By the time you read this, I will be in Washington DC preparing to meet with Janet Yellen, the Chair of the Federal Reserve Bank. I am a part of a small group of people from around the country representing the middle income, low income, unemployed, and underemployed who are not experiencing any of the benefits of the current “recovery” in our economy. Indeed, in a recent speech in Boston, Chair Yellen herself stated, “The extent of and continuing increase in inequality in the United States greatly concerns me. The past several decades have seen the most sustained rise in inequality since the 19th century after more than 40 years of narrowing inequality following the Great Depression. By some estimates, income and wealth inequality are near their highest levels in the past hundred years, much higher than the average during that time span and probably higher than for much of American history before then. It is no secret that the past few decades of widening inequality can be summed up as significant income and wealth gains for those at the very top and stagnant living standards for the majority. I think it is appropriate to ask whether this trend is compatible with values rooted in our nation’s history, among them the high value Americans have traditionally placed on equality of opportunity.”
I agree with Chair Yellen in her questioning of the compatibility of this trend in our nation’s economy with the values of egalitarianism and fairness historically a part of the social and civic fabric of our country. We here at St. Paul’s know the reality of this income/wealth shift not only by the increase in the demands on our food pantry, but also by the growing numbers of our members realizing the consequences of this shift in their lives or the lives of their young adult children.
My participation in this event represents not only my sense of justice as an essential component part of our amazing national experiment articulated in the Declaration of Independence and reflected in the writings and vision of our Founders, but also my calling and vocation as a priest of the church of God. For those who heard my homily on Amos this past Sunday, I think you will recognize the direct link between the prophetic voice of our Abrahamic heritage as well as the Gospel mandate of Jesus in our call to serve the least as an essential component of our moral theology and, consequently, my participation in this action. For me, this action is a direct reflection of Micah’s question to us, “What is it the Lord wants of us? DO JUSTICE . . . .For me, “Doing Justice” is a call to the Body of Christ to serve as advocate for the vulnerable, the least, and those who struggle without voice. Like Luther, when asked to participate in this endeavor to influence the Chair of the Federal Reserve to pursue a more equitable distribution of the benefits of our economic recovery, I could only reply, “I stand with you, I can do no other!”
This action is designed to be constructive and collaborative. This will not be an action of civil disobedience. Chair Yellen has indicated a desire to engage this issue openly and fairly. Our desire is to provide a solid witness to the justice of this strategic re-imaging of what an economic recovery might look like and how the policy decisions of the Fed might be re-oriented to seek a broader and more equitable distribution of the wealth of this recovery.
I ask your prayers for this effort and for the millions of your fellow citizens who ask, “What recovery?”