Two letters in response to the President of the United States

Trump Cummings tweets 7:23:19.001

As of this posting, I’ve not seen a tweet from a US President against a Christian cathedral but it could be coming soon. The National Cathedral posted a response (printed below) to recent comments critical of the City of Baltimore.

Another letter (printed below) from Episcopal leaders in Maryland responds to the words of our president. Both are worthy of reading, especially if you’re the President, but one phrase that struck a strong chord with me was, “When does silence become complicity?”

Sadly, the Christian denomination I grew up in will remain largely silent. Any leader speaking against racist rhetoric or actions of our current administration will be persecuted by other church leaders and members.   ~ Kindly

July 30, 2019

The escalation of racialized rhetoric from the President of the United States has evoked responses from all sides of the political spectrum. On one side, African American leaders have led the way in rightfully expressing outrage. On the other, those aligned with the President seek to downplay the racial overtones of his attacks, or remain silent.

As faith leaders who serve at Washington National Cathedral ¬– the sacred space where America gathers at moments of national significance – we feel compelled to ask: After two years of President Trump’s words and actions, when will Americans have enough?

As Americans, we have had such moments before, and as a people we have acted. Events of the last week call to mind a similarly dark period in our history:

“Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. … You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?”

That was U.S. Army attorney Joseph Welch on June 9, 1954, when he confronted Senator Joseph McCarthy before a live television audience, effectively ending McCarthy’s notorious hold on the nation. Until then, under the guise of ridding the country of Communist infiltration, McCarthy had free rein to say and do whatever he wished. With unbridled speech, he stoked the fears of an anxious nation with lies; destroyed the careers of countless Americans; and bullied into submissive silence anyone who dared criticize him.

In retrospect, it’s clear that Welch’s question was directed less toward McCarthy and more to the nation as a whole. Had Americans had enough? Where was our sense of decency?

We have come to accept a level of insult and abuse in political discourse that violates each person’s sacred identity as a child of God. We have come to accept as normal a steady stream of language and accusations coming from the highest office in the land that plays to racist elements in society.

This week, President Trump crossed another threshold. Not only did he insult a leader in the fight for racial justice and equality for all persons; not only did he savage the nations from which immigrants to this country have come; but now he has condemned the residents of an entire American city. Where will he go from here?

Make no mistake about it, words matter. And, Mr. Trump’s words are dangerous.

These words are more than a “dog-whistle.” When such violent dehumanizing words come from the President of the United States, they are a clarion call, and give cover, to white supremacists who consider people of color a sub-human “infestation” in America. They serve as a call to action from those people to keep America great by ridding it of such infestation. Violent words lead to violent actions.

When does silence become complicity? What will it take for us all to say, with one voice, that we have had enough? The question is less about the president’s sense of decency, but of ours.

As leaders of faith who believe in the sacredness of every single human being, the time for silence is over. We must boldly stand witness against the bigotry, hatred, intolerance, and xenophobia that is hurled at us, especially when it comes from the highest offices of this nation. We must say that this will not be tolerated. To stay silent in the face of such rhetoric is for us to tacitly condone the violence of these words. We are compelled to take every opportunity to oppose the indecency and dehumanization that is racism, whether it comes to us through words or actions.

There is another moment in our history worth recalling. On January 21, 2017, Washington National Cathedral hosted an interfaith national prayer service, a sacred tradition to honor the peaceful transfer of political power. We prayed for the President and his young Administration to have “wisdom and grace in the exercise of their duties that they may serve all people of this nation, and promote the dignity and freedom of every person.”

That remains our prayer today for us all.

The Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington
The Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, Dean of Washington National Cathedral
The Rev. Canon Kelly Brown Douglas, Canon Theologian of Washington National Cathedral

Media Contact:
Meredith MacKenzie or Tony Franquiz, cathedral@westendstrategy.com

 


July 29, 2019

To the President of the United States:

As the judicatory heads of a number of Christian denominations in Maryland, we want you to know that many of our churches pray for you by name every Sunday in our worship services. In one of the prayer books that is commonly used, we find this prayer for you and civic leaders:

“Grant to the President of the United States…and all in authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do thy will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in thy fear.” (Book of Common Prayer, page 820)

Recently, much to our dismay and profound sadness, you publicly slurred our beloved City of Baltimore in a tweet. We will not dignify the slur by repeating it. It was horrible, demeaning and beneath the dignity of a political leader who should be encouraging us all to strive and work for a more civil, just and compassionate society.

It is all too easy to look for scapegoats and fault others for longstanding and systemic problems that beset every community. Cities, which bring together diverse races, languages, cultures, economic and social conditions, are frequent targets for those who cannot – or will not – see their beauty through the eyes of God and in their inhabitants.

To their detractors, cities are seen only through the lens of social evils such as poverty, crime, violence and racism. To God, however, cities are seen primarily as vessels of hope, lights of God’s reign, and opportunities for living in blessed community.

In the Holy Scriptures, the prophet Jeremiah uplifted his people who were in despair:

Thus says the Lord of hosts…Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare….Do not let the prophets and the diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, says the Lord. (Jeremiah 29: 7-9)

Great leaders like Jeremiah had a compelling vision for their people, and they knew how to bring diverse people together around that vision. Our congregations have a similar vision of health and prosperity for Baltimore, and they are working courageously and effectively to build up the city by their actions – not tearing it down by their words.

In Baltimore, people of faith are…
…teaching children to read, study, play and grow in safe environments.
…reaching out to high school students in programs that keep them off the streets and expand their opportunities.
…saving the lives of those addicted by opioids, alcohol and other drugs.
…reclaiming abandoned buildings for housing and other community needs.
…taking real steps to reduce gun violence and promote social cohesion.
…helping recent immigrants and refugees to settle into and thrive in their new environments.
…feeding, clothing and housing those who have no where else to turn and no one else to help them.
…planting trees, growing gardens, and cleaning up streets and waterways to protect God’s good earth from pollution.

Everyday, they are demonstrating their commitment to loving God and their neighbors as themselves. Our people are showing us all how to live, and how to lead. We invite you to come visit us in Baltimore; see us in action, and see how our communities survive and even thrive in the face of adversity. We are asking for your help – not tweets of denunciation.

Today, more than ever, we need visionary leaders like Jeremiah. In an open society of honest disagreements and political differences, it’s especially imperative that leaders do not insult, demean, dehumanize and divide people and communities. Good leaders lift up, call people together, and bring out the best in them. Slamming individuals and whole communities is not leadership; it’s regression – for everybody. Leaders lead.

Mr. President, as religious leaders we implore you: in the name of all that is good, healthy and decent, stop putting people down. Enough of the harmful rhetoric that angers and discourages the people and communities you are called to serve – more than you know.

Lead.

Signed,

The Ecumenical Leaders’ Group of Maryland

The Right Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland

The Rev. William J. Gohl, Jr., Bishop
Delaware-Maryland Synod
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Bishop LaTrelle M. Easterling
Resident Bishop, Washington Episcopal Area
Baltimore-Washington Conference
The United Methodist Church

Rev. Dr. Wanda Bynum Duckett
Baltimore Metropolitan District Superintendent
Baltimore-Washington Conference
The United Methodist Church

Rev. Dr. Stacey Cole Wilson
Executive Minister of Justice and Service
Baltimore-Washington Conference
The United Methodist Church

The Most Reverend William E. Lori
Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Baltimore

The Most Reverend Denis J. Madden
Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore
The Archdiocese of Baltimore

Rev. Freeman L. Palmer
Conference Minister
Central Atlantic Conference United Church of Christ

Rev. Dellyne Hinton
Chair, Central Maryland Ecumenical Council

Rev. Allen V. Harris
Regional Minister
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Capital Area

Rev. Jacqueline E. Taylor
General Presbyter
Presbytery of Baltimore
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A)

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