The term “national emergency” has recently taken its place in our vocabulary. The President declared a national emergency in response to what he considers to be a crisis at the US border with Mexico. Of course, there is way more to this declaration, but that’s another discussion for another day.
While I don’t disagree that we have a national emergency, I do wish our collective moral compass pointed our sense of emergency towards other issues. As a person of faith, the teachings of Jesus provide a lens through which view the affairs of today. Jesus most likely would have understood politics as “the affairs of the city.” Jesus certainly was concerned about the affairs of the city, spending his ministry seeking to subvert empire so that a new way of ordering the world would emerge. Through my lens and with my perspective, these are 3 items that I consider to merit a national emergency.
We have come far, but we have so far to go. The last couple of years have given a renewed rise to white nationalism. Those who seek to discriminate based on the color of someone’s skin have been emboldened by this administration. Systemic racism continues to rear its ugly head and we have stopped asking the difficult questions necessary to dismantle systemic racism. Racial violence is on the rise. We must not go backward, rather we must start moving forward once again so that all who dwell here may know the fullness of life.
There is a growing gap in the haves and the have nots in the US. The shaming of the poor by our national leaders is not only accepted, but it is also policy. Our collective contempt towards those who financially struggle is reflected in our public policy and contempt for the working poor. Some just can’t understand how someone could be poor. Heck, some can’t even understand how someone could be middle-class. If only you worked hard enough. The truth is that more are working harder than ever for less money. According to the Economic Policy Institute, in a survey of 350 companies, the CEO makes on average 271 times the salary of the average worker. I look towards the story told in the Gospels about loaves and fishes and I am reminded that there is always enough. Perhaps we need to have conversations around what is enough for each person to know the fullness of life and how we make this happen.
We fail to place a high enough value on life. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there were nearly 40,000 gun deaths in 2017, the largest yearly total record. Today, the community of the Aurora mourns lives lost at the hands of gun violence. These are not numbers, rather these are loved ones; parents, children, brothers, and sisters. Gun violence is an indicator of our overall addiction to violence. Jesus spent significant time in his ministry challenging systems of violence. Our nation, from the highest levels, is riddled with spirits of fear, anger, and division. These spirits permeate our communities and our institutions. It’s long past time that we become serious about action to remedy our addiction to violence. Life is too valuable to wait any longer.
Racism, Income Inequality, and Gun Violence- these are 3 of many issues that demand our immediate attention- May we do the hard work necessary. May our moral compasses bend toward justice. We owe it to our sisters and brothers.