By Rev. CJ Hawking
In this moment in history, perhaps like no other in our lifetimes, the people of God across the globe are harkening the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of God rises upon you.”
Teachers and firefighters, police officers and students, employed and unemployed workers are standing together to claim that the rich cannot dodge their tax obligations, or their moral one, and expect the middle class to cover their share. Further it has been repeatedly demonstrated that the agenda has been not to balance budgets but to attack the collective bargaining rights of union workers, a right supported by major faith traditions.
Consider the following. If the eight richest people in Wisconsin paid just 1 percent more of their income in taxes, the state’s budget problem would be solved. I suspect figures near this would hold true in most states, and in our country.
The unity and determination is palpable and unprecedented. As people of faith, as small shopkeepers and mid-level managers, as insurance agents and day care workers, we need to speak, march and vote. We must raise our voices to the anti-union politicians who accept the money of billionaires to carry out reckless and cruel actions against the most vulnerable people in order to further their ideological agendas and career ambitions.
As we mark the 43rd anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in April, we must echo his wisdom and strategies. While speaking to the AFL-CIO in 1961, Dr. King stated that the civil rights movement and the union movement have much in common.
Today, the attack on workers, both union and nonunion, is calling us to take faithful action and to work, stand, march and protest together in order to serve the common good. When a clergy person was recently asked why she supported the Wisconsin workers, she responded, “to be faithful to my ordination vows.” In some fashion, all of us, clergy and laity, have taken vows as people of faith, and this is our moment to be the midwives for social and economic justice.
By now, we have all have heard the chant from the streets of Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio, “This Is What Democracy Looks Like!” When the Madison clergy marched around and into the Capitol, they chanted, “This Is What Religion Looks Like!”
All faith traditions believe that another world is possible, and the people of Wisconsin are showing us how Arise! Shine! For your light has come! And the glory of God rises upon you because…this is what our faith looks like!
This is an excerpt from a sermon by the Rev. C.J. Hawking, the Harry F. Ward minister of social justice at the Euclid Avenue United Methodist Church in Oak Park, Ill. Hawking is executive director of Arise Chicago, an affiliate of Interfaith Worker Justice. You can read the entire sermon here.