“For our ancestors have been unfaithful and have done what was evil in the sight of the Lord our God; they have forsaken him, and have turned away their faces from the dwelling of the Lord and turned their backs.”
-2 Chronicles 29:6
“A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.”
We all fall short in the eyes of a higher power or in our own system of ethical beliefs. We sin. No one is a god unto himself or herself. We are mortal. We all have faults. These words could and do apply to us. But we are living in a time when the degree to which we fall short varies considerably.
One can be predominately righteous and listen to that ethical center all human beings possess known as our consciences or we may choose to turn our backs away from them and for those of us of faith our God as well. Too many of today’s leaders have turned their backs on that which is righteous in favor of greed, power, unbridled self-interest, being oblivious to those people who are harmed by their exercise of that power.
It would be the safe course to say that all leaders of all political parties have with equality acted wickedly. But this itself would be a lie. While some people on the political left in the United States are wrong and act wrongly, and some Democrats do as well, the overwhelming mercies of the wicked are wielded from the Republican Party of the United States and the political right.
There is a larger deficit than that of the Federal budget in this country. It is a compassion deficit and conservatives and Republicans and Tea Partiers exhibit the largest compassion deficits.
Conservatives frame their cause in terms of obedience to authority, hard work, and punishing those who find themselves impoverished or oppressed as lazy and unworthy of real mercy and compassion. In fact these people who are most vulnerable in our society are worthy of the greatest compassion as they have the most need of it. This conservative framing makes acting without compassion and with cruelty far easier. And we are seeing it demonstrated repeatedly in the priorities that government has for using the common resources of the nation.
The budget cuts being undertaken in all the state capitols of this Union and in Washington D.C. as unemployment rises, and wages fall, and more and more people go hungry, without adequate shelter, medical care, and simple human compassion demands that all of our leaders turn toward them and not away from them. In Matthew 25 Christ commands that we do whatever we can for these people since what we do is done to God and what we fail to do is not done to God. And God will remember.
It would be convenient if God had a block of votes in all the states and at the Federal level too. But what conservatives and Republicans and perhaps a handful of Democrats and leftists are failing to address today will be taken care of by that higher power later on.
Here on earth among a majority that do not believe in God we can at least acknowledge an inner sense of right and wrong. We know when we have harmed another. If we do not then our compassion deficit has grown into a cancer that has eaten away at our moral center and taken away our ability to even feel or be shamed by the cruelty of what we do. It is this point where Governor Walker and his cohorts in Wisconsin and the Paul Ryan’s in Congress are at now.
The compassion deficit is so large that these people act and harm those least able to bear that burden without thinking, and with cruelty. This idea that a righteous man has compassion for animals implies that if he or she does so they will treat other human beings with at least equal compassion when we all know they deserve even greater consideration.
President Ulysses S. Grant when serving as the commanding Union general in the American Civil War once tied a man who was beating a mule by the side of the road to a tree he was so disgusted with the cruelty shown to the beast. Grant also rarely ate meat and when he did he could stand the sight of blood and liked his meat essentially carbonized into blackness.
Though he led an army that suffered much in war he had a very small compassion deficit. Once, after a particularly difficult battle he threw himself on his cot and wept for almost a half hour like a baby, then pulled himself together and went to do his duty.
As the nation focuses on budget deficits the people and especially the leaders of the nation must consult and measure their compassion deficits. The cruelties being inflicted on the poor, the immigrant, the elderly, children who are helpless, people of color in so many ways, and so many more makes this issue of a compassion deficit of even greater importance than any budget deficit.
How do we treat our fellow human beings? What do we feel when we see someone without a job, someone without money or resources, someone too old to work and take proper care of themselves any longer but who yet have such a capacity for wisdom and love to share with us? What do we do when we learn that immigrants and people of color are not treated with equal justice?
If we snidely scoff and say they deserve it and that they are lazy or unworthy of our help and we turn our backs we have lost a great deal of our common humanity. The Republican Party, the Tea Party, and conservatives generally have come into power and are making decisions which exhibit an extremely high compassion deficit. What will they do to make significant cuts in that deficit?