Let America Be First in Leadership

Commentary
By Lawrence Reddick 6-29-2017
Senior Bishop Lawrence Reddick III at the Circle of Protection news conference.

We come as women and men of faith. Though separated by physical distances, cultural differences, and faith traditions, many of us united in prayer and fasting in May, directed toward God’s intervention in the politics of the United States, especially as it relates to the poor and vulnerable. We pray for wisdom for our governmental leaders, but we are committed to continued advocacy for those most in need of society’s safety nets.

We agree that the purposes of government include providing for the common good, for security and protection. But we know that prosperity and privileges are not commonly identifiable in every sector of our society. While for some these are the best of times that might allow for cuts in the national budget, for others they are the worst of times and cuts will prove devastating.

Among the churches I visit, we serve many who are stressed to keep roofs over their heads, and many — even working persons — stretch to make ends meet, monthly. There still are people who must decide during the month between food or medicine, or between rent and food. Safety nets such as SNAP and Medicaid are still essential to improving the opportunities of the poor.

As faith leaders with international ministries, we also believe there are needs outside this nation which we as a leading world nation should respond to. And so, we adapt the words, “America first” to say, Let America be first in leadership in the world, first in helping build the capacities of other nations, first in encouraging the determination within other countries to build their infrastructures and agricultural systems – not by cutting international aid, but by strengthening it.

Recently one of our clergy expounded the Scripture in 1 Chronicles 4:9 – the prayer of Jabez – with this insight: Jabez, she said, prayed that God would bless him and increase his territory. Then she helped us see that Jabez was not praying for personal increase, but for an increase for all in the tribe of Judah, which he led … so that the people he served as leader would be blessed with increased capacity.

God has blessed our nation with great capacity. Now is not the time — never is the time — to enrich the already wealthy while cutting safety net programs for the poorest and most vulnerable. Like Jabez, we advocate for the increases of those we see and serve.

Senior Bishop Lawrence Reddick III is presiding bishop of the Eighth Episcopal District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.

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