State Legislature needs to recall the words of Micah

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Faith Matters is a column written by the social concerns committee of the United Churches of Lycoming County. The monthly feature will include local faith-based comment on issues facing us today. Opinions expressed in the columns are those of the writers and the social concerns committee, not necessarily the Sun-Gazette.)

We learn these words from the prophet Micah: “The Lord has told you what is good … and what the Lord requires…, do justice, be kind, walk with humility with your God. Christianity, Judaism and Islam hold Micah in the highest esteem through his proclamation in the small book that bears his name.

Micah was born in a small town just outside Jerusalem. A contemporary of the prophet Isaiah living in the eighth century BC, he saw, in part, his mission to offer theological interpretations to some of the most puzzling, disturbing moments of his day (immigration, embattled nations and the role of aggressive super-powers). His disdain for political events taking place in the capital city of Jerusalem and the habitual corruption practices of national leaders led him to question the behaviors of many through his condemnation of certain religious, political and social practices.

As state leaders in Harrisburg struggle each year to adopt a viable budget, political and social practices raise numerous concerns. Confronting these matters calls persons of faith to examine how to live with integrity, honesty and generosity in reflecting God’s image of goodness with all.

Pennsylvanians face a $55 billion budget nightmare that is ballooning out of control. Many in government give lip service to the need for pension reform, but to date the pending financial “train wreck” is rapidly gaining momentum. The average citizen will have no place to run from flying debris of financial discord that will negatively impact all in the commonwealth, once this “train wreck” strikes the wall it is heading.

Today, the top ten pension recipients receive, on average, $30,000 monthly. Do the math. This translates for these 10 persons roughly $360,000 pension income per year before social security benefits. Ponder these numbers and reflect on the ripple effect these outrageous practices have on the commonwealth.

This unconscionable, insulting use of power by the commonwealth Legislature is a gross injustice to basic religious principles of the three primary world religions. I ask my Christian brothers and sisters, how can we be The Church of Jesus Christ when nothing is done to resolve this insult to community? There is little to no regard for sound principles of fair play as the ordinary person is stripped by policies that threaten the financial stability of the commonwealth along with the honor we hold for all people, according with The Master’s initiative for us to be fair, kind and responsible to each other.

It is time to act, for government leaders to put faith into action and consider all Pennsylvanians when implementing sound and fair pension reform for both the retiree and taxpayer. If fair and common ground is not reached on this issue, then the reality of disaster will escalate and the financial train wreck will not be averted. Many will suffer from the financial overload.

Be fair, God through Micah proclaims.

The state of pension affairs in the commonwealth is unfair.

Be kind, God proclaims.

The current pension in the commonwealth lacks kindness and remains an insult to common decency, which every society requires in its quest to be sensitive to its citizenry.

Walk with humility, God asks each of us to do with God and each other. Humility, through service appears lacking in the commonwealth’s Senate and House chambers, as it applies to this issue of pension reform.

Clearly there is no religious doctrine that tolerates the financial torture of ordinary folks so as to bring about non-essential reward to the wealthy. Matters like this are matters of conscience. Matters of conscience evolve into Matters of Faith.

— The Rev. Dr. Ron Shellhamer is a semi-retired Lutheran pastor who serves locally in the Lutheran/Presbyterian traditions.