The Common Good

Balancing our Budget through Humility, Shared Sacrifice, and Hope

This week a large number of Americans are celebrating Holy Week, leading up to Easter Sunday. Churches will be packed with both the regulars as well as the once- or twice-a-year worshippers for the "Super Bowl of Sundays" to celebrate Christ’s victory over death and sin and his glorious resurrection.    

In the midst of an exasperating and polarized political debate around the U.S. budget, our national and political leaders can learn valuable lessons from Holy Week. Whatever your faith background may be, we could all benefit from a greater commitment to the humility, shared sacrifice, and hope that Holy Week embodies. An extra dose of humility, sacrifice, and, ultimately, hope represent the balm that could bridge many of our ideological differences and resolve the current political impasse around the budget that has paralyzed our political system and divided the nation.

Before He was arrested by Roman soldiers, Christ performed a profound act of humility by washing the feet of his disciples, including Judas — the very man who would soon betray him. Imagine if our political leaders from opposing sides of the aisle engaged in such an act of humility. Can you picture Congressman Paul Ryan and Senator Harry Reid washing each other’s feet? While this act of humility may seem impossible and almost comical in this modern age of partisan politics, the symbolism associated with humanizing and affirming the dignity of our adversaries is not. Somehow, compromise has become anathema in our politics. Humility reminds us no single leader or party possesses a monopoly on morality and truth. A significant dose of humility could inspire Republicans to embrace the need for additional revenue in order to fix our fiscal crisis, and it could convict Democrats with greater courage to address runaway spending, particularly through sensible reforms to our currently unsustainable entitlement programs. These political compromises will not be easy or simple, but we can’t continue to confuse ideology with principle and place zero-sum politics over the common good.

On Easter Sunday, Christians will celebrate the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made in his death so that we might have everlasting life. In the midst of our protracted fiscal battle, very few politicians or pundits talk about the imperative of shared sacrifice. Talking about sacrifice is rarely politically popular or expedient, butonly this truth will set us free. Shared sacrifice means that we all may need to pay a little more either through taxes or a reduction in tax breaks; future generations may need to retire a little later in life; and some older Americans may need to pay a bit more for health services. Shared sacrifice may mean that we give back more of our time and resources to help lend a helping hand to those in need and expand the ladders of opportunity to those who are often shut out. But a commitment to shared sacrifice must recognize the Biblical imperative to protect the most weak and vulnerable among us in our global community. It is neither moral nor prudent to expect the most impoverished to bear the brunt of balancing our budget.  

The self-inflicted wounds caused by politically contrived crises are eroding public confidence and trust in our political leaders. A cancer of cynicism risks further polarizing our nation and making the public further disillusioned and disaffected from our political process. Yet our nation needs a more engaged and active citizenry now more than ever before. While it may be tempting and easier to participate in the politics of complaint at the dinner table or water cooler, we have a civic and moral responsibility to remind our elected officials to govern according to our priorities. Now is the time to reject apathy and take action by calling or writing your senator or congressmember about the pressing need for a grand compromise that affirms our shared values and protects the most vulnerable.  

If there’s one word that captures the very essence of Easter Sunday it would be hope. Hope is the most powerful antidote to cynicism. The good news is that hope is a renewable resource.   We can be hopeful today because solutions can be found to our fiscal woes that don’t jeopardize our economic recovery and hurt the least of these among us. We can be hopeful because the values and ties that bind us together are stronger than our often exaggerated differences and divisions.  

Adam Taylor is Vice-President of Advocacy at World Vision, and author of “Mobilizing Hope: Faith-Inspired Activism for a Post-Civil Rights Generation.

Photo: Dome inside the U.S. Capitol Building, gary718 / Shutterstock.com

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