2 July 2020
#FreedomSummer Is Now
Today is the midpoint of the year. Although we began at record market highs and unemployment lows, all of that has been dramatically reversed to a sputtered economy and the highest unemployment ever. What will the next six months bring? What role will the Church play in the new normal emerging from the global pandemic, the universal calls for addressing systemic racism, and the growing distress across the county over policing norms?
July 2 is the actual day the Continental Congress voted on the Declaration of Independence. In their deliberations, they struck the petition that decried the king for introducing human trafficking of Africans and its horrors into the colonies, replacing it with a complaint that George incited “domestic insurrections among us” for stirring up native peoples and slaves against the Revolution. Thomas Jefferson knew the bitter hypocrisy of telling King George that all men are created equal and holding slaves himself. He never resolved that matter in his own soul. Has not the time been long past that the whole Church join the Black Church in clearly stating the need for a new foundation of our nation that honors the ideal of our shared equality before God and one another? I mean a foundation based on sincerity and truth, not hypocrisy and expediency. What values shall the Church unabashedly promote, both civic and religious, since we are called to love God and our neighbor?
On this day in 1839, the hostages on La Amistad rebelled and took the ship. In that great story of freedom, let’s remember that 35 of the African hostages eventually returned to their homeland. Shall the Church’s voice shout out today the Jubilee of liberty that scripture proclaims?
On this day in 1965, President Lyndon B Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, officially ending public segregation. But we all know that hate and prejudice has whittled away at those momentous gains. Will the Church speak to restore and advance those gains of equality and justice?
The Executive Committee of the Florida Council of Churches has endorsed the attached statement on voting and civic engagement. We invite you to co-sign it and promote it among your leadership and within your churches. Let us commit together to encourage and register all peoples to vote and participate fully in the democratic institutions of this nation. And thus may our thanksgiving to God for the liberty of this nation be rightly and fully extended to all its citizens.
Grace and peace,
The Rev. Dr. Russell Meyer
By Rev. James T. Golden, Esquire
Secretary, Florida Council of Churches
Approved by the Executive Committee
The Florida Council of Churches seeks to be a visible, vocal, and vital part of the discussion, discourse, and determination to transform our nation, and particularly the State of Florida. As a people of faith, we are well aware that we wrestle not against flesh and blood. We hold that all people are created good in God’s image; thus our cause is not partisan. We are, however, contending against policies that are spiritual wickedness because they do evil and harm to the people of our state. We recognize that a spiritual transformation of our country, and the State of Florida, is a far more difficult concept to embrace than the historical piecemeal, patchwork, patronizing efforts that have been made in the past, however well intended they may have been. The Florida Council of Churches is totally committed to providing a different focus with the fervent hope that we will achieve a better outcome for all of us. We, therefore, call for voters to be engaged in ways that bring about change particularly in three areas:
1) Healthcare. We are in the midst of an unprecedented health pandemic for which our leaders have insufficient answers and for which they emphasize overcoming our immediate economic distress rather than finding a cure for the virus which has caused it. We are committed to realizing a society in which all are made whole, physically and spiritually.
2) Systemic Racism. It is undeniable that racism has raised its ugly head once again, on many fronts, to assert its preeminence as one of our greatest unsolved national problems. We envision and pledge our efforts to establishing an anti-racist society in the state of Florida.
3) Public Safety. We recognize that the killing and harassment of black men and women on the streets of our cities and neighborhoods has given rise to another generation’s protests and provocations. We desire, therefore, a state in which any person can walk down any street at any time of the day and not fear for their safety or harassment from anyone.
To that end, we are whole-heartedly determined to impact the outcome of the primary election in August and the general election in November of this year so that they are reflective of an agenda that is of the people, by the people, and for the people. President Dwight David Eisenhower signed into law the Civil Rights Law of 1957 establishing the US Civil Rights Commission to protect African-American voter participation, work that needs to be reinforced and enforced. We are encouraged by the words recently shared by President Barack Obama, “To bring about real change we both have to highlight problems and make people in power uncomfortable, but we also have to translate that into practical solutions and law.”
The combined constituencies of the Florida Council of Churches number more than one-million Floridians of all political persuasions, ethnicities, ages, sexual orientations, economic capacities, and religious denominations. We welcome the support of any and all people, organizations, associations, affiliations, and other religions who would embrace the crucial need for real change in at least these three areas and who would work with us, and who we can work with, to see that real change becomes permanently translated into practical solutions and laws by registering, educating, and turning out voters this August and November.
Many of the events that have unfolded in the last several weeks across our nation have shined a spotlight on a plethora of unanswered questions, unsolved problems, and unaddressed issues that have plagued our country since its founding. While there are many other questions, problems, and issues that certainly impose their particular burdens on all of us as a nation, it is not an overstatement to aver that paramount to our continued existence as the land of the free and the home of the brave is the national duty of voting in August and in November to protect our health, overcome our prejudices, and to assure our domestic tranquility.
We are inundated daily with data on numbers infected, tested, dead, and recovering from COVID – 19. We are numbed with pain, grief, and outrage at the almost daily revelations in the media about how somewhere, somehow, another human being’s life has been ended, interrupted, or at least inconvenienced by some racist act founded upon white privilege, white fear, or white bias. Even more egregious, is the grim reality that too many of the people in whom we have put our trust to protect and serve all of us have created a culture of legally protected separatism from some of us, and that has generated nothing less than a climate of fear, resentment, and hostility among those of us who are the separated, the marginalized, and the ostracized. Most horrendous of all is the fact that there seems yet to be any national appetite to engage all of us in the extremely difficult job of spiritually transforming our nation from who we are, into the nation we could and should be. As a nation, we must collectively reject the temptation to embrace a spirit of civic minimalism and each of us individually must fervently continue striving to achieve, receive, and enjoy the blessing of being one Nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.
In spite of voter suppression – WE WILL VOTE!
In spite of voter oppression – WE WILL VOTE!
In spite of long lines – WE WILL VOTE!
In spite of not enough polling places – WE WILL VOTE!
In spite of not agreeing with any candidate about everything – WE WILL VOTE!
In spite of disagreeing with every candidate about something– WE WILL VOTE!
In spite of believing that our vote will not make any difference – WE WILL VOTE!
In spite of efforts to not count our vote – WE WILL VOTE!
WE WILL KEEP VOTING UNTIL WE SEE THE NATION WE SEEK WHERE EVERYONE FULLY ENJOYS LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.
If you agree please sign onto this statement individually or organizationally at: https://forms.gle/LwxyGC9jE6TbEg8t5