Remarks offered at a press conference on tax reform at the North Carolina State Capitol on Monday, November 29.
For those of us who mark time a little differently than the Roman calendar, a new year begins on Sunday when the Christian season of Advent begins. One of the most important scripture readings during these four weeks of Advent is a song Mary sings when she decides to lean into the truth that she is a pregnant virgin. She says: “My soul magnifies the Lord, …he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones…” (Luke 1: 46ff). Mary wasn’t talking about people who looked down their noses at her, though as a poor, teenage, unwed mother, many probably did look down their noses at her. She’s not talking about that, but instead is drawing on the depths of her faith; she is channeling history–God’s salvation history.
Salvation takes on several forms, not the least of which is our individual acknowledgement that life and love are freely given by the creator. But salvation also takes on the form of justice and that’s what Mary is channeling—salvation that is justice, the justice first proclaimed by the Old Testament prophets who lived before her and that soon will be championed by her own son, Jesus of Nazareth, whom she will, of course, outlive. The reward for those who dare to make such claims can be starvation in the bottom of a cistern—that’s what happened to Jeremiah (Jeremiah 38:6), or ostracism by one’s own country—that’s what happened to Amos (Amos 7:10), or death on a cross—Jesus wasn’t crucified for praying too much, but was executed as an enemy of the state and a threat to the religious status quo.
In the face of such odds, the North Carolina Council of Churches dares to proclaim God’s call for justice. The Advent Season provides a heightened awareness of God’s justice breaking into creation through the birth of the Christ child. These days are exactly the right time for a call to our nation’s leaders to craft a tax policy that provides justice for everyone. The current bills winding through the halls of congress fall far short of God’s goal by offering policies that disproportionately benefit the wealthy few at the expense of the majority middle and the lower least. These policies will do long term damage to our nation’s ability to invest in the well-being of all our families and communities. Eventually, this disproportionate investment will even have a detrimental effect on the wealthy few.
Friends, the long-term stability of our democracy is at stake because when government is only good for some of the people, eventually everyone will lose. We may not live to see the loss initiated by short-sighted decision making, but our children might and our grandchildren certainly will.
And so, the North Carolina Council of Churches calls on our elected leaders to:
- Reject any tax changes that will require cuts to programs that strengthen our common well-being. No cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, food assistance, education, and job training, for example. We insist that elected officials implement tax codes that promote the smart public investments we all need to thrive.
- Reject any tax bills that would strip health care from millions of individuals in order to pay for tax cuts for profitable corporations. Repealing the individual mandate will destabilize insurance markets and increase the number of uninsured. We insist the Affordable Care Act should remain in place as elected officials work to make it better.
- Reject any tax changes that would grow the deficit and transfer the costs of cutting taxes to future generations. The proposed tax plans are projected to increase the national deficit by at least $1.5 trillion over the next decade—even I might live to see that. We insist elected officials seek equitable ways for all citizens to share the cost of democracy by creating a system where those with more wealth will contribute more resources, and those with less wealth will be provided the tools they need to succeed socially and economically.
In these days of hope and expectation, we can do no other than call for the justice announced by the prophets leading to Christ’s birth, and the justice proclaimed by Christ throughout his life. We insist our elected officials turn our nation toward that justice reality.