We look ahead to 2011 knowing we face many challenges and that our commitment to the work we believe in must be fortified and renewed.
The environment in which we will be doing our work for justice and peace in the coming New Year has changed. Legislatively, it will be a difficult two years. We who support progressive social justice will be playing defense, very little offense. There won’t be a lot of bills we like getting passed. We will measure success by how many bad bills don’t become law.
A host of issues important to the Council could be impacted negatively at the local, state, or national level. These include:
- Balancing the state’s huge budget shortfall solely through cuts which endanger education and hurt vulnerable people.
- Taking action which denies that global warming is happening, that it is being caused by us, and that we can help stop it.
- Re-segregating the public schools in some counties.
- Repealing the bill prohibiting bullying against various groups of students, including those who are gay or lesbian.
- Impeding health care reform, including its repeal or defunding at the national level and state efforts at nullifying its impact in NC.
- Repealing smoke-free restaurants and bars, putting employees and patrons at greater health risk.
- Repealing the Racial Justice Act.
- Amending the state constitution to define marriage.
- Adopting anti-immigrant legislation, including at least the banning of undocumented immigrant students from state colleges and community colleges. (Other anti-immigrant bills in recent years would use school buses to ship undocumented immigrants back to the Mexican border and would prohibit undocumented immigrants from wiring money to other countries.)
- Repealing public financing for political campaigns, returning us to the time when lawyers financed the campaigns of judges before whom they would then argue cases.
- Requiring photo IDs in order for people to vote, thus making it harder for low-income and/or elderly people to participate in elections.
What can we do? We can’t change the call of scripture, nor should we.
- Moses, the prophets, and Jesus still call us to welcome the immigrant strangers.
- Both Old and New Testaments still teach that the earth is the Lord’s and that God’s people are called to help care for it.
- The biblical call to peace and peacemaking and reconciliation has not been revoked.
- God’s concern for the poor remains, and we are still called to work for the common good, not for our own selfish interests.
- Jesus is still the Great Physician, and he still calls us to care for our own health and the health of others.
- Micah and Amos and the other prophets still call for justice, and Jesus still challenges us to care for the hungry, the homeless, the imprisoned.
So we will continue to organize, educate, and call to action. Legislators need to hear from unhappy constituents. The Governor needs to be encouraged to use her veto pen. When untruths are spoken, they need to be exposed. When people are hurt, their stories must be told. And we must remember who we are and Whose we are.
There are passages from Romans that we turn to in times of adversity, loss, and grief, and that’s really where we are today.
We know that in everything God works for good with those who love God and are called according to God’s purpose. What can separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, even in these things we are more than victorious through him who loved us. For nothing in all of creation can separate us from the love of God fully revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We also like to quote Martin Luther King, Jr. about the arc of history being long, but bending towards justice. What we are seeing is that it is not a smooth arc, but one of zigs and zags.
So what will we do here at the Council?
We’ll keep proclaiming and practicing the peace and the justice to which our faith calls us. We can do no less.
And what can you do? At least these three things:
- Become a member of the Council’s Raleigh Report network by going to our website and signing up to join our e-mail list. You may choose there to receive only Raleigh Report or other notices and publications as well. Network members will receive legislative information and suggested action for progressive people of faith throughout the 2011 session of the NC General Assembly. Please be assured that we do not share our e-mail list.
- Plan to attend the 2011 Legislative Seminar in Raleigh on Tuesday, April 5. This gathering is part legislative briefing, part family reunion. Be here with like-minded people of faith. Click here to request registration information when it becomes available.
- Give financial support to the NC Council of Churches. There’s a lot of money on the other side of these issues of social justice. Your financial contribution will help us continue to give voice to people of faith who support issues of social justice.
As the Council begins its 76th year, let us continue to work together for justice, for peace, and for unity.
Rev. George Reed, Executive Director