Joining in service and advocacy for the sake of our neighbors, our nation, and ourselves – David Atkinson
An email from LAMPa several weeks ago addressed critical needs confronting our neighbors, within and without our faith community. Food insecurity. Shelter insecurity. Acceptance insecurity.
These issues were on high alert long before the onset of the pandemic. The coronavirus has made the situation worse, severely straining resources and providing a stress test for our national spirit of goodwill to all. What should be treated as the national emergency gets relegated to secondary consideration as too many leaders and citizens are consumed by political food fights over power. Others desperately cling to images of America that are false or historically delusionary.
At the same time that community groups, faith groups, medical care providers, and service providers are desperately scrambling to locate funding, volunteers, and resources, and doing so at risk, we witnessed another lamentable demonstration of selfish executive leadership. The outgoing administration frantically rushed to execute as many contracts as possible for additional construction on the southern border wall. The money involved is unavailable for public good. Should the new administration seek to void the contracts, there will be substantial penalties incurred. Even if construction in sensitive areas is halted, the disruption of protected natural areas and wildlife migration patterns is permanent.
How does our nation afford billions for a wall that provides mostly psychic value in the name of national security, when real hardship is all around us, in the places where we live, work, and worship? With the threats affecting workers, veterans, people owning struggling businesses or startups, people of all ages who were just gaining a foothold in the job market, and others, why are not more citizens objecting to priorities are that are beyond misbegotten and misplaced? And if this is how we choose to treat citizens, it is hard for us to comprehend the magnitude of the fears of noncitizens.
Imagine trying to deal with these consuming struggles, under the daily fear of deportation to a country you have never known, which may be plagued by unrest, violence, or crippling poverty. There are many things adults and children need to survive, but most of all they can use our respect and friendship and acceptance. From those things we can build people up, rather than victimize and alienate them and consign them to the depths of despair.
ELCA and LAMPa regularly offer a wide range of ways that our faith community can get involved. By weighing in through word and deed, we do not abandon the field of deciding policy and funding to folks who may not subscribe to the guiding principles we are taught through the scriptures.
These are difficult times for us to look far past our own individual challenges, as we seek to protect our physical and mental health, to shore up our finances, to find new ways to keep sacred traditions and enable growth. By opening our eyes to the suffering around us, and to the sorrow of those who have lost lives or health to coronavirus, we help diminish the focus on our troubles. Joining in the service and advocacy efforts brought forward by LAMPa not only increases our collective ability to make a difference, but it can bring us much needed spiritual solace. And make America a far better moral and compassionate place, even if that slogan does not fit on a ballcap.
David Atkinson, a member of Lower Susquehanna Synod’s AMMPARO task force, did policy and communications work in the Pennsylvania Senate for thirty-five years and is a long-time member of Tree of Life Lutheran Church in Susquehanna Township. He writes commentary and scripts for history documentaries for the Susquehanna Valley Center for Public Policy. He also coauthored a political memoir of state Senator Robert C. Jubelirer titled The Senate Will Come To Order; But The Politics May Be Messy and was an interviewer for an oral history of The Reverend Doctor Ken Senft titled: A Life Of Faith. Atkinson also served for thirteen years on the Pennsylvania Public Television Network Commission.