Saturday, September 21, 2013

Liberty and Justice for All

Front Courtyard
-The Desert Retreat House-

It was very disheartening to read an article by David Firestone in the New York Times in which he reports about a rally held yesterday by House Republicans after they had voted to defund healthcare reform. Firestone referred to the rally as "ghoulish." 

The gathered-together lawmakers had just voted to keep tens of millions of people from getting health insurance. They had also voted to continue the sequester; and so millions of Americans will be prevented from receiving public housing subsidies, Head Start seats, and unemployment benefits. On top of all that, the day before they had voted to cut food stamps for almost 4 million low-income Americans. 

Yesterday they all gathered together yesterday for a 'ghoulish rally" to celebrate it all. The rally was boisterous and loud. A party atmosphere prevailed - lots of back-patting, loud cheers and lengthy periods of applause. You could hardly even imagine that the partygoers at that rally had just voted to inflict so much pain on the poorest, neediest and the most marginal of their fellow citizens whom they had sworn to represent. 

I wonder if those congress people might have ended their rally by placing hand over heart and pledging allegiance to a nation dedicated to the principle of "liberty and justice for all?" 

I think about all the many people in this land walking on various spiritual paths who will be engaging in their spiritual practices this weekend- going to mosques and temples synagogues, churches, sitting in a garden, meditating and praying. I think about all this in light of what happened at yesterday's "ghoulish rally." 

After all, Islam is very clear about caring for the needs of the poor. God is compassionate and followers of Islam are called to be compassionate. Muslims fast for a month to remind themselves of the needs of the poor and hungry. Muslims are also expected to give a percentage of all their resources to care for the needs of the poor.

The Hebrew tradition is steeped in the principles of social justice. Hebrew prophets like Amos railed against  kings and princes and temple leaders who "trample on the needy and bring to ruin the poor of the land." Concern for the needs of the sick and the poor is at the core of Jewish belief and practice to this very day.

Jesus told his disciples: "the way you treat the poorest and the neediest is the way you treat me," and devoted himself to the establishment of a just and compassionate world where everyone has a place of equal dignity. 

And just yesterday, amid the hoots, hollers and applause up on Capitol Hill, in Rome the pope was telling Christians that disciples should put care for the poor and marginalized as the top priority for those who would follow Jesus.

The Buddha taught that everyone is interdependent and interconnected. The Buddha lived among the poorest of the poor and he taught his followers: "Whoever would tend me, he should tend the sick." Buddhists vow to respect and honor all beings.

On this weekend as millions of people throughout the land walk their spiritual paths, the echoes and cheers of a "ghoulish rally" that celebrated the trampling down of the poor and the casting away of the sick and needy, should sound loudly in our ears, and touch us deeply in our spirits.  


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