Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Opinion

May 29, 2012

LION AND THE LAMB: Two choices before us

CROSSVILLE — This week started off with two historic commemorations—a religious event that turned political, and a political event that turned religious.  

On this past Sunday churches around our country celebrated the birthday of the Christian church. On the fiftieth day after Easter (Pentecost), followers of the man who had been crucified as subversive by the Roman Empire were gathered together in Jerusalem, and were empowered by God's Spirit to continue the alternative community that he had established. Rejecting the Roman system of economic inequality, they decided to share their wealth so that all could have their basic needs met (Acts 2). This was considered subversive and socialistic by the Romans with their trickle down system, but many in the 99 percent found it good news and joined Jesus' alternative community.

Today we find the same debate going on in our nation. The Republican House budget bill, to protect tax breaks for the rich and inflate military spending, aims to cut $310 billion from vital domestic social programs such as food stamps, health care, child care assistance, school lunch funding, Head Start, and aid for older people with disabilities.

Republican Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chair, has said that his budget plan of cutting anti-poverty programs and helping people get out of poverty and dependency into a life of independence was inspired by the teachings of his Catholic faith. In response, however, nearly ninety faculty members and priests at Georgetown, the Jesuit university in Washington, sent him the following letter:

"We would be remiss in our duty to you and our students if we did not challenge your continuing misuse of Catholic teaching to defend a budget plan that decimates food programs to struggling families, radically weakening protections for the elderly and sick, and gives tax breaks to the wealthiest few. Your budget appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

On Monday a second historic commemoration took place—Memorial Day observances by communities all across our nation. Originally called "Decoration Day," this observance started out in the South in 1865 as a day of remembrance for those who had died in the Civil War. The idea then spread to the North, and in 1868 was named "Memorial Day" by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. An estimated 750,000 died in that terrible war. Later, in 1950, a Joint Resolution of Congress provided a religious context for the observance of the day: "Requesting the President to issue a proclamation designating May 30, Memorial Day, as a day for a nationwide prayer for peace." (64 Stat. 158)

As one might imagine, the breadth of this concern has greatly increased over the years. It has been estimated that U.S. war dead from our 1775 War of Independence through all our other wars and military sorties to the present comes to approximately 1,300,000. We don't know what the future might hold for us since it appears that we are now in a state of permanent war. Our longest war ever, the current Afghanistan War, continues to produce many casualties, both in terms of death and permanent injuries.

The costs to our common wealth and common good over the years have been huge. We now spend more on our military than the rest of the world combined. We have about 700 military bases in 130 countries worldwide, and another 6,000 bases in the U.S. and our territories. According to research analysts at the National Priorities Project, our overall military costs budgeted for fiscal year 2013 will come to $931 billion. It also reports that the U.S. has spent nearly $8 trillion on defense since 9/11. Funds to underwrite these costs have been taken from our domestic needs in health care, education, employment development, cultural resources, and environmental sustainability.

Maintaining an empire is expensive. It will also require the soul of our nation.

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