Many activists in the faith community have heard of and been moved by "Moral Mondays" in North Carolina.
Faith and lay people from all over that state have been converging on the state Capitol to protest what they see as regressive, unjust, and mean-hearted legislation. A year ago they rallied 80-100,000 people, and they got so much notice the legislature is seeking to ban (unconstitutionally) such rallies again. Every Monday thousands are now standing for justice on budget, voting rights, tax issues - anything that affects the growing inequality of North Carolina and its people.
What you may not realize is that measured in meaningful ways, California has the highest poverty rate of any state in the nation. (Sacramento Bee, November 29, 2013).
To address this appalling issue, the California Council of Churches is urging you and your friends, fellow congregants and parishioners, clergy, and allies to begin local actions we are calling Faithful Fridays.
It's not at all easy to come to Sacramento week after week. It is simply too far for many to travel.
But on Fridays your legislators are at the district offices, and, as constituents, that is a perfect place to gather to stand for justice. Gather together however you can, and bear witness every Friday before those who hold the power over many fragile lives that they do no further harm.
This year's budget is a key target. We have abundance after many years of want. Proposition 30 has brought money to the state that the Governor has delegated almost entirely to repaying the debt and filling the 'rainy day' fund. Almost none of it will go to those whose programs were decimated to stave off collapse. We cut programs for the poorest of the poor to save the General Fund, but now, in abundance, we still make them the human sacrifice.
Yes we must pay our debts. Yes we need reserves. But people who have been thrown aside by the private sector or that the private forces cannot help have no other resources but ours, manifestations of justice for the Common Good.
Several compassionate Senators have offered a 1:1:1 compromise for surplus last year - one third to debt, one third to savings, one third to returning support to those in need. The new Speaker of the Assembly, Toni Atkins said the same, not specifying a formula but noting we must protect our families and children from want. These views have some bi-partisan support as many from both parties support specific programs even while disagreeing on others.
It is within this space our voices are powerful. We can build bridges while advocating for the poor. We believe there are just and honorable solutions, and we urge you to organize to speak to the adoption of budget justice that balances fiscal responsibility with compassion for those hanging by a very slender economic thread.
To start a Faithful Fridays action, begin where you are - "where two or more are gathered" - and make your presence known. Visit and talk or visit and hold signs, sing, recite, whatever you are moved to do, however you choose to do it. If you are unable to be present, call when others you know may be there.
Let your local papers and television and radio know what you are doing! Encourage ministerial councils and interfaith groups to join in. The more voices, the more authority over these issues you can have. Please take the time to go to offices of friendly legislators, too! They need your witness and support just as much as the cranky ones need to rethink their positions!
The budget must be passed by June 15, so this is urgent. We ask that you do this quickly, and that any clergy so moved become a local presence with high visibility as soon as you can.
To find the nearest office for your officials, please go to:
http://www.churchimpact.org/take-action.html. If your zip and/or address are entered, it will take you to a list of legislators where you can click the link and find their main page with addresses and phone numbers.
As the weeks and months roll on, we will be offering suggestions on issues for Faithful Fridays.
Please stay in touch with us. We are a small staff as you know, and we can't be with you much in person, but we can share your stories with others and offer strategies that have succeeded for your inspiration.
Write to us a firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us what, and how, you are doing.
This is something we can do. Please join us in making Faithful Fridays a way to have your voices heard and heeded on behalf of too many who have no voice at all.