“No matter what we face in life; whether it’s financial, emotional, relational, or physical, there is one true fact; we are not alone.” This is one of the first thoughts that I had as the shuttle van that was bringing from the Washington-Dulles Airport was navigating through the rain and traffic to drop me off at a hotel in a city to which I’d never been. The city; this city, the Nation’s capital that is entrenched in an atmosphere of uncertainty and frightening times was somehow letting me know that I was not alone and that it was my time to be here.
Over the last several days my emotional litmus has been tested as at times I felt like I was being tossed to and fro on a litany of “alternative facts.” I’m here because I’m a seminarian at the Pacific School of Religion, but further than that, I am an individual that believes that the scales of justice have for far too long favored those that determined that toil and labor is a menial endeavor to be carried out by the most marginalized of individuals; those that have no power because they have no economic prowess.
I’m here with a cohort of other clergy leaders who seek to serve and do the work of justice for the underserved populations of this world. We’re here to discover just how faith and public policy work hand in hand. In his book, Democracy Matters, Cornel West says, “In the face of callous indifference to the suffering wrought by our imperialism, we must draw on the prophetic.” The place where faith and public policy intersect is that prophetic well that we draw from so that we can dismantle this callous indifference. Faith is politics; it is the living water of our moral consciousness; it is our understanding of the mission of the gospel of Jesus; to do the work of justice; to ensure that the least of these have a place at the table of equity, and it is the true intent of democracy.
In John 21, Jesus gives Peter a three-fold command that makes my understanding of why faith is foundational to enacting policies that serve the common good of all people. “Feed my lambs,” “tend my sheep,” and “feed my sheep” is an instruction for all of us as faith leaders to identify injustice, recognize injustice, and resolve injustice so that all people are empowered. Faith in public policy is the substance of things we hope for, and for many in this country, it is something tangible, something that can be grasped because it is the most civil of their inalienable rights.
I’ve learned this week that it isn’t enough to simply hold the right opinion; I’ve spoken to people that believe it is the wrong opinion to be offended at the notion that more money should be poured into efforts like aggressive militarism in inner cities and low-income neighborhoods versus saving the educational institutions in those communities that will cause growth and liberation.
Democracy is a fallacy if only a small contingency of people get to experience it as normative. Feeding and tending sheep means that no person is erased or invalidated because humanity is not disposable. Nine years ago I discovered that while I may have been walking in despair, I had not been walking alone. I’ve heard the echo of the blood of my ancestors as I walked through the halls of Senate buildings to place a demand on behalf of the people. I’ve gained an even more palpable understanding of why resistance to tyranny must be unrelenting and why tyranny must be ended by any means necessary.