I’m a pastor. Now, before you stop reading…I’m a progressive pastor, I’ve worked as a community organizer, and have founded two non-profits to help care for the vulnerable. I have a history of fighting for racial justice, LGBTQ+ inclusion, and the economic flourishing for our under-resourced communities, I’m a democrat…and I’m certainly not a Trump supporter.
We are in the midst of a moral crisis in America and we cannot move forward without recognizing that we have allowed fear to drive us to do things to people we would never want to be done to us. Where is our “golden rule” or our collective moral integrity? We are separating families at the border; allowing record profits for corporations while millions go uninsured; and allowing the environment to die a slow death while we chant, “send her back…” No, these are not just policy issues — they are issues of life and death and we must face them with a courageous conviction for the common good, or we will never be the same.
A few months ago I had an experience that pushed me to face this choice. I was at a prayer vigil with a group of over 100 Latinx men and women pleading to our legislators to veto a bill that would give ICE unfettered access to our communities. I was standing in the back near a group of their children who were playing nearby. They were playing like there were no problems in the world. They were playing as kids should.
As I watched them, I was struck by the sobering realization that many of these children would go home to their communities and live in the fear of their families being torn apart. That some may grow up with only one parent, because the other was taken.
While I watched them play follow-the-leader, a scripture came to mind and resonated in my heart. In Exodus, Moses has a conversation with God about the enslaved Israelites, and from the burning bush God says, “I have indeed heard the cry of their suffering…”
I believe that God hears the cries of those who suffer. I also believe that God sends us out to fight injustice and relieve suffering, as God did with Moses. Reflecting on that scripture while surrounded by that group of children — each one of their lives subject to the powers that be, each with uncertain futures and tomorrows — a conviction rose up in me to run for public office and to work to create a future where these kids, and so many like them, can have a future free of fear and full of liberty.
People sometimes ask, “What qualifies you to run for Congress?” Well, for the last 15 years I’ve worked not only as a pastor but also community organizer and and non-profit leader. In this work I spend my time listening to people, caring for them in their time of need, and organizing communities to develop innovate solutions and push the powerful to do all we can for the common good. Shouldn’t this sort of community service be at the heart of what it means to be a politician?
In this moment of political chaos, we need to see more elected officials consistently offering courageous leadership as a response to the suffering of our communities, and then taking strong action in order to ensure a flourishing future for every single person. Politics, at its best, is not about big money or corporate influence but rather, about the public negotiation of how a society cares for its citizens. I don’t know about you, but I feel like a lot of people are not being cared for right now. Even those who you may disagree with.
As Americans, we are a people who have the morality of liberty and justice for all etched into our collective imaginations. But when we are consumed with uncertainty and economic struggle, personal survival takes precedent. In this, we fight to hold on to what we have instead of fighting for liberty. Here, we find ourselves looking backwards instead of looking forward and allow the fear of what may be paralyze us from the hope filled future we can create. But it is precisely in these moments of uncertainty and struggle that seeking liberty and justice for all rallies us together, pushes against this paralyzing fear, gives us a collective purpose, and re-ignites hope in the future. Seeking the flourishing of my neighbor is the antidote to fear.
The issues we as a country are facing today are not just political issues but rather issues of morality that will define the nation we leave to the next generation. The separation of Latinx families and the detention of immigration children is immoral. The massive economic inequality that leaves many without healthcare while corporations record historical profits is immoral. The predatory behavior of pharmaceutical companies to push opioids on rural communities is immoral. The disregard for our environment’s health is immoral. The discrimination against our black, brown, and LGBTQ+ communities is immoral.
These are pressing issues, and while some politicians might give us complicated excuses to justify their inaction, I think the real problem is that many of our leaders lack the moral courage to do the right, and usually obvious, thing — to stand up to big money, to ensure affordable healthcare, to refuse to legislate suffering, to inspire us to care for our most vulnerable, and to help us face our historical truths that we would like to pretend do not exist. Although we face challenges as a nation, we have within us the capacity to rise above our differences, push back the forces of fear, and reach towards the American dream of liberty and justice for all. But in order to realize this new future we must build it upon a foundation of equality. A foundation fortified by doing good for one another. We have to learn from our history and stop treating people different from us as less than us.
Fear is a poison that will slowly destroy our hopes and dreams and corrode our faith in each other — and we must root it out. We don’t need to be afraid of the future — we can enter it with courage and conviction, together. We need political leaders who can inspire us to these ideals, and who will boldly lead the way in creating a tomorrow that can be better than today.
I’m running for Congress because I know so many in our communities are suffering and need their voices to be heard. I’m running because I believe every child should be free to play without the threat of violence. I’m running because I believe we have the capacity to create a more perfect union if we all summon our deepest courage, work together, and embrace the strength of our diversity.
I’m running for Congress because I believe in equitable and flourishing future for us all and my conviction to fight for this future compels me to action — even such an action as this. Yes, it may be unconventional, but we may just need some unconventional right now. Sure, I’m an outsider and a deep underdog. I don’t have big money or corporate influence. But maybe that’s exactly the way it should be: Everyday Americans running to create an America for everybody. Yes, it’ll be hard, but I’ve learned that most things that are worth doing are hard to do.
What I do have is a moral conviction for justice and a commitment to grassroots leadership…and well…I’ll take those over big money any day.
I hope you’ll join me — wherever you are — by sharing the word, by giving money, by knocking on doors, by making your voice heard…and most importantly — by fighting for justice. Together, we can do this!
Running for Congress in North Carolina’s 2nd District against the Republican incumbent George Holding
If you want to learn more or support my campaign visit: www.butlerfornc.com