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Fiscal responsibility, with moral sanity

By David P. Gushee - Posted on 14 April 2011

Progressive activists, including some of my Christian friends, have staged hunger strikes to dramatize their objections to proposed budget cuts in Congress that would affect the poor. I care deeply about such cuts, but I have not joined the fast.

While I admire the compassion for the poor that motivates these actions, I think this is a time for deliberative decision-making about our nation’s long-term fiscal responsibility and moral sanity rather than a moment for dramatic gestures.

I believe that we have about five years to make the structural decisions that are essential to our nation’s financial health. If we do not make these decisions ourselves, eventually our creditors will force us to make them:

  • We will have to reduce the size of our military dramatically, as well as the geopolitical ambitions that lead us to spend over $700 billion a year for what is by far the largest military in the world.

To even consider doing this will require a profound conversation about our national security theology and the quasi-imperial habits that have become deeply entrenched since World War II. A huge fight will be required to change such thinking and habits, and to challenge the massive economic and bureaucratic interests that will have to be defeated. But we must have that fight.

Read the rest of this article at The Associated Baptist Press.

While I am not supportive (involved?) enough to be a part of the fast, David, I am frustrated as well by your thoughtful and insightful essay. I agree with your comments on the need for "deliberative decision-making" and your comment that "If we followed this kind of rational path toward fiscal solvency, tackling the big issues in a grown-up way, then we wouldn’t have to resort to showy, irrational budget-hacking or dramatic gestures of protest in response." And I either agree whole-heartedly with your specific advice or at least can be very comfortable with it.

But given the recalcitrance of faith communities to even confront these issues in an open, deliberative and Christian (in my judgement) manner, what do you, I and others DO to try to move our policies toward those that you recommend? I suspect that a majority of your or my faith communities, would not at all favor many, much less all, of the specific points you have made.

Complicating next steps are increasing confirmations of our suspicion that on such issues the approaches of discussion, argument or review of facts seldom change minds. And to work on any of your broad suggestions in a faith-based, much less national, way without changing (or at least opening) a lot of minds is unlikely.

I appreciate and agree with your essay. But what's next or "so what?" Some have obviously decided that symbolic and emotion-raising steps may work at least as well as presumed rational ones

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