Sunday, July 28, 2013


   Recently, a fellow theologian and I named a few of today's American prophets.  They included Jim Wallis of "Sojourners," TV's John Stewart and Stephen Colbert, and Senator Elizabeth Warren.  You can certainly think of others.

   Wallis fights Biblically on behalf of the poor, Stewart and Colbert use comedy and satire to point out the anti-spiritual behavior of our politicians and bankers, and Senator Warren is fighting for truth and justice in our capitalistic economy.  All four provide plenty of room for us to be 21st century prophetic expressions of Christ in our own way.  Our "audience" may not be as big as theirs but that doesn't matter.  We are called as prophets to engage in spiritual politics and economics with everyone me meet, every store or business we buy from, and everyone we vote for.

   Practicing spiritual politics and economics means elevating, humanizing, healing, and correcting today's society and culture in the way Jesus engaged in his society and culture.  And Jesus' way does not rule out getting angry in the face of injustice and self-serving distortions of our system.  Jesus did not shy away from getting angry when it was necessary.  The 23rd chapter of Matthew quotes Jesus' powerful prophetic engagement with the scribes and Pharisees, members of the powerful elite of his society. Among other things, Jesus calls them hypocrites and whitewashed tombs filled with dead men's bones.  And he upset the rich of his time by declaring to the oppressed poor that the Kingdom of God is theirs.

   Today we look at the behavior of our politicians and business people to see if they are responsibly using our capitalistic system to provide justice, peace, and prosperity for the entire population, with special emphasis on the poor, sick, vulnerable, and outcast.  Working for the common good within our political/economic system is a graced endeavor.  It is not communism.

   As Catholic citizens we have the spiritual right and responsibility to rise up in protest when our politicians and bankers favor the "powerful elite" instead of working for the whole country, and when legislators use their private religious views to obstruct such things as gay marriage and health care for all.  If they cannot legislate for the whole community, and if they cannot use caring reason and our American concept of freedom to justify their votes, then they shouldn't vote.  And we should rise up in protest against business and banking practices that maximize profits for the elite few and leave so many Americans unable to find jobs or unable to find jobs that provide sustainable incomes.

   Spiritual politics and economics also means criticizing our bishops when they try to impose their own religious, "powerful elite" views of morality on our American legal system.  They are commissioned by Christ not to impose but to attract and persuade our society and culture to rise up to a more luminously human way of living.  And they should include the faith discernment of the theologians and laity in making their moral judgments.  They can then use our faith to help all Americans elevate and clarify contemporary reasoning.  We believe that faith elevates and clarifies all human reason, so that clear, elevated, caring reason, and not anyone's religion, can and should be the basis for our country's laws.

   Most of us will not find the necessary spiritual formation for spiritual politics and economics in our parishes.  This sad fact makes our parishes another place for us to be prophetic.  In the meantime we can gather like-minded people together to study and to prayerfully help form ourselves into Christ-like prophets who can activate the spiritual politics and economics that God is calling us to today.  People are suffering.  Waiting is not an option.  



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