We are witnessing great changes in our country. In these changes, some of us are happy and hopeful, others of us are worried and woeful. Being disciples of Jesus we are encouraged and enabled to live without fear, and no matter what the future holds, we pray for the faith to say, “We know who holds the future.”
But let us not be mistaken, such faith does not render us apathetic or impartial to societal change. As a Christian, therefore, I pay attention to politics. For politics is how we as a society choose to live as neighbors—not only the neighbor who sees me walk my dog, but also the neighbors who are fleeing war and famine in Syria. Because I’ve chosen to follow the rule of “Love thy neighbor,” I pay attention to politics, and as your Senior Minister there are three areas of politics to which I focus much of my attention:
- Because we are a Shalom Congregation, I pay attention to the policies and laws affecting violence and peace.
- Because we are an Open and Affirming Congregation, I pay attention to the policies and laws aimed at legislating homo-transphobia, misogyny, and racism.
- Because we have chosen to journey together with our immigrant and refugee neighbors, I pay attention to changes and developments in immigration policies and laws.
When it comes to violence and peace at the state level, I’m watching for gun law legislation. Specifically, so-called “Constitutional Carry” laws, which essentially prohibit the restriction of lawful concealed carry anytime and anywhere, and “Stand-Your-Ground” laws, which broaden self-defense to merely a “felt threat.” At the federal level, I do not yet know what to watch for, but as I wait, I continue to be alarmed at the use of drones for extrajudicial killings, a policy woefully escalated by President Obama. Suffice it to say, I am watchful for political measures that run contrary to the practice of the peace of Christ Jesus our Lord.
Concerning homo-transphobic, misogynistic, and racist legislative measures, at both the state and federal level, I am watching, indeed waiting, for the introduction and likely passing of a wrongly-named “Religious Freedom and Restoration Act,” RFRA for short. These laws are direct attempts to circumvent public accommodation in our civil rights laws; meaning a business can lawfully claim “religious freedom” in refusing service to a lesbian couple, a Sikh man identified by his turban, an African American grandfather, even an unwed mother. Those of us who lived with their backs against the wall of Jim Crow segregation will be quick to tell you, public accommodation in our civil rights laws are absolutely essential to freedom, dignity, and equality. Across the United States, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is an active voice against these RFRA laws, and I pray, if necessary, FCCDM will join the chorus.
Lastly, immigration policies and laws—to this I need another page, but I’ll be brief, though not as detailed as I would prefer. Skeptical of any major immigration reform, which both parties have advocated for in the past, at the federal level I’m watching for executive orders from President Trump and/or changes to ruling memos from the Department of Homeland Security. Mass deportations are only possible with the participation of local law enforcement; therefore, at the state level I am watching for legislation aimed to force police and sheriff departments to participate in detainment and deportation. Paraphrasing Bill McCarthy, our Polk County Sheriff, who repeatedly speaks against such measures: 1) detaining people without charge and on the mere suspicion of their immigration status is unconstitutional, and 2) deputizing local law enforcement to act as immigration agents is “bad policing”; at worst, it inhibits the investigation and prevention of violent crime.
Honestly, I wish my paying attention to politics was less reactive, but such are the times. In the next few years, I trust some political changes, both state and federal, will be altogether positive. Nevertheless, what I have attempted to present are in the justice-oriented, consensus-driven interests of our congregation, and which appear to me to be in immediate threat of regressive and anti-Christ political change.
I pray you receive this as an invitation to get involved. I will do what I can to keep you posted, and to encourage and equip those of you interested in participating in the ministry of advocacy. For by Christ’s example, you are invited.