Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
November 4, 2002
Faith that breaks down barriers
In 1989, the House of Commons pledged to eliminate child poverty within 10 years. At that point, it was estimated 15.3 per cent of Canadian children lived in poverty. The number has never been that low since.
That resolution sums up as well as anything the malaise affecting politics today. Lots of fine words, little action. Promises are made to end poverty, halt global warming or end homelessness. But they amount to little, if anything.
There are lots of global and national meetings with lots of good thinking people (and lots of good food and drink). Right thinking people jet from one meeting to another, keeping frantic schedules, saying all the right words. The words are undoubtedly sincere - and we're better off than if they had not been said at all - but there is no institutional commitment behind them.
More importantly, the power lies elsewhere. It lies with big oil companies, the U.S. military and at the top levels of the U.S. government, which for the most part, is made up of people raised in the first two sources of power. Those three sources of power don't eliminate all other sources, but they severely limit what they can do. And when people, like the late Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone, raise hard-to-answer questions before a national audience, they die in mysterious airplane crashes.
In Alberta, school councils run casinos to help pay for a decent education. Our government increased student-teacher ratios, handed social workers enormous caseloads and is building a health-care system for the rich.
Children and the poor are not a priority. Many children have great physical and emotional needs. But their parents live apart and the government offers nothing that will help them become well-rounded, healthy adults. In 10 or 20 years, their children will be even worse off and the idea of children living in a home with two loving parents will be nothing more than a fantasy for many. More lost children will turn into more lost adults. There will be more crime, more homelessness, more people with no reliable source of income.
World oil supplies will by then be dwindling. The U.S. military will be even more active in trying to preserve the way of life of the wealthy. Who knows what will have happened to the global climate and what affect that will have on food supplies?
Eighteen years ago, Pope John Paul told an Edmonton audience the "poor South will judge the rich North. The poor people and poor nations - poor in different ways, not only lacking food, but also deprived of freedom and human rights - will judge those people who take these goods away from them, amassing to themselves the imperialistic monopoly of economic and political supremacy at the expense of others."
This judgment appears to point to a violent social upheaval. But such revolutions rarely bring social justice, the new masters being as corrupt and repressive as the old.
The only real hope is for a vast increase in religious faith in wealthy nations. Moreover, this cannot be the sort of faith that prays well, but acts poorly. It must be a faith with a strong sense of social justice. It will be a people of faith who believe in a God who is "God of the lowly, helper of the oppressed, upholder of the weak, protector of the forsaken, saviour of those without hope" (Judith 9:11).
This calls for a faith of solidarity with God's lowly ones. A faith that breaks down the many barriers that prevent us from even having contact with the poor. A faith that is not afraid of the aggression of the powerful. That such a faith will become widespread in the somnolent society of McDonald's and Wal-Mart appears impossible. But such faith is possible because it is our only hope for justice. We face a clear choice today: Either become brothers and sisters with the poor or remain part of a system that will destroy the earth with its aggressively comfortable way of life. For Christians, there is no choice.
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