Friday, June 12, 2009

Public policy and the Church: Our voices can be heard

You may not be aware of this: The Episcopal Church in Virginia is deeply involved with the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, which works on the nitty gritty of social justice issues in the Legislature in Virginia.  The center sends periodic email updates on its activities, and you can register to receive these by clicking HERE.

The Center maintains a terrific website with updates on public policy issues ranging from health care to jobs, education to hunger. The center earlier this year published a report on how health care costs are skyrocketing in this state, far exceeding growth in wages in this state. I highly commend the report. You can read it by clicking HERE.

Any discussion of public policy inevitably leads into the political arena, and that makes many devout church goers nervous. Politics is messy and polarized, and it is easier to keep the peace in the church by staying away from it. The problem with that is the Gospel won't let us, not if we are being truly faithful to the Gospel.  "Truly I tell you," Jesus says, "just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it for me." (Matthew 25: 40).

The Bible is replete from beginning to end with declarations that to hear God's call is to hear the call to care for the poor, the sick and those who suffer. The prophet Micah puts it: "What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8)

As a deacon friend of mine says, it is true that we are called to pull people out of the river before they drown; and, it is equally true that  we are called to walk upstream to see who is pushing people into the river. And That leads us to the messiness of the legislative process. 

I must say, as a relative newcomer to Virginia, that I am much impressed by the quality and depth of the work of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy. And I say that as someone who has spent most of my adult life in public policy and politics, including on the staff of the California state Senate. I hope you will support this vital work.

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