We Must Rebuild, Not Just Reform
Emerging from four years of hatred, division, racism, and regression guiding federal policies, NETWORK pondered what approach to take in our new policy agenda for the next four years ahead. Through encounters with individuals and communities impacted by federal policy, it has been made clear that our systems are not working for everyone. Too often, this is on purpose. Certain policies and systems seek to widen the income gap, encourage racism, and exclude people based on their identity. Substantial change cannot be made unless we tear down the structures that are oppressing some while benefitting others. We need to dismantle and rebuild, rather than simply reform, in order to eradicate the white male supremacy in our current system. Reform efforts have provided relief in traumatic times, but we must achieve sustainable liberation. As Sister Simone Campbell says, “We need a new imagination to create a way forward in these unprecedented times. What is old is not working and something new needs to emerge.” The racism, sexism, classism, and white supremacy in the American political system has been present since its founding, and there is no way to achieve justice without building a new foundation for a political system, economy, and society that intentionally includes everyone.
Cornerstones are the first stones set in a foundation, and everything else in a structure is built in reference to them. With this in mind, NETWORK has chosen these four cornerstones to Build Anew: Dismantling Systemic Racism, Cultivating Inclusive Community, Rooting Our Economy in Solidarity, and Transforming Our Politics. Upon these foundational values, we can build our country anew through our policies.
Working Against Injustice as People of Faith
We have reached an inflection point in American life when it comes to racism and white supremacy. The truth and harsh realities of systemic racism have been laid bare before our eyes in every aspect of our society, including health care, education, the economy, and policing. The global coronavirus pandemic, economic crisis, and racial reckoning following the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and many others have amplified the unjust disparities in our nation. As people of faith, it is long past the time when we must stand against these injustices that distort the image, likeness, and character of God, who created us with purpose and on purpose.
This is particularly personal for me as an African-American woman, mother, ordained clergy, and justice advocate. Racism is a heavy burden for us to bear and it is relentless in its deification of hatred and violence against anyone who is not white. In America, my children are not safe. My family members are not safe. My friends and fellow church members are not safe. I am not safe. And, it is not because we have done anything wrong or because we are criminal minded. We are not safe because of the color of our skin, which is the weapon so many see regardless of our station in life, our love of God, our commitment to our communities, or our devotion to righteousness.
We are late in this endeavor to end systemic racism and white supremacy once and for all. Truly, we should have already eradicated this evil in our midst, this evil which is soaked into the foundation of our country. But, it’s not too late for us to do it now. We must root out systemic racism at its core and chart a new course moving forward. Lent is the perfect time for us to focus on this, to pray about this, to ask God to intervene and move on hearts and minds that we might see the change and be the change we long for in our nation.
Written by Reverend Dr. Leslie Copeland-Tune. Rev. Dr. Copeland-Tune is a leading ecumenical voice and COO of the National Council of Churches USA.
Almighty gracious and merciful God, like the emergence of triumphant beams of life assuring light cutting through our darkest hours, humbly we rejoice in the presence of your Holy Spirit.
We exalt you dear Lord with overwhelming thanksgiving for all that is good in our lives. Even as we celebrate your matchless benevolence towards us in this sacred season of Lent, our souls cry out with hope as we anticipate the empowerment of our mind, body, and soul against the evils of oppression, the misguided justification of unequal laws, and systemic racism.
Forgive us God, for we in arrogance have become drunkards in our consumption of the majesty of those we call leaders. We have made deals with demons motivated by our own lust for power with no regard for your truth and no thought of the innocent nor the marginalized. We have recklessly reprogrammed our minds to forget that evil has no conscience and thus your children of this world and greater of this nation, suffer.
Have Mercy upon us. Through Your love for us, faithful to your promise according the Living Word, we are given “a way out.” Dear Sovereign Savior, convict us to take action for economic equity for the disenfranchised, for unity of community, and for the transformation of our politics.
All this we pray in the name of Jesus the Christ.
Written by Reverend Bo Barber II. Rev. Barber is the pastor of Prospect African Methodist Episcopal Church, Fortson North Columbus Georgia, and founder and CEO of Faith to Table.
Set aside some time to review NETWORK’s Build Anew policy agenda. Reflect on how the cornerstones will impact federal policy and political systems. This will help you prepare for closer study of our issue areas in the following weeks. Questions that may help guide your reflection include:
- What does Sister Simone mean when she says, “We need a new imagination to create a way forward in these unprecedented times. What is old is not working and something new needs to emerge.”
- How have you seen racism and white supremacy manifest in federal policy?
- What role might you play in dismantling unjust power structures in our country?