Rev. Dr. Mariann Budde, rector of St. John's in Minneapolis and bishop-elect to the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, shares the following thoughts on her church's blog under the heading "Shared Sacrifice."
As our elected leaders spend the last days of the state legislative session working around the clock to finalize budgets that will affect us all, there is considerable talk about the need for shared sacrifice in these difficult economic times. Yet I can't help but echo a question I heard on Public Radio yesterday, on a program interviewing leaders from both political parties. A woman called to ask the politicians who refuse to consider raising taxes on the wealthiest of Minnesotans: "How are the rich being asked to sacrifice?"
Their reply, all the more disturbing for its matter-of-fact tone, was, in essence, "They're not." And yet the sacrifice being asked of our most vulnerable citizens, and of those who work to sustain the foundations of society upon which we all depend, is enormous.
The author and educator Parker Palmer once amended Socrates' famous dictum that the unexamined life is not worth living to include the following: If you decide to live an unexamined life, please do not take a job that involves other people. The world suffers deeply at the hands of leaders who possess the skill and power to manipulate external reality but lack sensitivity and awareness of the cost of their actions on others.
"A leader," Palmer writes, "is someone with the power to project either shadow or light on some part of the world and onto the lives of the people who dwell there. A leader shapes the ethos in which others must live, an ethos as light-filled as heaven or as shadowy as hell." What kind of ethos, what shadows or light will these proposed budgets cast?
If this is indeed a time for shared sacrifice, surely those who have the least to lose can give a little more so that those with the most to lose can live. This is not a partisan debate. This a moral issue.