by Rev. Richard L. Spleth, regional minister of the Christian Church in Indiana
Originally in The Indianapolis Star Oct. 9, 2016
On Monday, Oct. 3, Rev. Dr. William Barber II of North Carolina came to Indianapolis to attempt to help our state repair the breach in our society. Accompanied by Rev. James Forbes, Rev. Traci Blackmon, and Sister Simone Campbell, these four Christian leaders have been travelling across the country since April to address what he calls America’s heart problem. Over 1,000 were in attendance at the gathering this week at Light of the World Christian Church.
Barber pointed to the writings of Ezekiel in the Hebrew Scriptures where the prophet for whom the book is named decries the brokenness of his society. But our own society is no better, he said. Poverty and inequality are rampant; voting rights and democracy are being trampled; millions of people lack the health care, living wage jobs, and quality education they need; and racism, hatred, and bigotry are disintegrating the possibility of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for far too many in the United States. Barber urged those present to be the moral defibrillator in our state to champion the sacred values of love, justice, and mercy in the public square.
There is no doubt such intervention is needed. Indiana ranked 3rd worst state in the country in the Gallup poll’s 2014 ranking of well being based on physical and economic security. As a religious leader I found myself convicted once again by the mandate of my own faith tradition. Jesus, who Barber said, set up “free health clinics” everywhere he went, said in his very first sermon in Nazareth that he was called to “preach good news to the poor and release to the captive.” The sacred texts of all the world’s great religions are consistent in their admonition that we are accountable to our Creator for the way in which we care for the poor and vulnerable. In this season that has implication not only for how we vote but for assuring that the right to vote is protected for all who are eligible.
Indiana is my adopted home state, a place I have now lived longer than any other place. It is a place I love but a place I know too often “settles.” Too often we decide that “good enough is good enough.” When there is deep inequity in educational opportunity, the administration of criminal justice, healthcare services, and wages we are not “a state that works.”
Establishing the beloved community where all have opportunity will require fostering new coalitions among us. Rabbi Dennis Sasso, who sent greetings to the gathering, said “the ills of our society will not be solved by administrative and programmatic solutions alone, but by moral and spiritual urgency and faithful resolve.” And, I would add, by business and labor, Republican and Democrat, and people of all color and faith working together, with impatience, until the breach in our society is repaired. In this 200th anniversary year of our state there is no better time to begin.