It sometimes takes living in interesting times to make you realize that boring is vastly underrated. The Great Housing Bubble followed by the Great Recession have caused many of us to live through some interesting times, and the reaction by our elected leaders to the fallout of those interesting times has led to even more interesting times.
Here in North Carolina we're starting to get national attention for the way our state leaders are reacting to the aftermath of the recession. The state is a perfect storm of economic hardship and political sea change that makes it a perfect political story on a national level. Unfortunately at the root of those stories is the suffering of real people, some of whom are our friends and neighbors, and the ideological response of the newly dominant political party to the economic reality that those people represent.
Lots of ink has been spilled about new conservative policies that have been put in place this legislative term and the Moral Monday protests that were prompted by those policies. Quite frankly it's a complicated issue, and in defense of both sides of the arguments it should be noted that they almost certainly feel their way is the best way to address the whole of the problem, but from the point of view of those of us who are neighbors and friends of the very folks who are directly affected now by these policies it's hard to swallow the big picture economic arguments while they suffer.
Probably the best thing I've read about this issue is something a friend linked to on Facebook that addresses the Moral Monday protesters and why their protests are righteous even if you disagree with some of their specific remedies/arguments:
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:35-36, 40)
God is far bigger than a single political party. There are many paths and policies for addressing poverty, reforming our broken immigration system, responding to climate change, and healing the racial divides that continue in our society. But what we cannot accept, nor allow, is for our own leaders to willfully exacerbate our problems and directly harm people who are already suffering — to sacrifice the common good to their own ideological agendas. In such moments and times, people of faith must speak out — not for the sake of politics, but because the beauty and simplicity of the gospel demands it. (Emphasis mine)
For those of us whose faith compels us to do everything we can to help the unemployed, hungry, homeless, etc. we cannot ignore the long-term economic policies that can lead to those states. We must acknowledge that there are many different ways to address the underlying sociological and economic issues that are the root of those problems. We must be ready to admit that perhaps some conservative ideals might be the way to go, or that perhaps some government-led initiatives truly are the only hammer that will work on that nail. But, and this the crux of the argument for me, it doesn't matter which path is best if people get seriously hurt during the journey. It is our moral imperative to make sure that the least of us is cared for, and if our journey has to take a little longer or follow a crooked path, i.e. involves ideological comprises in order for us to be able to help carry those who need help, then so be it.