The Faith Agenda emerged in 2017 when ISAIAH, a multi-racial community organizing coalition of faith communities from across Minnesota, hosted hundreds of house meetings in our state, listening to the concerns of citizens from all walks of life. The overlapping concerns, anxieties, values, and beliefs participants in those meetings articulated, shaped an agenda that spoke to a desire for unity over division, hope over fear, and abundance over scarcity. The Faith Agenda expressed these intersecting hopes, aspirations, and desires for a better Minnesota with one platform steeped in the language of faith, and guided by a desire for a politics in our state that brings people together.
The Faith Agenda was then brought to the Caucuses in 2018 by nearly 4000 “faith delegates” of all political persuasions, and those delegates in turn put themselves forward to move from the caucuses through their party’s process and in so doing, brought the Faith Agenda along with them. As hundreds of faith delegates showed up to their party process, candidates were brought into conversation with the agenda, and could see a growing movement in the state. ISAIAH had real numbers and real power.
As our ISAIAH coordinator at Saint John’s, Jamie Bents, reminded those of us gathered on the 15th, because of those numbers and that power, “We had seven legislative issue priorities on our faith agenda in 2019. Seven of the first ten bills introduced by the Minnesota House were our top seven issues. The House led boldly throughout the session. The Senate was not up for election in 2018, and so they weren’t formed by our path. We have an opportunity to form every candidate for the legislature around our vision for a caring economy and a multi-racial democracy in 2020 if we lead together, but it starts with us being grounded together in what we are fighting for!”
On December 15th, some twenty or more members shared what difference the Faith Agenda, if enacted into policy and practice in our state, might mean for them and for the lives of those they loved. Saint John’s parishioners talked about the challenges of finding affordable housing for seniors, the ever expanding cost of healthcare, fears for how immigration policy might detrimentally impact their neighbors, families, and loved ones. Like those who attended the house meetings in 2017, we needed to get “grounded together in what we are fighting for” in 2020. It was clear that a politics and a state guided by the values articulated in the Faith Agenda would make a difference not only in the community beyond our doors – it could change lives for the better even in the pews of Saint John’s.
So, what is the Faith Agenda, you might be asking? It defines a politics that “honors every person’s dignity,” focusing on racial equality and reconciliation, legal justice that focuses on restoration and rehabilitation, recognizing our inter-connectedness and dependence on one another, an emphasis on welcome of the stranger and immigrant, gender equity, public education that supports all children, and a caring economy that supports all families, truly affordable housing, access to sustaining and life giving healthcare, access to wealth, and an ethic of environmental stewardship. In short, it is a politics that sounds eerily similar to the baptismal covenant of the Episcopal Church with its emphasis on neighbor love and an ethic that strives to respect human dignity, justice, and restoration as defining of the Christian life.
It sounds too like what Martin Luther King described as “Beloved Community,” a vision of society that he believed was both realistic and achievable; which he thought could be realized through numbers of people of goodwill turning out to nonviolently change our politics and our communities. As the King Center describes Dr. King’s Beloved Community, it is a “vision, in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry, and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood.”
In the wake of the landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to desegregate the buses in Montgomery, Alabama, the fruit of a years long campaign for justice and equality, King pointed those engaged in the Civil Rights movement back to this bigger vision, to his faith agenda. He said “the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the Beloved Community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opponents into friends. It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men.”
This vision of a world restored and reconciled is not pie in the sky. We believe that in Jesus, as Mary sings, God is casting down the mighty and raising up the lowly. In Jesus, in the body of Christ, which is us, the hungry are fed, the poor are given dignity and new life, and those on the margins are brought to the center. We can help build a reality just like this, one of justice and peace, beloved community, by working with ISAIAH and Faith in Minnesota, with partners from every political and religious persuasion, we can bring a vision like this into reality in Minnesota.
If you’d like to be a part of just such a movement, I encourage you to reach out to Jamie Bents ([email protected]), Jenny Koops ([email protected]), Dave Borton ([email protected]), The Reverend Stephen Whitney-Wise ([email protected]), or myself. Throughout January there are “Caucus Trainings” that will guide you through the Faith Agenda and the Caucus process toward the 2020 election and how we might make this platform a reality in our state and city. On January 19th we be heard from our Saint Paul ISAIAH organizer, Vivian Ihekoronye ([email protected]), about this path and this process. Pray for this process, that through the organizing efforts of people of good faith, across our state, we might institute and implement this vision of a state and community that is united and not divided, that cares about the least, and that truly embraces Beloved Community!