Today’s scripture readings at my church were quite poignant and perfectly timed. Our nation is moving towards a society which spends more and more on “freebies” for the “poor” of our society. The Tea Parties that were held around the nation were widely ridiculed by the press, mainly because “95% of the country is getting a tax break”. Why should they be protesting? And how would I draw anything like that from Scripture. I mean, come on, Jesus said “Love thy neighbor”, right? Isn’t taking from the rich and giving to the poor God’s work?
In the Acts of the Apostles, it says that the rich disciples sold their belongings and property and gave the proceeds to the Apostles to form a Church, where the materials were divided accordingly to each by needs. Now, to a casual observer, this sounds a lot like Communism. But watch the fine print. Were the Apostles a government? Did they demand the rich give them money? If the disciples didn’t pay, would the Apostles come by and possess everything of that disciple by force? No. Everything that was asked of the disciples was done on a voluntary basis. It’s the essence of Charity. People gave to the Church because they cared for their community, not because it was a Social Precept to redistribute the wealth so everyone had the same.
One issue I have with Catholic Democrats is their insistence that voting for Democrats serves the Catholic teaching of Social Justice. Social Justice is defined as “correcting the structures that perpetuate the need”. Effectively, if society is organized in such a way as to unfairly treat one group over another, then it is necessary for society to then be changed. However, the idea of social justice has been coopted by a need to make it a political doctrine rather than a community doctrine. Slowly but surely, compassion for others has been given to the government to dole out. Socialism is supposed to be the great Christian state, but nothing is further from the truth.
I’ve blogged about the Catholic take on socialism before, and I highly suggest you read it (it’s one of my better posts!) What I want you to consider is the idea of Mercy. Mercy is forgiveness, the ability to look past the sins of another. In the case of Thomas, who doubted Christ’s Ressurection, Jesus understood why he doubted, and easily forgave the man. Our current economic policy is being blamed on small groups of people: the “rich”, the AIG employee, the banker. However, there is not just one person here at fault. Rather than spend our time and energy attempting to lynch the people reviled for their social status, we should be merciful and not heavy-handed. Indeed, our government is clearly in the process of polarizing some individuals, scapegoating them for the ills of our current economic crisis. Is this the actions of a merciful government? Hardly. And we’ve seen these politicians and talking heads blaming people for small sins, such as taking bonuses that were promised before the turmoil late last year, while they neglect their own sins (such as Congress giving bonuses to their own staffers).
Have no doubt– putting the burden on the government for our social doctrine is not the best way to live the Church’s teaching of social justice. The individual and the community are the building blocks of Catholicism, and if we live correctly, perhaps our government will grow into a just government. If we put our faith in our government instead of ourselves, we will get something that is not the embodiement of social justice.