Thomas Reese: As the World Appears to Turn Upside Down (Again), Advent Is Here

Demonstrators clash with police in Paris, France, on Dec. 8, 2018. Crowds of protesters angry at President Emmanuel Macron and France’s high taxes tried to converge on the presidential palace Saturday, some scuffling with police firing tear gas, amid exceptional security measures aimed at preventing a repeat of last week’s rioting. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

Hope is a difficult virtue to maintain these days, when the future seems uncertain and religious and political leaders have lost all credibility.

Religion has either become irrelevant or a cause of conflict, rather than a source of idealism and reconciliation. In the First World, young people continue to abandon religious faith, while elsewhere religious zealots lead their fanatical followers to battle against those who do not share their beliefs.

In the Catholic Church, the bishops are not trusted by the people, and even Pope Francis is questioned about his response to the sex abuse crisis. American evangelicals are criticized for being more interested in propping up Trump than in proclaiming gospel values.

In the world of politics, we see an inability to deal with the real issues of our day: climate change, economic injustice and conflict among peoples.

We see partisan divisions and political chaos: in France over a tax on energy, in Britain over Brexit, and in most of Europe over refugees. Right-wing parties have captured the governments of the Philippines, Brazil, Italy and Hungary and threaten the governments of Austria, France, Germany, Spain, Poland and even the Netherlands.

Historians are recalling the chaos that preceded the Fascist takeover prior to World War II.

Political and economic elites, who have prospered under globalization, appear to be blind to the suffering of those who have lost jobs and have no hope for the future because they don’t have the skills to operate in this new world.

The ground has been prepared for a revolution. Progressives always thought that the revolution, when it came, would be led by the left. But the rise of right-wing governments suggests that many people regard the left as bankrupt as well. And left or right, voters don’t trust the wealthy elite or their governments.

When French President Emmanuel Macron tried to raise energy taxes — something every economist recommends as a way of dealing with global warming — the people revolted. His credibility with ordinary citizens, who would have to pay more for gasoline, was nil because he had recently cut taxes for the rich. Giving the rich a tax break while increasing taxes on low-income citizens was both grossly unjust and politically stupid.

Justice requires that the rich pay more in taxes, not less. The only way people will accept an energy tax is if the money collected is returned to those hardest hit by the higher energy costs.

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Source: Religion News Service