Dear Friends in Christ,
Like so many of you, I have read and responded to lots of Facebook posts, statements released and invitations to “sign on” to letters that speak to issues that have either arisen with or made more complicated by, the dawn of a new administration. There is a sense of heightened urgency. But the issues are not new. Policies related to immigration, refugees and access to health care have come into greater focus, creating a dizzying sense of need among society’s most vulnerable. All the while, challenges related to hunger and poverty, systemic racism, support for quality education, caring for wounded veterans and any number of other challenges still loom large.
The circumstances that call for faith-based advocacy have so many layers that it is tempting to think of advocacy more in terms of being “against” something or someone rather than being “for” those who need us to speak on their behalf, who long for us to stand with them because of how they are being or will be victimized. It is a risky business worth the risk when it is unambiguously driven by the good news we are called to proclaim.
So here is the challenge when tempted to take our lead from the latest headline or blog or tweet. Let our proclamation, week in and week out, day after day reflect a clear telling of the Jesus story. More than that, in our encounters with parishioners and politicians, with the mighty and with the least of these, let us give them Jesus. We are called to declare that God’s all-inclusive love is a promise kept, that God’s mercy is intended for all people, including those who do not see things the way we see them. Including those who enflame our passions and stir us to anger.
There is the rub. We are called to proclaim a good news that is for everyone in an era of such polarization, never yielding on premise that this inclusive good news is especially for the poor and for those who are themselves most at risk.
To be sure, there is often an “against-ness” to doing justice. But advocacy at its best reflects and consistently embodies the good news that the dawn that matters is the rising of a crucified Christ, the saving witness that God is FOR this broken world. All of it.
Bishop Michael Burk