Speaking to a capacity crowd of 1,000 United Church of Christ webinar viewers July 9, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren recalled her days as a Sunday School teacher, asked people to pray for her and urged them to tell elected officials to back legislation to protect voters and essential pandemic workers.
“My fight for social and racial and economic justice is anchored in my faith,” Warren said during a “Faith in Politics” conversation with the Rev. Traci Blackmon, UCC associate general minister. Shown live via the webinar platform Zoom, accessible on Facebook and streamed live via YouTube, the event was recorded and can be viewed at the UCC YouTube channel, here, or by clicking on the image at right.
It was one in a series of election-year webinars promoting voter engagement through the UCC’s “Our Faith, Our Vote” initiative. Still under construction, the series is so far scheduled to include these webinars:
- Tuesday, Aug. 4, at 3:30 p.m. EDT: Stacey Abrams, founder of Fair Fight, and the Rev. Leah Daughtry, pastor of The House of the Lord Church, Washington, D.C., on the right to vote. Host: the Rev. Traci Blackmon. Register here.
- Wednesday, Aug. 5, at 1 p.m. EDT: U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee on the Green New Deal and reparations, with panelists Tamara Toles O’Laughlin, 350.org, and the Rev. Sekinah Hamlin, UCC minister of economic justice. Hosts: the Rev. Brooks Berndt, minister of environmental justice, and the Rev. Michael Malcom, Alabama Interfaith Power & Light. Register here.
- Tuesday, Aug. 11, at 3:30 p.m. EDT: The Rev. Allan Boesak, South African activist and past president of the World Communion of Reformed Churches, and the Rev. Curtiss DeYoung, CEO of the Minnesota Council of Churches, on “Sankofa: Reaching Back and Stepping Up.” They are co-authors of the 2012 book, “Radical Reconciliation: Beyond Political Pietism and Christian Quietism.” Host: the Rev. Traci Blackmon. Register here. [NOTE: This is a new date, owing to storm-related technical problems that prevented the webinar on the original date, July 12.]
Blackmon said her staff also has issued invitations to Republican officials to appear in the series. “We are political, but we are not partisan,” said webinar guest Sandy Sorensen, director of the UCC advocacy office in Washington, D.C. “…We are not beholden to any particular political party. We will speak the truth to power, whatever that power is.”
“No matter who ends up in the White House, we will be there to make sure that we do all we can to make sure they serve the people,” Blackmon added.
Spiritual reflections, policy ideas
Answering Blackmon’s questions on how faith informs her senatorial work, Warren offered a mixture of spiritual reflections and current policy ideas.
She recalled a 5th-grade Methodist Sunday School teaching experience – “a total disaster” – in which the kids initially climbed out windows, cut each other’s hair and generally got out of hand. Inviting them to read and discuss Bible stories together is what got their attention, she said.
“Part of what I learned is what deeply moral human beings 5th-graders are, and how much they care,” she said. “A piece at a time, we talked about powerfully important issues. We talked about love. We talked about charity, and how charity is different from what we owe – what we owe to each other as human beings. We talked about our obligation to act. … We talked about who is a neighbor.”
She stressed the importance of an active faith. “There is no doubt in my mind that spiritually inclined people of faith are called to fight for humanity,” Warren said. “…I believe as people of faith that we are not called on simply to have good thoughts, to have good hearts, but rather we are called on to act … to stand in the gap for the poor and the downtrodden, to remain grounded in the power of our faith, and to center the most vulnerable in the fight for justice.”
‘Demanding more of our government’
Warren described this moment in U.S. history as “a time of tremendous crisis for our nation.” “The fight to dismantle systemic racism has reached a new threshold,” she said. “And as we fight for social and racial and economic justice, we’re in the middle of trying to battle a global pandemic. In times of crisis, it is so easy for people to retreat into fear and cynicism. But for those of us who believe in a higher power, we know that there is purpose and design in every moment of our lives. So we are not without hope. The deep injustices that we face are not inevitable.”
Blackmon’s questions and Warren’s answers covered a variety of policy issues. Among them were criminal justice and policing reform, investment in affordable housing as a remedy for past redlining policies, COVID-19 relief for American Indian reservations, and justice for Palestinians (Warren supports a “two-state” solution for Israel-Palestine conflicts and opposes Israeli annexation of occupied Palestinian lands).
The coronavirus pandemic and racial justice are linked, the senator said. “Communities of color are being infected and dying from the virus at alarming rates,” she said. She called for more testing and contact tracing, and for protection of workers most at risk. “I’ve been fighting for an essential workers’ bill of rights that protects the people out on the front lines, who are disproportionately people of color, disproportionately women.
“We need to be demanding more of our government, so that our government is working not just on behalf of people who have plenty of resources, but so that our government is working for everyone.”
‘Beating heart’; request for prayer
Warren also emphasized the importance of voting, calling it “the beating heart of our democracy.” She said she is advocating a two-part plan to protect voting rights: making vote-by-mail universally available by federal law – “also push it at your state level,” she urged – and making sure that in-person voting is safe and available.
The latter, she said, includes such measures as ensuring poll workers this fall have protective equipment and hand sanitizer. Funding to support this is part of the “Heroes Act” passed by the U.S. House, she said, and she encouraged viewers to urge their senators to call for a vote on the bill on the Senate floor.
Advocacy by people of faith matters, Warren said. “Throughout our history, progress has only been possible when faith leaders have been at the helm and have been in this fight,” she said. “… I truly believe we have this moment where we could make real change in this nation, where we could live up to our higher ideals, where we could make our moral commitment a stronger part of who we are as a nation. But it’s going to take the leadership of every single person who’s listening to this. That’s how we make real change. We fight the righteous fight and we fight it from the heart.”
“We can build a better country,” Warren said. “We can build a better world. But the only way that happens is if we’re all in this together. … Pray for me. Because I’m in this fight no matter what. So please pray for strength, for guidance. I make myself the instrument of the Lord, and I ask for nothing other than his blessing and your help in this fight.”
[This article was updated on July 14, 2020, with information on the rescheduling of the Allan Boesak / Curtiss DeYoung webinar; and on July 22, 2020, correcting the registration link for the Aug. 4 webinar.]