Here are my remarks at the “Standing With Our Neighbors” Faith Voices/NAACP event on the day before President Trump came to Springfield.
We gather on the eve of President Trump’s visit to Springfield in order to hold President Trump and his administration in prayer, as well as to hold them accountable to the ethical demands at the heart of the world’s enduring religious traditions. Within religious practice, prayer opens us up to the heart of the sacred, and is intended to help lead us to act as God would desire. This is what we hope for President Trump, as we have hoped for all presidents.
We are not here in order to be politically correct, but to be biblically correct. The heart of our faith traditions includes the call to be in solidarity with our neighbors, standing together for love, dignity, justice, and compassion.
The Golden Rule is expressed in all of the enduring religious traditions of the world. This doesn’t mean more gold for those who already have a whole lot of it (and more than they will ever need); rather, the Golden Rule simply commands us to treat others as we wish to be treated. This applies to our whole lives: in our families and our friendships, as well as in our society and our politics. And it includes how the rich should treat the poor, and vice versa. We believe it applies to all people, Republican or Democrat, religious or not.
We don’t know much about the tax policies that President Trump will unveil tomorrow, but we do know a lot about what our faith traditions say about economic dignity. The Bible has over 2,000 verses about economic dignity and fairness, and it consistently tells leaders of nations that they have a mandate to care for the poor and the forgotten (“the orphan and the widow,” as it’s often described). This is a pillar of faith. Within my tradition, according to Jesus in Matthew 25, leaders and nations will be judged based on how they treat the poor and the vulnerable. This is therefore not just about standing on the right side of history; it’s about standing on the right side of God. We are here to pray for President Trump so he will have the wisdom to make policy decisions that are consistent with the love, compassion and justice at the heart of God, and to reflect on what policies close to the heart of God should look like.
We also pray for — and stand with — our neighbors near and far. Our hearts are especially close to those in Texas; we commit to sending them not just our thoughts and prayers but also our resources and money, and we ask President Trump to respond with the leadership and resources the people of Texas need. We are hopeful his visit to Texas today helps inform his decisions.
As people of faith, we also gather to acknowledge the continued sin of racism and discrimination in our society. Our faith calls us to stand together: those with black skin or brown skin or white skin or any color of skin, we stand together. Men and women, we stand together. Gay and straight, we stand together. Cisgender and transgender, we stand together. Rich and poor, we stand together. We stand together because we believe all human beings are created in the image of God and should be treated with the dignity that affords. We unequivocally renounce the evil sins of white supremacy and gender inequality, and call on all leaders — including President Trump — to refuse to support white supremacy and discrimination at every level, in both word and deed, whether within his administration or outside of it.
We are concerned about the crumbling moral infrastructure that manifests itself in the dangerous game of scapegoating, wherein others are unfairly blamed — whether it be immigrants, gay or transgender persons, Muslims, Jews, or whomever — for problems that run much, much deeper, and for which they are not responsible. Scapegoating others may score easy political points in today’s day and age, but it appeals to our worst instincts rather than our best, and it fails to move our country forward on both moral and economic grounds. Scapegoating does nothing but sell an empty bill of goods to people who are desperate for hope and on the verge of despair — yet we need courageous leadership that truly helps them, not leadership that just riles people up in order to exploit people for the sake of political gain, selling an empty promise that in the end does nothing for them and for everyday hardworking Americans, but just continues a system where the poor and vulnerable are exploited time and again, no matter their political affiliation, as pawns in a devastating political game.
That is why we are praying for President Trump, and all of our elected leaders.