Religion and Democracy: What is a Religious Issue?
A reader (Tim Bartik) posts in a comment:
But what are examples of political issues that you think UU values do not dicate positions. For example, one of the burning issues of our time is whether overall federal spending as a share of GDP should be significantly reduced or increased, or should be stabilized. This is closely related to issues such as what the federal government policy should be about Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and health care more generally. Do you think UU principles lead to specific political positions on these issues, or do you think that UUs might be able to take varied liberal vs. conservative positions on these issues, as long as they are guided by the principles of respecting individual worth and dignity, etc. ?
"Overall federal spending as a share of GDP" is a re-framing of important issues of religious value in terms which obscures what is really at stake.
A question of religious values is "are we taking care of the needs of the people in our society?" Or have we drawn a line somewhere and said to ourselves that we are not going to be concerned with what happens to people beyond this line? A religious value question is whether we consign the elderly poor and the poor and disabled to lives teetering on the very edge of survival? (Isn't the average monthly benefit under SS something like $1200 per month?) There is a looming crisis ahead because our retirements systems (pensions, savings, Social Security) will not provide a decent life for many poor and working class elders in the future. We made a decision that we would cover elders' health care spending -- will we keep that commitment or have we reached a point that we say that we are indifferent to some people's needs. And the nation has always been grudging in our support for the health care of the poor. We allow the state of Mississippi to design the policies by which they deliver health care to the black and poor in their state. Everyone knows that the result is going to be very poor health outcomes; we are institutionally indifferent to the human beings.
A proposal to "block grant Medicaid spending to the states" and limit its growth at such a rate to hit some agreed upon target number of federal spending vs. GDP is a further institutionalization of that indifference.
The care of the elderly, the disabled, the poor are religious issues. Even, "Inherent worth and dignity"is too abstract a phrase to describe what is at stake.
Our religious values should goad us, as a matter of conscience, to pierce the veil of such abstractions.
Reader Tim seems to imagine "worth and dignity" as constraints on a free choice of liberal and conservative policy positions. You can decide what percentage makes sense to you, as long as you still respect "worth and dignity". In contrast, I think "worth and dignity" ought to drive policy. How much will it cost to preserve the practical worth and dignity of each and all?