Michael J. Readinger

As I write this column, I cannot avoid or suppress my intense emotions due to the death from COVID-19 of a very dear and close friend. I contemplated skipping this issue’s letter, but I would rather own and state my feelings in what I say here than dishonor my memories of Dan by being silent. The loss of a loved one triggered a wide range of other concerns and worries. I dedicate this column to all the lives lost, to those who care for the sick and needy, and for all who are marginalized by the current state of affairs in the world.

This has been one of the most difficult columns to write in last five years. As I write, I feel like there is a war being waged against nearly everything I value and hold dear to my heart. Every day the news pumps out more and more despair in the form of attacks on human dignity, assaults on Christian values, espionage waged against systems that support our citizens, crimes against humanity, and treasonous acts that betray the rights of others in the interest of serving oneself.

As providers of health and human services in the United States, we are at war against those who favor the wealthy and privileged over the marginalized and un-served. As people of faith, we are at war against the assault on our liberal Christian theology. As citizens of the USA, we are at war against voter suppression, attacks on voter’s rights, and foreign interference in our election process. As people who value knowledge and science, we are at war against anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers, and those who prefer political sound-bites over research and epidemiology. As people who aspire to be antiracist, we are working to educate and transform ourselves in an environment where so many are blatantly fanning the flames of bigotry and hatred.

My initial response was to write a column about fighting fire with fire; to create a battle plan filled with counter attacks; to go to war. And then, two things happened. First, I attended a ZOOM meeting with CHHSM and JWM D.C. staff to discuss advocacy policy and initiatives for the post-election time frame. Second, I received a daily devotional email from CHHSM member Retirement Housing Foundation written by the Rev. Dr. Misi Tagaloa, who serves on RHF’s national board of directors. Here it is:

Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. — Romans 14:19.  

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9

Prayer: Holy God, make me so mighty in war that I subdue every impulse in my soul that destroys peace. Let me build up others so I may have sisters and brothers in the Kin-dom. Amen.

As a result of these timely events, I was granted a great deal of information and hope from the advocacy conversation. I was blessed with the grace and peace in the scripture and prayer I read. And, I saw a new and different way to channel my anger, fear and disappointment by developing strategies and action plans that do not fight our enemies in these battles. Instead, let’s create innovative solutions and responses to the issues we care so much about and then build coalitions of like-minded people to make them a reality.

As members of CHHSM, it is my hope that we will come together and present a focused advocacy plan filled with strategies that we can present to our government leaders by January of 2021. Please join us in a peaceful war that we can wage with wisdom, integrity, grace, and hope.