The Pastor’s Pen: January 27, 2019

The shutdown is now in its 34th day, the longest in American history. It is unconscionable that the greatest nation on earth could be paralyzed due to a dispute over a border wall on our southern border. No one I have spoken to believes that we do not need security on our borders. However, we must be clear that most of the drugs that come into our country come from Canada and not Mexico. In light of the President’s comments disparaging certain nations in Africa and the Caribbean, one can only assume that this is another indication of a policy attempt that is rooted in racism. When Speaker Pelosi describes a wall on the southern border as immoral, she is correct for a number of reasons, one of which is why are we making such a big deal of southern border defense when illegal immigration from Mexico and South America is only a small fraction of what it was just a few years ago.

The tragedy of this Administration’s persistence to make good on the campaign slogan chant, “build that wall,” is the extent to which that promise has mired our nation in an intractable mud which now holds hostage not only the 800,000 federal government workers, but several millions when you add contractors, businesses, vendors and others in Washington and around the nation.

Furloughed workers are facing the reality of a second week without pay. To Speaker Pelosi’s point, this is immorality of incredible proportions. News clips from around the country have featured families who are forced to get food at food pantries, to face mortgage payments that they cannot make, and healthcare obligations that they cannot meet.

I commend Shiloh for its efforts to bring some relief in this desperate situation. Through our special collections, we are determined to provide $50 to every member of Shiloh who is furloughed. Last Wednesday, we partnered with National Cathedral to provide 10 gallons of gas to the first 45 furloughed employees that showed up at our parking lot. This relief was not only for Shiloh members but for DC residents throughout the community who simply needed some help. At the end of the day, however, we served 156 cars; to God be the glory, Shiloh!  I also applaud congregations throughout the region who are doing their best to help furloughed employees through this egregious and unnecessary emergency.

We encourage those who are affected to keep in mind the words of Isaiah, 43:2-3: “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God.”

These are times of enormous challenge. But as our churches attempt to do whatever in our power to assist during the furlough, we must remember the slogan that Adam Clayton Powell coined in the 1960s, “Keep the faith baby.” We will keep the faith, because as we sung during the Civil Rights Movement, we continue to sing, “God is on our side.”