The new President of the United States devoted years to spreading false information about his predecessor. He is prone to exaggeration and hyperbole. A self-professed billionaire, the new President refuses to disclose tax returns and detailed financial records. He has in turn, appointed billionaires and millionaires to his cabinet who have not disclosed their financial records. These men are heralded as “successful” for having navigated themselves to the pinnacle of capitalism. And yet with all their success, they have not completed government documents that over 230 million Americans file each year. Instead, they offer excuses that a school teacher would not accept from a child who claims that ‘the dog ate my homework.’
Scratch a lie, find a thief.
We may be unfamiliar with the ways of larcenous men, but let us not be distracted by the audacity of well-spoken lies. Let us not devote our energy to venting about the deception of smiling plutocrats. Let us pivot quickly to pursuits that transform our lives and the lives of millions. Let us devote our energy and our talents to creative justice-making.
No, not the justice-making “lite” of loud protests in the streets without long-term political strategies; not the justice-making show of self-congratulating MLK-Day breakfasts, nor the political hiring of just enough brown people for a nice photograph. And definitely not the justice-making nostalgia of ecumenical, multi-racial worship services, where we cross hands and sing three verses of “We Shall Overcome.” These moments have their place. But surely our justice-making creativity goes beyond the convening of polite gatherings of socially conscious colleagues.
In this season of apparent defeat, as we see the deception, let us make an unapologetic pivot. Let us do MLK-deep justice-making where church leaders focus on justice as economic parity for all people, then leverage church wealth and property to lead the development of failed economies in inner cities. By faith-led revitalization initiatives in the poorest American neighborhoods, let us amplify the duplicity of billionaires who clamor for cutting taxes to spur investment while hoarding billions they refuse to invest now in rural and inner city America. Let us demonstrate by the ways churches deploy assets for mission, that accumulated wealth invested in poor people and communities can make America greater than it ever has been.
We church folk dismiss our complicity in evil systems. By our inaction, we are complicit in the political and economic status quo of our country and the world. We are broken in the ways we do church without caring about the impact we make (or do not make). We ignore the sin we commit when we fail to live up to God’s calling. We have blood on our hands.
But let us, in all of our brokenness, demonstrate like the biblical widow with the few coins, what we can do with the meager resources God has entrusted to us. In defiance of liars and thieves, let us invest the millions the church controls in economic justice, to leverage billions and trillions for social impact in the broader economy. Led by the Spirit of truth, let us live out Jesus’ saying that when we are weak, then we are strong.
The Reverend Doctor Patrick Garnet Duggan is a native New Yorker, the son of a Jamaican cabinet maker and a New York attorney. He serves as Senior Pastor of the Congregational Church of South Hempstead UCC and Executive Director of the UCC Church Building and Loan Fund. He loves writing, preaching, teaching, helping church leaders with difficult building projects, and talking about how the church can use its resources to change the world. Twitter: @revduggan1