Hitting the campaign trail

This evening I got to Wheaton, Illinois. I’ll be here for a month or so to volunteer for Ben Lowe’s congressional campaign. He’s running in the Sixth District, which includes DuPage County and Cook County, as the Democratic Party’s representative against Peter Roskam, the Republican incumbent. I’m not sure yet exactly what I’ll be doing, but I’m excited to be getting involved and to be supporting someone who’s become a friend over the last year.

A person’s integrity is hugely important to me—especially for someone who’s running for elected office. I’m a firm believer that what we get done is at least equaled in importance by how we get it done.

Ben and I met late last year, and have gotten to know each other in the last 12 months. He’s someone who’s shown a winning—and tragically rare—combination of intelligence, passion, commitment, and—perhaps most importantly—humility. He seeks to live out his Christian faith in the truest sense of loving God and loving neighbor: in reaching out to and defending those who are oppressed and marginalized; in taking care of the world we all share; in standing up to those who seek only to maintain unjust systems and structures; in affirming that every person is made equal and valuable, made in the image of God. Moreover, he refuses to let himself be bought by special interests—he hasn’t taken a cent from PACs. It’s put him at a distinct financial disadvantage, but it’s simultaneously showed him to be a man of integrity.

Ben Lowe is the kind of person I want my elected official to be like, and this is why I’m supporting him.

Visit Lowe for Congress.

A word to Congress: “Whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers …”

Guess who said this:

I like talking about people who don’t have any power. And it seems like some of the least powerful people in the United States are migrant workers who come and do our work but don’t have any rights as a result. And yet we still invite them to come here, and at the same time ask them to leave. And that seems like an interesting contradiction to me. And, you know, whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers … these seem like the least of our brothers, right now. And I know that a lot of people are the least of my brothers because the economy is so hard, and I don’t want to take anyone’s hardship away from them or diminish it or anything like that, but migrant workers suffer, and they have no rights.

If you’re observant, you’ll be able to glean from the video below that it wasn’t an immigrant rights or social justice advocate, it wasn’t a pastor or an organizer. This was Stephen Colbert, comedian and satirist, stepping briefly out of character while testifying before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law.

And Colbert, a Catholic, answered the final question addressed to him by quoting Jesus in Matthew 25.

Sacrificing plowshares for swords

When times are tough, when you’ve got to tighten your belt, that’s when you know what your priorities really are. This week, Congress showed where its priorities lie: the Senate passed a war funding measure worth nearly $60 billion, while the House cut billions of dollars in aid to states and health insurance subsidies for unemployed and laid-off workers.

War over people. Swords over plowshares.

Oh, for that day …

He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (Isaiah 2:4)

A new day: immigration and health care

I really ought to be going to sleep right now–I’ve been up since early this morning, and need to be up in just a few hours again for work. But I thought it’d be best to get my thoughts down while the figurative iron is still hot.

A lot has happened in the last twenty-four hours.

This morning, I led worship at Sojourners/Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform‘s prayer service. It was an honor for me to sing the songs of God with the people of God, including guests from Washington state, California, New York, Arizona and a crew from Wheaton College who’d driven through the night to get here.

In the afternoon, I headed down to the National Mall for March FOR America, a massive rally–somewhere between 100,000 to 500,000, depending on who you ask–in support of just and humane immigration reform, which was preceded by a stirring interfaith service (also on the Mall).

To walk through the throngs of people of all different ages and colors, immigrants or descended from immigrants or friends of immigrants, was a glimpse for me of the vision in Revelation 7:9, where “there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages.” In that vision, every knee bowed before the Lamb. In this present, people came together to show their commitment and support for comprehensive immigration reform, for just and humane legislation that kept families together. In standing with my immigrant brothers and sisters, in sharing our stories and our energy, in hearing not only Members of Congress but President Obama as well reaffirm their commitment to passing comprehensive immigration reform this year, my spirit was stirred and greatly encouraged.

(For a summary of the current state of our immigration system, check out this excellent piece from the Immigration Policy Center.)

And tonight, I saw history made as Congress passed comprehensive health care reform that provides coverage for 32 million more Americans and reduces the deficit by over $100 billion over the next 10 years and $1.3 trillion over the next 20 years. Which seems pretty win-win for me. It is not a perfect bill; it will require adjustments and tweaks. But it is a step, and a good step. As the President said in his address, shortly before midnight, “This isn’t radical reform, but it is major reform. This legislation will not fix everything that ails our health care system, but it moves us decisively in the right direction.”

(See news coverage from the NY Times, BBC News and Al Jazeera. And for a summary of what the bill does, you can check out CNN.)

One of the most striking moments, though, was an unexpected one. My friend Liz, who is one of my favorite people in the world and a kindred spirit on so many levels, posted on her Facebook status that today’s health care vote meant that her fiancé could never be denied health insurance on the basis of his diabetes. And that brought it home for me. I know the power of story; I recognize that statistics only go so far in a persuasive argument; I appreciate the importance of putting a face to every single number. I’ve helped people share their stories and heard many of them. But Liz’s joy brought joy to me on a very personal level.

Yes, we can.

UPDATE (3/22/10): Here are 10 immediate benefits of the health care legislation.