In these challenging times—with the impeachment of the president for corruption, the threat of war with Iran, rollbacks in environmental protections, healthcare, and programs that assist those in need—I am heartened by my faith and by the examples of many people who carry on the sacred work to end racism, poverty, and war.
Last week, I spoke at a press conference called by the Poor People’s Campaign at which a Moral Budget was unveiled. Church leaders, labor leaders, and people from across the country who are hurting because of government policies spoke of the challenge of living on minimum wage and without health care.
The Moral Budget advocates $350 billion in annual military spending cuts; $886 billion in estimated annual revenue from fair taxes on the wealthy, corporations, and Wall Street; and billions more in savings from ending mass incarceration and addressing climate change. Bold steps are needed in a nation in which the gap between the rich and the poor is growing and the federal government deficit spirals out of control, thanks in part to recent tax cuts that benefit primarily the richest among us.
I welcome this Moral Budget and believe it is consistent with, and builds on, previous efforts. For example, I helped delivered ‘The Budget is a Moral Document’ statement to then-Senator Harry Reid when he was majority leader of the US Senate. Additionally, the NCC supported the Faithful Budget Campaign and the Circle of Protection, ecumenical efforts to reorient the priorities of our nation away from war, surveillance, and greed to peace, diplomacy, and equality.
The Poor People’s Campaign hearkens back to that created by Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968. At that time, the Department of Social Justice of the NCC brought people from across the country to Washington to coordinate national religious leadership involvement in the campaign.
This time, we are encouraging people to come to Washington for a June 20 assembly on the National Mall called by the Poor People’s Campaign.
At the same time, we will be hosting the National Council of Churches of Korea which will send a delegation to Washington to both participate in the Poor People’s assembly and in a consultation between US and Korean churches. On June 23, we will hold a worship service at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Washington, DC to mark the 70th anniversary of the massacre of innocent Koreans at the village of No Gun Ri.
We will also commemorate 70 years of war between the United States and North Korea. Yes, that’s right, 70 years of war. Not only do tensions between the US and North Korea remain high, no peace treaty was ever signed to end the war. Instead, an armistice was reached in 1953.
More than $30 trillion (in 2020 dollars) has been spent on the US military since the end of WWII. This has made us poorer as a nation both economically and spiritually. Way back in 1953, President Eisenhower said, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone, it is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”
In today’s political climate, these words from a Republican president who was himself a five-star general would be considered dangerously radical, but they are words that need to be said each and every day. It is not difficult to draw links to the ongoing state of war with North Korea and the deep moral and spiritual suffering that afflicts us. Dr. King said in his last sermon, “The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land. Confusion all around.”
Now is the time for us to be in the streets and work for healing.