Jesus commanded St. Peter, the disciple who had betrayed Jesus, to “Feed my lambs,” “Tend my sheep,” and “Feed my sheep,” (John’s Gospel 21:15-17.) By issuing these commands, Jesus showed that he had forgiven Peter. The three commands are often put forth simply as “Feed my sheep.” Theologians may argue that the Word of God represents the food with which Peter is to feed the sheep—all of God’s people, not only Judeo-Christians. Such an interpretation may be accurate, although I think Jesus also was talking about actual food. Without real food, people will experience a difficult time concentrating on theological concepts.
Importantly, although Jesus spoke directly to Peter, we should recognize that the same command applies to us through that disciple. Any time God, or someone speaking with God’s authority, issues a three-fold command, we must do as commanded or risk God’s ire, if not wrath. The beginning of a new year and a new federal administration in Washington should make us think how the command, “Feed my sheep,” specifically applies during this time of national discord over the outcome of the 2016 national election.
Opponents, Not Enemies
President-elect Donald Trump has many personality flaws that, if not controlled, could tarnish his presidency and jeopardize the safety and independence of the United States. Those in the loyal opposition, as well as supporters of soon-to-be President Trump, should move past the acrimony of the 2016 election and do our best to help him unify the nation despite his flaws. I’m not suggesting we should put aside our political differences or our concerns about how President Trump and his administration will govern. Importantly, our political differences should be framed civilly and without invective: We can be political opponents without becoming enemies. We should look for areas in which we can cooperate. The dire predictions from some opponents of Mr. Trump are simply forecasts at present: We don’t yet know with surety how the Trump administration will govern. Can opponents and supporters help President Trump focus on feeding Jesus sheep within this nation?
A Vibrant Economy
I think “Feed My Sheep” encompasses several facets in addition to delivering affordable or even free food to all citizens of the United States. First and foremost, we need a vibrant economy to provide funding for many worthy activities that include feeding our citizens, as well as so much more. Our current, primarily capitalistic economy may be the envy of much of the world; however, by definition, our economic system does not come close to meeting the needs of all, even a majority of our citizens. If we had a truly vibrant economy that afforded all citizens equal opportunities to accumulate wealth, not only for survival but also for prosperity, we would not have such a financial disparity between the so-called 1% and the vast majority of other citizens. This severe economic disparity in our country clearly demonstrates that the classic Republican mantra of trickle-down economics, whereby wealth from investments by persons in the upper economic strata moves to lower economic classes, has not yet worked: The economic rising tide that has benefited the upper strata has not lifted the boats of people in lower strata.
The False Allure of Socialism
The Millennial Generation typically applies to people born between the early 1980s and the mid-1990s. During the 2016-election cycle, many Millennials supported Sen. Bernie Sanders—Ms. Clinton’s major competitor for the Democratic nomination for President—because he incessantly promoted the Scandinavian socialist economic model for adoption by the United States.
Mr. Andrew Clark (Wall Street Journal, December 23, 2016) suggested that Sen. Sanders did not reveal certain countervailing factors about the Scandinavian economies: (1) Sweden began to reverse its economic model during the 1990s through privatization and deregulation and (2) Denmark has a market economy that is far from a socialist planned economy. At least for these two countries, their economies are no longer classically socialist. We may, therefore, infer Denmark and Sweden found by experience that classical socialism did not work, in contrast to Sen. Sanders’ promotion.
I probably could argue that a pure form of socialism or communism comes closer than capitalism in meeting an ideal Judeo-Christian economic system. Nevertheless, I believe a properly constructed and implemented capitalistic system will do more for all our citizens than any socialist or communist economy developed so far. This contention does not mean I don’t recognize the flaws in our current iteration of capitalism. As a bottom line, I don’t think God cares so much for the economic form as for efficiency in feeding the sheep without jeopardizing their freedom.
I wish, but have little hope, that the Trump administration will focus its economic policies on insuring that all citizens have equal access to the benefits of capitalism. This equal access means that a level economic playing field should exist for all citizens in which inherited wealth does not become an important factor for success: I often wonder how many conservatives reconcile unearned inherited wealth bestowed upon the offspring of wealthy parents with the principle of everyone earning their own way without favoritism.
A Guaranteed Income?
I am intrigued, but not yet convinced, that a guaranteed annual income for all citizens—regardless of age and economic status—may be one way to mitigate the advantages of inherited wealth. Importantly, all federal economic assistance programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, etc. would be terminated. An additional stipend could be used only for the purchase of health care. Yes, citizens who wanted more wealth could still compete in the market place. Funding this program would necessarily mean more taxation, although some people might believe the effects of increased circulating monies would have a beneficial effect on the economy, an effect that would blunt the negative impact of increased taxation. We should keep in mind that we currently pay through taxation for federal transfer of funds for social programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
If we seriously intend to feed Jesus’ sheep, we must recognize the potential societal disruptions or outright revolution facing this country unless the current inappropriate economic stratification is rectified. I do not advocate discarding our capitalist economy in toto, but modification could preserve the integrity of the United States by better feeding of the sheep. Simply put, the fact that so many of our citizens constantly face food emergencies, if not outright hunger, demonstrates our failure to feed all the sheep.