Saturday, December 3, 2011

Seeking Intergenerational Justice

It was completely unplanned, but very appropriate: Onstage in Gordon’s chapel, Friday’s speaker, Gideon Strauss, stood above an orchestra pit as he announced, “Justice is symphonic.” The pit had been set up in anticipation of last weekend’s Christmas Gala concerts, and the flanking seats and music stands became a fitting object lesson for Strauss’ message of intergenerational harmony. “Orchestras are the very picture of justice,” said Strauss. “Each instrument, with its own distinct voice, comes together in beautiful harmony rather than discordant cacophony.”

Senior Fellow at the Center for Public Justice, Gideon Strauss began his talk by describing a potentially bleak future. If current spending trends persist, he noted, it is likely that within 20 years the federal government will be unable to afford more than to pay interest on its debts and support the commitments it has already made to entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare. This pits different generations against one another, vying for available resources, and, according to Strauss, it stands in opposition to the principles of scripture.

Zechariah 8:4-5 paints a different picture, one of harmonic, intergenerational justice: “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each of them with cane in hand because of their age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there.’”

In striving for this peace between old and young, Strauss discussed the importance of cultivating “slow politics.” Slow politics involves preserving the integrity of our institutions, digging deeper into issues than talking-head news perspectives tend to allow, and being conscious of the long-term reach of the policies we support. “We need to manage our resources in such a way that we don’t reap the benefits while our children and grandchildren bear the costs.”

Strauss' convocation talk was the closing lecture in the Faith Seeking Understanding series, "The State, Society and Marketplace." Click here to watch his related lecture, "The Coming War Between the Young and the Old: Will Federal Debt Destroy the American Welfare State?", delivered the previous Thursday evening.

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