Peter Baugher, Partner, Schopf & Weiss LLC, and member of the PCG of Directors, offered the following reflection and introduction when the Rev. Alexander Sharp preached at the First Congregational Church of Wilmette on the text Matthew 22:15 “Give, therefore, to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
In December 1995, I was a Divinity School student lucky enough to be doing my field work under the Rev. Eugene Winkler at the Chicago Temple. I heard somebody mention that a group would be testing whether an alternative voice to the political Christian right could be formed. I was present at this worship service rally of over 700 clergy and lay activists. How could I have known that all these years later I would be inviting you to celebrate with us the fifteenth anniversary of the founding of Protestants for the Common Good? Please join us on Sunday, November 6 at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Lincoln Park, Chicago.
A friend reminded me awhile back that when the Pharisees were trying to trick Jesus in order to entrap him during that last week of his earthly life, he finessed their own entrapment. The question the Pharisees raised was simple: Is it, or is it not, lawful to pay taxes to the emperor?
Living in a large city where poor people rent sub-standard housing at inflated rents from unknown owners who collect their booty from afar through hired intermediaries doesn’t predispose a reader to a sympathetic assessment in a story about an absentee landlord...But that kind of sympathy toward the absentee landlord is exactly what the writers of the Gospels ask of us in a narrative assigned to the voice of Jesus.
In America we value democracy. We value decent wages. We value everyone having a seat at the table. In America, the way out of this crisis is dialogue and meaningful partnership and collaboration. Keron Blair, the Student Programs Coordinator for Interfaith Worker Justice, writes about current labor issues in the context of his faith.
The debt crisis looming in Washington makes clear that we are in the midst of a new civil war in this country. The divisions between us are deep, even spiritual. The fight is not really over the size of the deficit, nor even about expenditure cuts. They are about taxes as the lifeblood of government.