What I’m listening for in the second debate: Gun Violence, Criminal Justice & Poverty


Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump were full of Interesting sound bites during the first debate last month. But, those sound bites and other commentary didn’t fully address many of the issues that are important to me as a person of faith, including gun violence, our criminal justice system, poverty and race.

The next debate takes place this Sunday (October 9, 2016) at Washington University in St. Louis and airs at 9 p.m. ET. CNN anchor Anderson Cooper and ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz will moderate the town hall-style debate. Moderators will pose half the questions, while citizens will pose the remainder. For the first time ever, those of use watching from home will also have an opportunity to shape the debate by submitting and voting on debate questions online at PresidentialOpenQuestions.com.

I’m hoping that Clinton and Trump clarify their positions on the social issues that matter to me and to many others within the United Church of Christ. Here’s what I’ll be listening for.

Gun Violence

Violence touches all of us. It pervades our past, shapes our present reality and threatens our future. As we see over and over through single acts of violence in homes and incidents of unimaginable scale like the massacre in Orlando, the climate of violence is a climate of despair. Despair characterizes those who are violent, threatens those who are violated and marks those who regret violence but are resigned to its inevitability.

As people of faith we know another world is possible. Gun violence is not inevitable There are real policy solutions that could reduce violence in the world.   Those solutions must come from our leaders. It’s important Clinton and Trump share visions about helping end gun violence, in particular. We, as people of faith, see this world as God’s creation and ourselves as God’s people. God is is both love and peace. So, it’s our responsibility to model peace and love for our fellow man. Encouraging our leaders to seek peaceful solutions—and alternatives—to violence is our responsibility. So, people of faith should listen to Clinton and Trump carefully and be prepared to critique their responses.

Our 20th General Synod passed the Violence in Our Society and World resolution, which speaks to violence’s root causes. It also passed Guns and Violence.” That resolution invited UCC members to advocate for stronger gun safety regulations. We need leaders who are courageous enough to push policy solutions forward.

UCC advocates have long worked to advance sensible gun laws. Getting Clinton and Trump’s take on their approach to gun violence and their support for expanding background checks and closing gun sale loopholes would be a valuable contribution to the second debate.

Criminal Justice

Guns and violence are, of course, intertwined with criminal justice. Both can lead to law enforcement interactions, prompting police-involved shootings or incarceration–mass incarceration. Our General Synod 30 adopted two resolutions, Dismantling Discriminatory Systems of Mass Incarceration in the United States and Dismantling the New Jim Crow, regarding that criminal justice epidemic.

God’s still-speaking voice has led us to speak out on this travesty. The next presidential debate gives Clinton and Trump a chance to speak more fully about their ideas for comprehensive and meaningful criminal justice reform that acknowledges the reality of institutional and systemic racism.


In the last debate, Clinton and Trump pledged to do everything in their power to protect the middle class. However, they said little about how they’d help the poor.

Unemployment, low wages, the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, taxes (who pays and how much) – these are issues of economic justice. And they are very complicated issues, but in the words of my colleague Edie Rasell, “things are a little simpler for people of faith. We measure the economy against one fundamental truth: the earth and all that is in it belong to God (Ps. 24:1). God has blessed us with abundance and God’s vision for every one of God’s people, all 7 billion of us, is to live in the fullness of life. God intends for us to fully share God’s gifts (Exodus 16: 16-18). There is enough for all our needs if we share God’s resources. Each of us can live an abundant life.”

Last time around neither candidate mentioned their position on providing workers with a living wage. Expanding the federal Earned Income Tax Credit to childless workers, a policy that would leave everyone with more money in their pocket, also didn’t come up. We need to the candidates to talk about poverty when the hit the stage on Sunday night.

Every child of God deserves dignity, hope and respect. Let us hope that the debate reveals the candidates’ positions on these issues and many more. What will you be listening for?

Categories: Column Our Faith Our Vote: Blog

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