As Christians, we will be judged by how we support the care of God’s creation; Jesus repeatedly taught us to work for peace and to care for the people of the earth.
How we allot and spend our combined resources – our budgets – are moral documents, reflecting our values. The proposed state and federal budgets reflect few of the religious values that our Savior taught, or for which our churches proclaim they stand.
At the federal level, the proposed budget eliminates school lunches and HeadStart programs, funding for programs for the elderly such as ‘Meals on Wheels’, and drastically reduces money for environmental protection a clean-up. Also significantly reduced is funding for foreign aid and diplomacy, and for Medicaid which provides healthcare for some 30% of our neediest poor and elderly.
The billions of dollars removed from Medicaid will be transferred, instead, to a 10% increase in military spending (the U.S. already spend more than any other nation on earth on armaments) to a Pentagon renown for waste and fraud. Some of this money will also go for tax cuts for the wealthiest citizens in our nation.
At the state level, the proposed budget only has a 1.9% increase over the current budget. Funding for education (early education, primary, vocational and college) programs has not been increased to meet the 2.7% rate of inflation. School districts will be penalized for a decrease in enrollment, although classroom costs will not change. Severe decreases in funding for vocational training for those students who are not college-bound practically eliminates the possibility that students graduating can obtain training to become productive citizens.
In the Ohio budget, tax cuts proposals include benefits for the upper socio-economic class, while significantly increasing sales tax and local income taxes, which negatively impact those with lower incomes.
The Ohio Department of Aging, which provides services to the elderly, receives no additional monies, although the percentage of elderly Ohioans living on fixed incomes and in need of these services is rapidly increasing. With the decrease in or elimination of Medicaid funding at the federal level, essential preventive healthcare measures and addressing the critical opioid addiction problem in Ohio will go unfunded. No additional funding for non-physical healthcare, will lead to more and more crises for the homeless and those suffering from addiction and mental illness.
As stewards of God’s creation (Genesis 1:28), elimination of major portions of the Environmental Protection Agency should cause great concern. As the effects of global warming becomes more apparent, we need to take additional measures to ensure the quality of our air and water and earth, rather than ignore this growing world crisis.
Yet money for border walls to separate us from one another and for life-killing weaponry is being proposed!
Is this really what we as a nation stand for?
- when I was hungry, you canceled my food stamps;
when I was thirsty, you diverted lead & coal into my water;
when I was sick, you tripled my insurance rates;
when I was in prison, you enslaved me to corporations;
when I was a stranger with brown skin you deported me;
from the lonely you took away social programs;
from the elderly, you took away meals & medicine;
from the workers, you took away legal protections;
from the young, you took away school funding;
from the victims, you took away shelter;
instead of diversity, you encourage intolerance;
instead of caring, you encourage isolation;
instead of equity, you encourage military excess.
It is our obligation, as people of faith, to do everything within our power to call our senators and representatives to account for their votes on these budget decisions. There are many things individuals can do: make telephone calls, visit legislative offices, write letters and send emails to elected officials, and write letters to the editors of your local papers.
Yet, is this enough?
Perhaps more importantly, what are we- the members of Saint John'<uls – going to do to provide leadership to our city and state reflecting our priorities? Jesus’ voice must be our voice. We, as a church, can have an important influence. What are we going to do?
We should hold the clergy responsible for talking and preaching about these issues, reminding us that we are responsible for the world we live in, and we need to be vigilant to see that no one is left behind.
This is not politics! – it is caring for our world and the people in it.
Written for Crossroads, Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington and Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 19 March 2017