It can be argued that if Jesus is clear about one thing in the Gospel, it is to advocate for the poor and vulnerable. Over and over in his ministry, Jesus challenges people to be a voice for the voiceless and know that how we treat the “least of these” is how we treat Jesus himself. One of the main tenants of Catholic Social Teaching is to give Preferential Option to the Poor and Vulnerable. We are called to stand in solidarity with our vulnerable brothers and sisters in thought, word and deed.
To assess the morals of a society, we must look to how the poorest and most vulnerable people are treated. In making policy, how the law will affect the most poor and vulnerable should the main concern. I thought of Catholic Social Teaching, and this ideal specifically, when following the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. From what I saw and heard, both parties are fairly concerned with the middle class. Both political parties talked about how to create jobs and lower taxes for the middle class. This is extremely important, don’t get me wrong. Yet Catholic Social Teaching urges us, as faithful citizens, to be even more concerned about people experiencing poverty, oppression and discrimination. I did not see either party at its national convention put concerns surrounding poverty in the center of discourse. The conventions themselves cost tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer’s money while people go hungry and experience homelessness.
Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners magazine, writes about social justice as a Christian political activist. He does not claim to be a democrat or a republican, but works to keep issues surrounding poverty on the table no matter who is in power. In a recent blog post on sojo.net he writes:
So the purpose of government, according to Paul, is to protect and promote. Protect from the evil and promote the good, and we are even instructed to pay taxes for those purposes…..And the Scriptures say that governmental authority is to protect the poor in particular….And coming to a better moral balance in achieving fiscal responsibility, while protecting the poor, should be a bipartisan effort.
We can be prophets in our own time by keeping our politicians in check. We can remind them that their job, along with ours, is to put policy in place that promotes the common good in a way that protects the poor. There will be a lot of religious talk coming from both parties in the coming campaign season. As faithful citizens, it is our work to make sure Jesus is present at the table by daily supporting politics that advocates for people experiencing poverty and vulnerability.
Who do you see as some of the most vulnerable members of our society?
If a mark of the morals of a society is to look at how the poor are doing, how is our society doing?
If you cannot yet vote, what are ways that you can be an active faithful citizen?