The Federal budget will be delivered on Tuesday May 9th by the Treasurer, Scott Morrison. The following article was published in the May edition of ‘Just Act’, a publication of the Justice and International Unit in the Vic/Tas UCA Synod.
What we spend our money on and how much we think we ‘need’ are deeply theological questions. Theological questions being those that ask the deep ‘why’ and ‘what’ – what it means to be in relationship to others, what it means to own or to share, what would make a good and just society, and what sort of vision we have for the future.
The Uniting Church understands this vision to be ‘one of wholeness, rather than perfection or freedom from disaster or suffering’. It is also not confined to ‘the world to come’ but is offered as a reality for the life of this world. It is a vision of flourishing, abundant life, of peace and reconciliation, justice and transformation, love and inclusion for all creation. Its antitheses are also described in the biblical stories: the worship of idols, of which mammon (wealth, gain or possessions) is prominent; and separation and exclusion from community, often wrought by violent and oppressive social, political and religious systems.
Walter Brueggemann, in Theology of the Old Testament, sees ‘justice’ in the Bible as being about redistributing goods and power so that all may share what God has given the human race. Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, sees this as an important dimension of transformation, but that it also needs a further dimension – a focus on just relationship – that is, not simply redistributed property and influence, but a positively renewed set of social interactions and mutual nurture.
Our task then in Christian social justice work seems to be to both wrestle with what this means in our lives at a personal or household level and also how we can bring out more a just society for everyone.
For example, the ‘Make Lives Better‘ campaign (Vic/Tas UCA Synod) has called for the redistribution of funds into things that support the flourishing of life for those who are homeless, experience violence at home, are not paid a fair wage and to ensure schools are adequately funded instead of corporate tax cuts and concessions for the wealthy.
The Federal budget each year is one of the opportunities we have to ‘redistribute goods and power’. It also touches our own lives as we consider policies that will affect us now and into the future. It is an opportunity to integrate how we live at a household level and how this can then be an organising principle for greater society. This idea is reflected in Acts 4:33-37, ‘There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and bought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles feet and it was distributed to each as any had need‘.
Jonathan Cornford in ‘Coming back to earth‘ says, ‘In placing household economy at the very centre of faith…Christianity (can reclaim) the material substance of its spiritual message’. In other words, integrating how we understand the Gospel, how we make decisions about how much we earn, spend, work or volunteer, and how we advocate to Government about what this looks like is all part of living a faithful life.
‘The Economy of Life‘ statement prepared by Uniting Justice (Uniting Church in Australia) is an excellent resource for further reading (scroll to end of link for a downloadable booklet).