On the Corner
BY ROBERT DOCTER –
“It’s the economy, stupid. It’s the economy.”
Jesus could almost (but not quite) have spoken these words inasmuch as he talked more about money issues than almost any other subject. The economic life of the Palestine of his day provided the backdrop for his messages. It was rough to live there, with its extensive slavery, burdensome taxation, an absence of political freedom, cultural conflict, a borderline caste system, and mountains of abject poverty.
Jesus didn’t spend any time proposing economic theories. None of his discourse attempted to revolutionize a population on economic grounds. He never had a favorite economic system. What seemed to trouble him the most concerned the difficulties experienced by those who had to live within the economy of that day. His was a message of compassion and hope.
Doing something about social injustice wasn’t easy then, and it isn’t easy now.
The image of the Army with the general public is that of a spiritually committed group of good people willing to sacrifice much of their own time and energy in helping the less fortunate. I think we foster that image. I think that one day it was even accurate. I’m not sure it fits us today. It hurts me to say it deeply.
It was appropriate for us to professionalize our social service work. It needed to happen. The increased complexity of remedial and treatment services demanded it. We have some magnificent social programs that exist primarily because of the Army’s historic image in the minds of those who fund them. It was good and just for us to seek these funds in support of our social service programs. We could not assist those in need without them.
In the process, however, our soldiery –our membership–has, for the most part, not been challenged to that level of compassion demonstrated by the heroes of the past in years gone by. With a few significant exceptions, volunteerism among the soldiery seems shallow, weak, and occasional at best. Soldiers to me are more than members of a church. We are battlers in the cause of Christ. Soldiers seem to expect the officers and employees to do it all, and we have abrogated our soldiership and retreated to membership.
And what of the leadership? I’m pleased that the national commander has encouraged action in the Call to Renewal’s “Campaign to Overcome Poverty.” I’m pleased we are part of a wonderful consortium. Great. But why have we been so silent why are we reticent to speak up on behalf of the very same disenfranchised Jesus himself spoke about so often? Do we fear that some of our “membership” might not approve?
I know that sometimes it’s hard to differentiate a political issue from a social issue. Maybe this has slowed us. Forget the politics. Forget worrying about whether something is political or social. I’m talking about morality. Allowing homelessness to exist is an immoral blight. Ignoring hunger raises questions concerning our own morality. Turning our backs on the poor, the desperate, the downtrodden is a matter for us to plead at the bar of judgment