In listening to all of the political rhetoric from both sides of the aisle, I have become fascinated by the attempts of Senator Sanders and Secretary Clinton to see who can outdo each other in promising to give away the most "stuff". Everything will be FREE! The Democratic Party has been fundamentally transformed through the presidency of Barack Obama as they move farther and farther to the left. The Paul Ryan budget would indicate that there isn’t much difference on the Republican side of things either.
Out-of-control spending has brought our country to its knees under the weight of 19 trillion dollars in debt. That doesn't seem to concern our politicians striving to maintain their power and their perks. Government of the people, by the people, and for the people is a fading memory in the consciousness of many Americans. We seem to have become a government of the elite, by the elite, and for the elite. That has serious repercussions for those of us desiring to live our lives in faithful witness to Jesus Christ and His Church.
Being a good steward of what God has entrusted to our care is important. We are challenged to give generously of our time, talent, and our treasure. Biblical teachings on tithing have most likely been part of our education and formation as well. We are called to not only follow the Ten Commandments, but to live out the Spiritual & Corporal Works of Mercy in the spirit of the beatitudes. These are all good things demonstrating the faithful stewardship of the Christian believer. The question that comes to the forefront is a simple one. What do we do when the government usurps these roles from the Christian faithful?
As I look at the Catholic institutions prevalent all across our country I realize that we have been blessed by the sacrifice and commitment of many who have gone before us. We have beautiful churches in which to worship, schools for education and formation, hospitals to care for the sick, nursing homes to care for the aged, and a multitude of organizations under Catholic Charities reaching out to the poor and marginalized members of society. The faith has been lived well throughout American history when it comes to serving people in need through the outreach of the Catholic Church.
There are consequences when the government seeks to take on all these roles. Taxes go up and the active redistribution of wealth takes shape. Regulations and government bureaucracy complicate the mission of beneficial ministries and services provided by the Church and its organizations. Religious Orders and other institutions are pressured to compromise Church teaching or suffer harsh consequences. (The Little Sisters of the Poor are just one example.)
Why does the government want to fulfill the roles previously handled by family members, church congregations, and local entities? Is it just a safety net being provided by the government or is it an all-out attempt to diminish the role and influence of the Church on society? As more and more people become dependent upon the government for their survival, the role of the Church to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, and care for the sick will be altered dramatically. Philanthropic endeavors will diminish due to the perception that the government is already providing these things to the poor and marginalized members of society. Thus, why should I give of my time, talent, and treasure when I think these things are all being addressed through governmental agencies?
If the government was able to provide these services efficiently it may be a little less worrisome. However, the government is not well-known for its efficiency. As political promises are made during this election season, we the people need to understand how the ripple effects on proposed legislation or executive actions handed down in an authoritarian manner will impact us. The 19 trillion dollar price tag is only one component. The role and mission of the Church can, and will be, altered dramatically in the process.
The State is not to force a religion upon us. However, what happens when the government becomes the religion?