The second Fortnight for Freedom wraps up today. It would be difficult to say that it has been a sterling success. Certainly some Catholics have benefited from thinking about religious freedom and threats to this fundamental human right. But it has done little to penetrate the larger culture and it has not generated a great deal of enthusiasm and engagement from the American Catholic population as a whole.
Should this be the final Fortnight then? I don’t think so. Let’s have next year’s Fortnight for Freedom focus on freedom from want: the fundamental human right to have all of life’s basic necessities, which belongs to all Americans and every person around the world.
This freedom is rooted in American history, articulated by one of our nation’s finest presidents, Franklin Roosevelt. He included it among the “four essential human freedoms” and argued that it was possible to establish this freedom everywhere around the world in his own time. President Kennedy too noted that we had the power to abolish all forms of human poverty. Yet poverty and want persist, both here and abroad.
Could anything be more relevant? A ten dollar net can prevent a child from dying from malaria, but how many of us throw ten dollars away on the most frivolous things without even thinking about it? During our period of economic struggle, as a nation we have slashed assistance to those most in need. The percentage of our federal budget dedicated to foreign aid that is genuinely humanitarian is embarrassingly low. The examples of indifference and injustice to the most vulnerable are too numerous to list in full, even in general terms.
Let’s send a reminder that the Christian faith is Good News for the poor. Let us remind the world of the catholic nature of our faith by demanding action to help our Muslim, animist, Buddhist, atheist, and Hindu brothers and sisters around the world by securing their freedom from want. Let us show that Christianity is not a dull flame but the light of the world, not a polite, bland religion but a radical, status quo-shattering faith. Let us challenge and confront those who stand for selfishness, greed, plutocracy, and injustice.
Could anything make our Papa Francesco prouder? Pope Francis has turned our eyes back toward our brothers and sisters in need. This is wonderful, but it’s time to get down to work; it’s time for action.
We need a third Fortnight for Freedom to revitalize our commitment to those in need, in our local communities, our nation, and everywhere in the world. We need one that demands more from all of us, in both our personal lives and lives as citizens. So as this fortnight ends, let us pray that the next one will focus on freedom from want and that it will inspire us to renew the face of the earth.