Dear President Trump and the White House Coronavirus Taskforce,
This week, you called on the nation to reopen by Easter. We, as Christian faith leaders (lay and clergy) from across the country, want to register our deep disappointment and strong disagreement with this irresponsible message. We ask you to voice strong support for social distancing and to use the Defense Production Act to marshal vital equipment to health care workers, social workers and faith-based ministries serving at the front lines of the pandemic.
Coaxing Christians into crowded church buildings in a time of pandemic is not an act of faith or love: it is a dangerous act with deadly consequences. As our Scriptures teach us, wise people listen to wise counsel and only fools reject it. We urge you to follow the lead of public health officials, who overwhelmingly urge people to continue maintaining social distance.
As people of deep faith, of course we long to gather to worship. We mourn the loss of ritual, fellowship and song. And yet we are convinced that the greatest measure of our faith is summed up by the Great Commandment, which teaches us to love God by loving our neighbors. There is no better way to worship God than to protect God’s children.
In our communities, we are beginning to see the ravages of COVID-19. We know it will continue to get worse. We are ministering to families who are separated from critically ill loved ones in nursing homes. We are video-conferencing with beloved parishioners who are dying alone in hospitals. We have chosen to hold virtual services, reflections, prayer calls and other remote ways of staying connected to follow the social distancing guidance of public health experts, because we are called to save as many lives as we can. The spiritual and emotional toll of weathering pandemics in isolation is clear to us, and yet clearer still is the cost of disregarding public health warnings.
We reject the false choice between saving lives and saving jobs. Prematurely ending social distancing policies in the name of economic recovery would be morally mistaken and economically ineffective. The impact would be measured in lives lost, not jobs recovered. There can be no public wealth without public health.
We are calling on our nation's leaders to prioritize the most vulnerable of our neighbors, including all those who are experiencing job loss, hunger, lack of healthcare, and homelessness.
Let us instead support families most impacted by the economic toll of this pandemic -- lower wage workers, immigrants, the uninsured, small business leaders and others.
We urge you to unleash the government’s power to advance the common good. We call on you to invoke the Defense Production Act to ensure that heroic health care providers receive the equipment they need to stop this disease while safeguarding themselves from infection. We cannot wait any longer.
As we confront the historic challenges brought by the pandemic, saving as many lives as possible must come first. This must also be a moment of national awakening to the inequities that are hidden from view in the halls of power. Each and every person is precious in God’s eyes — especially the poor and the immigrant, the widow and the orphan. The time has also come to build an economic order that honors the call to justice and compassion, enabling human and environmental life to flourish.
We are praying for the health, spiritual strength and moral discernment of all of our government officials in these troubled times.
Rev. Jennifer Butler, CEO, Faith in Public Life
Brian McLaren, Writer
Lisa Sharon Harper, Writer, Speaker, Activist, President and Founder of FreedomRoad.us
Kathy Khang, author, speaker, activist
Pastor Jason Ridley, Pastor of the Hilltop Community Worship Center in Columbus, Ohio
Rev. Meg A. Riley, Church of the Larger Fellowship
Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons, Fellow, Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative, Center for American Progress
Rev. Dr. Chuck Currie, University Chaplain and Director of the Center for Peace and Spirituality, Pacific University
Rev. Dr. Susan Thistlethwaite, President Emerita and Professor Emerita, Chicago Theological Seminary
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