Equal Work tells us that society often has a bias. Work done by women should be as equally valued as work done by the men. Right now, women still only make 80 cents to the men’s dollar. That’s not Just.
Raising the Minimum Wage helps those who are working hard to make a living to care for themselves and their families. Often the minimum wage affects women more than men. Women need to be respected – and certainly within the work environment. Laws that recognize, and give a clear path for addressing sexual improprieties, should be affirmed and followed. I personally would like to see policies that affirm conscious-raising – within police departments and other companies, about treatment of women.
We currently have a country that is prejudiced about Mexicans and African-American and refugees and Muslims, among others. Fair treatment of all is a democratic value and can be found in many Bible verses and theological analyses.
There might be disagreements about exactly what policies best create a Just Society, but our decision-making begins by asking whether a policy is Just and whether that policy helps equalize the situation. We work toward Justice and set our Moral Compass toward Justice.
Just and Merciful Policy
We can make that judgment often by thinking of the “isms” and “schisms” within our society. This means looking at Racism, Sexism, Classism, Ageism, we might even create a Religion-ism that says that some religions deserve respect and others don’t. A Just, Merciful, and Democratic policy does not discriminate against or persecute any religion.
As a woman, I have been discriminated against and I could be vulnerable to certain forms of discrimination in the future, especially because I’m getting older and have also seen Ageism in action. I might be privileged now, but I might not be privileged under certain circumstances. So, I recognize that as a human being, I’m vulnerable to the twists and turns of fortune and national policy.
Privilege and Policy
Even more so in this administration, we see privilege prevail and other people left behind. I recognize my privilege – I might not be affected by many of the policies, but I hurt for those who have less privilege than I do, and find our country has tilted so much toward privilege, that most of our country will be hurt by these national policies. I have been looking more at policies that affect others – and looking for ways to stand by the side of those affected and fight these policies.
We can look at policies that affect those who are oppressed – to help equalize the playing field. These include the hurt, the physically and mentally ill, the disabled, the homeless, the hungry, those whom are disenfranchised and marginalized. I personally am thankful for my social security, and it has really helped lift a burden from my shoulders. Most Americans want to protect social security because it is Just to pay back what we earned and entrusted to this federal program, and because it is Merciful.
Health, Justice and Mercy
I care about protecting Medicaid because my sister was greatly helped by Medicaid when she had ALS. I care about the people who don’t have access to education like I had, or to job training. I remember how food stamps got me through the last years of Graduate School. I remember when my apartment was cold and ugly – and cheap. And I know what ugly and toxic environments can do to our spirit. I remember when we were evacuated by the forest fire in my little community of Cascade, Colorado and how dependent we all were on The Fire Department and on good communication with our local government. It is Just to protect these policies and services.
I’ve had medical problems – and some of them have not been covered by insurance and I wish they were. Although I have gone through many of my tough times with privilege, that has not always been true. I have struggled. And that struggle has helped me recognize that I could be in need again. So, I can identify and empathize with the needs of others.
When we are willing to empathize with others, and to accept our own vulnerabilities and our need for help, I believe we soften. We pray for those we don’t like very much. We pray for our Nation. We gather together to pray for the hurting. We try not to objectify others or to see them as “The Other.” We allow the Light of the Holy Spirit to guide us to Wisdom to choose our policies wisely, and with justice and mercy for all.
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