Judgment of the Nations
by Rev. Dustin Bartlett
Our nation’s budget is a moral document. It reflects the values of the country. It demonstrates where our priorities lie. It tells the story of who we are, and who we want to be.
The budget proposed by the White House this week tells the story of a country that cares very little about science, the environment, diplomacy, the poor, and the elderly. Between the cuts in our diplomatic corps and foreign aid and the increase in military spending, it’s a budget that seems eager for war.
So we must ask ourselves, “Is this who we want to be? Is this what our country should look like?”
Do we really want to completely eliminate all government grants for the arts and the humanities? Have we decided that we no longer value art and literature, music and sculpture? Shall we cut funding for the educational programming on PBS, and have our kids watch cartoons filled with violence and toilet humor instead?
Speaking of our kids, do we really want to cut all funding for researching and fighting global climate change? What kind of world are we leaving our children and grandchildren if we abandon all efforts to slow climate change, and eliminate funding to keep our air and water clean?
Have we become so calloused to the plight of the poor and the elderly that we will eliminate funding for Meals on Wheels? Meals on Wheels! We’re talking about feeding poor, home-bound senior citizens! If the budget is a moral document that shows what we, as a nation, care about, then what does this say about us?
And for what purpose are we cutting funding for the arts, and for alleviating poverty, and for health research, for low-income energy assistance and low-income housing? These cuts are being made to allow us to increase military spending by $54 billion dollars a year.
Never mind that the United States already spends significantly more on its military than any other nation. In fact, our military budget is bigger than the budgets of the next eight highest-spending countries combined – and of those eight countries, we have formal alliances with six. We have 19 aircraft carriers; the other countries of the world have a combined total of 12. Do we really need to be more poised for war than we already are?
As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” This budget is definitely a step away from helping the poor and vulnerable in favor of violence and war. It’s up to us to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be.
In a democracy, we get to decide. Our elected leaders are accountable to us. This is certainly not the kind of country I want the United States of America to be, but maybe most of my fellow citizens want exactly that.
Only, if you do, don’t also tell me you want this to be a country that is built upon Christian values.
In the 25th chapter of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus describes a scene in which the nations are judged by God, and this is how they will be judged:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’
“Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’
“Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
The White House wants to cut Meals on Wheels. That’s a reflection of where their morals are. Jesus said when we feed the hungry, we’re feeding him. That’s where Christ’s morals are.
Where do our morals lie? What kind of nation do we want to be?