An Open Plea to Speak Now: This Defining Moment is About Spirituality and Democracy for Everyone.
By L. Rita Dixon, retired clergy in the greater Atlanta Presbytery
On Friday afternoon, March 26, 2021, Governor Bryan Kemp of Georgia in a locked room with 6 white men at the State Capital, signed into law Georgia's newly passed legislation restricting voting opportunities for Georgia citizens. He was sitting at his desk in front of a picture of a slave plantation surrounded by his white male team. A Black woman member of the Georgia legislative body, Representative Park Cannon, was outside the door knocking trying to get in to witness the signing. She was arrested and dragged through the halls of the capital to be taken to jail. Governor Kemp completed signing the legislation into law.
Senator Warnock in an interview on The Rachel Maddow Show later on the same date—Friday night March 26, 2021, said: "If you think that this is something happening down in Georgia, you are misapprehending the moment that we’re living in. If you think that this is something happening to black voters, you still don’t quite clearly understand. This is a defining moment for American democracy. If this is happening in the state capitol in Georgia, it will not take very long for it to visit a state capitol near you. Because, clearly, while there are the reverberations of race are an ongoing struggle in America, the ways in which poor people, young people are marginalized in various ways, and a real sense that this is about something much more profound than that."
It is about whether we are who we say we are. Either we are a democracy, or we’re not. Either we believe in the idea of one person, one vote, or we don’t. Either I’m a citizen or not. These are politicians who are trying to hold on to power. That’s what this is. It’s a power struggle. And they decided that they are going to hold on to power no matter what, even if it costs the democracy itself, and the only people ultimately who can correct this are the people themselves. So we have all got to stand up, say no to this. History is watching us, and our children are counting on us.
Senator Warnock is correct. These laws are a brazen attack on Democracy. The Republican Politicians (not necessarily the Republican people because some of them are marginalized too) have seemingly decided that they will stay in power at all costs! And, it will take ALL OF US everywhere—not just our leaders—to say NO! Just as Rev. William Barber, Rev. T. D. Jakes, Rev Bernice King, Political Warrior for Justice Stacey Abrams, and many others are saying "not some of us but all of us" must get involved.
We can use the power of our VOICE and our VOTE. We have seen what our VOTE can do—we elected Biden, Warnock, and Ossoff! Don't underestimate the power of our VOICE. According to Scripture, we are all created in God's image, making us a part of God’s family.
We can speak truth to companies such as Coca-Cola, Delta, Sam's, Walmart, Tyler Perry Studios, and top officials such as Governor Kemp, Ga. Secretary of State, our State and Federal Congress officials, with simple messages such as "Stand up for Democracy”, “Advocate publicly for a just democracy with all resources at hand”, “Pass SB-1”, “Change the filibuster rules”, or whatever will make our democracy more just.
In his first speech on the floor of the Senate, Senator Warnock said: "I think that a vote is a kind of prayer for the kind of world that we desire for ourselves and our children." He further stated that he believed: "Democracy is the political enactment of a spiritual idea about the sacred worth of all human beings. The notion that we have within us a spark of the Divine and a right to participate in shaping our destiny." He understands that Democracy is an ideal that we are always working towards.
I too believe strongly in the ideal of both Spirituality ( working towards the wholeness of God) and Democracy (working toward the ideal of justice, fairness, heaven on earth). Maybe this defining moment is calling us to move beyond belief to commit to action.
* Can we see a relationship between our prayers to God and our actions for justice in the world?
* Can you imagine a time when most of our congregations will mobilize each Sunday around a justice action for a more perfect democracy related to the day’s biblical message of spiritual growth?
Let us follow James Brown's example, Say it loud and say it proud to the powers that be "Take your hands off our Democracy!!!" This is our spiritual duty!
Response by Elenora Giddings Ivory
Former Director for the Washington Office, PCUSA, with four videos in the C-SPAN library
To respond to the end of your letter below, Rita, I think in Micah 6, we can see an answer to your first bulleted question below, "Can we see a relationship between our prayers to God and our actions for justice in the world?" 'We call for justice to roll down like an ever-flowing stream.'
I am still impressed with the Million Mom March for sensible gun laws on Mother's Day on May 14, 2000. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Million_Mom_March It did get small things done.
I was impressed that people left the church and came straight to the Mall to march for gun control. They were still in their church clothes and a very impressive group of people. Now we have smaller but continuous marches for justice. Your spirit can not rest if your soul fears injustice.