Thursday, October 25, 2012

Consumerism & Politics the Gospel Way

I love the many layers of meaning in Scripture. Skeptics may think I am just a creative thinker who could find multiple layers of meaning in a rock. But let me give you an example.

Take the parable in the Gospel of Luke that Jesus tells about the rich man who does not have enough room to store all of the grain from his farm's harvest. The man decides to build storage for the grain so that he can "rest, eat, drink, be merry!" But in the parable God tells this man he is a fool for hoarding earthly possessions, rather than focusing on becoming rich in what matters to God.

Of course we could simplify this story and say that Jesus is chastising the rich, but if we look closely at his words before he begins the parable, it is clear that Jesus is not upset that the man has many possessions: Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one's life does not consist of possessions  (Lk 12:15). Jesus is not a communist, (although I would venture to call him an anti-consumerist). In the parable, the problem is not so much what the man has as much as his attachment to it. His passion is for his possessions, rather than for God.

But again with the layers - Maybe Jesus is not only talking about objects, or things that we can buy. Maybe Jesus is also speaking of our preferences, our thoughts, and our dearly held opinions. Jesus is not saying that we cannot feel passionately about anything. But perhaps he is asking us to hold our perspectives lightly, even on issues of faith, just in case he wants to show us something new about the limited way that we see and understand things.

As humans, we are often very convinced that we see things correctly, and that if others disagree with us, they are wrong. Although our conclusion may very well be right, we can count on the fact that we are never seeing the entire picture. We always have something to learn from others, even if their conclusions are indeed wrong. Perhaps this is something to think about as we get closer to election day.

It is true that very important issues are at stake in this election like abortion, the death penalty, religious liberty, lack of health care, same sex marriage, and unjust immigration policies. But ultimately, the fate of our country lies in the hands of someone who has a perfect platform - God. Trusting that things are in his hands, we can refrain from unnecessarily divisive rhetoric and instead share our faith in the public square in a Christian way.

May we strive to share our opinions such that:

Love and truth will meet;
justice and peace will kiss. 
                       -Psalm 85:10


K Cischke said...

I am confused in the area of stopping abortion? IS it not a level above much else? Isn't there a certain gravity to this issue? Of course, no matter who is elected God is still in charge.

tagnes said...


Yes, you are correct. Abortion is considered an intrinsic evil and is not proportionate to some of the other issues mentioned.

A great resource to learn more about this is the bishops' document:

in which they state:

"Catholics often face difficult choices about how to vote. This is why it is so important to vote according to a well-formed conscience that perceives the proper relationship among moral goods. A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter's intent is to support that position. In such cases a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate's opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity."

This is also a great article: