It is less than a week and a half before we celebrate Earth Day and Crop Walk. While neither are religious holidays, they both speak to common religious teachings. Earth Day speaks to our need as intelligent human beings, to honor and protect the planet which sustains us. For Unitarian Universalists we speak of it as “Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.” We often have the habit of thinking that we are above dependence on natural processes and treat nature as if it is not the basis of our existence. We do so at our own peril and that of future generations. As we see human activities causing the extermination of species, it should be a warning that these same human activities make our future as a species less and less possible.
Crop Walk, which again is not a religious holiday, is still an opportunity to stop and ponder the common religious concern with the less fortunate. I can’t think of a religious tradition that does not call upon us all to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. For Unitarian Universalists we say that is our duty to affirm, “The inherent worth and dignity of every person” and to use, “Justice, equity, and compassion in human relationships”.
Recently here in Alamosa we have had two occasions where individuals have spoken their belief that the poor do not deserve the respect and compassion which I believe we should give to all people. It makes one wonder where the belief that the poor call such misery upon themselves might come from. There are no religions of which I am aware that offer that suggestion. Those who have become financially successful are commonly unwilling to admit to the benefits bestowed upon them by our government, and the restrictions fostered upon the poor by that same government. Our jails, as only one indication, house a far higher percentage of the poor and minorities, even when law breaking is no more prevalent among those people than among the population at large. I think of the statement that if you steal from one person you are put in jail, but if you steal from millions, you are looked upon as a captain of industry.
After 40 years of growing disparity between the rich and the poor, our current Congress enacted a taxation law which gave substantial tax reductions to the rich and to corporations. While billed as tax reform legislation, it cured none of the existing benefits for the rich. Unless you believe that the growing disparity is good, you will see the tax changes as a step backwards. We give favorable tax treatment to unearned income in comparison to earned income. Do we really favor unearned income over earned income? When the loss of tax revenue results in a growing deficit it will be programs which help the poor that Congress will attempt to cut. They are already calling for reductions in health care and social security. This will be a second way that the tax cuts will hurt those most in need.
The optimism of most religions will hopefully mean that we can look forward to a society more willing to see value in assisting those who are most needy. Optimistically we can also look forward to a call for protection of our earth and a limit to demands on nature which supports us all.
Don Thompson, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Alamosa