By Rev. Dr. Leslie Copeland Tune
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ (People of Faith),
Our silence is deafening. At the precise moment that we should be speaking truth to power, the prophetic voice required by these perilous times is strangely AWOL from our pulpits and congregations. As a consequence, the nation is experiencing a diminished sense of moral imagination and political will necessary to meet the interests of those in our country who are struggling the most. This void of voice and prophetic action is an indictment on people of faith. Indeed, it is time that we call the question: What will it take to move us to exercise our faith and to act on behalf of the poor, the dispossessed, and the marginalized among us? To be sure, a socio-political apocalypse is upon us and yet we are distracted and perhaps asleep as people’s lives are at risk.
At this very moment, the 45th President and the federal legislators who have charge over these woefully “Divided” States of America are engaged in what can only be called the most diabolical acts of governance that we have seen in a generation. Their proposals for the future of our healthcare system and the federal budget are an abuse of the power and authority that has been vested in them by the American people. If passed, their proposals will have a devastating impact on children, the elderly, people with disabilities, families struggling to make ends meet and entire communities. The president’s proposed budget would make far-reaching, deep and vicious cuts to key quality of life supports such as Medicaid, Medicare, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), just to name a few. The GOP health care bill would take away health care from millions of families when they need it most. In short, the proposals that are currently before us will cut off access to food, health care and housing for millions, giving those savings to a small number of the wealthiest people in our nation. We would be naïve and negligent to ignore the racial and social dynamics here. This calamity is happening at precisely the time when our country is getting browner and older—with a middle class that is disappearing right before our very eyes.
That is why today, a diverse coalition of Black clergy and lay leaders will meet with key members of Congress in Washington to ensure they protect the most vulnerable and pass a budget that is faithful, just, and cares for all of God’s children.
Because the reality is that the budget and healthcare proposals lawmakers are currently vetting are unjust, immoral, reprehensible, drastic, punitive, vicious, callous and harsh. Some might call them sinful, others evil. I say that the cruelty of these proposals could only come the place where evil resides: The pits of hell.
Let us say again with added emphasis. Hell. Hades. The eternal lake of fire. The place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. What we know, especially in Christocentric circles, is that this is not a place any of us want to be. It is a place of no return. It is a place of continuous suffering, where there is no compassion, no care, and no mercy. Ironically, this theological motif is particularly apropos for these times, for the kinds of cuts that the president and GOP lawmakers propose will further structuralize poverty, pain, and illness for millions more Americans while concentrating greater wealth and political power in the hands of a small elite minority. Once in place, we may find ourselves in an earthly hell― a place from which it will take generations before we could return, if ever.
It is not O.K, nor is it a game or prudent political exercise to make proposals that would result in such far-reaching devastation to millions across the country. If budgets are moral documents that reflect our values and priorities, then this budget suggests that our nation is headed toward spiritual bankruptcy and moral ruin.
However, as people of faith we know that there is always kernel of hope. Proverbs 31:9 reminds us to, “Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” The budget and healthcare proposals that are before our government leaders stand as a piercing alarm that should compel people of faith to speak up and to act on behalf of the poor. We must contact our elected officials in Congress and state capitals across this nation and let them know unequivocally that we stand precisely where our God stands, in solidarity with the poor, dispossessed and marginalized masses; against any proposal that would hurt children, the elderly, those with disabilities and the most vulnerable in our nation.
These times, when all hell seems to be rising and breaking loose, call for bold pronouncements and prophetic actions. Let not our faith traditions stand as a mere set of hollow religious rituals and liturgical expressions; rather let our faith fuel an uprising that speaks truth to power, that moves us from the prospects of an earthly hell for millions to a nation that seeks justice, loves mercy, and walks humbly before God. Now is the time to act. We cannot remain silent.
Rev. Dr. Leslie Copeland Tune is the director of the Washington, D.C.-based Ecumenical Poverty Initiative. You can follow and support the meetings on Capitol Hill today with #BlackClergyUprising on social media.