from an article published in The Sacramento Bee on Sept. 1, 2019
We are saddened to share the loss of former California Council of Churches Executive Director Glen Holman. Glen was a social justice warrior long before the term was coined. He was born on Feb. 1, 1924 in Great Falls MT and died peacefully on August 17, 2019 in Sacramento. He was educated at Northwest Christian College, University of Oregon, and Texas Christian University. Glen was ordained in 1947 and soon after became Executive Director of the Disciples of Christ in Montana. Sacramento welcomed him in 1962 as the Executive Director of the local Council of Churches. In 1969 he became director of the Office for State Affairs for the California Council of Churches (founded in 1935), lobbying in the Capitol for legislation on various social issues. He is survived by his present wife Marion and two youngest sons Ron and Mark. Glen was preceded in death by his 2nd wife Florence and his oldest son Tim. He is also survived by several grandchildren, several great-grandchildren, and one great great-grandchild.
from an article published in The Sacramento Bee on Sept. 1, 2019
This article is the first in a series on financial coaching. California Council of Churches is honored to collaborate with Daniel Leibsohn, President and Executive Director of Community Development Finance to offer a series of instructional blogs on helping low income, working families and individuals solve their credit problems.
Many of CCC’s member denominations are engaging their congregations in this work. Consumer, health, and other debt, bad credit ratings, usurious lending and many other factors all contribute to growing income inequality and financial ill health among our communities and their members.
CCC will offer various topics on practical steps Mr. Leibsohn has outlined that can assist congregations as they learn how to help those in need. These are not just excellent essays but “tool kits” to guide people on how to extract themselves from credit problems.
We are delighted to have this opportunity to have Mr. Leibsohn’s experience and wisdom to share with you and your social justice activists.
by Daniel Leibsohn
Debt is one of the largest issues facing many Americans. We often do not earn enough money to cover the monthly costs of basic living – housing, food, health care, transportation, children’s costs, etc. As a result, we may need to borrow money to make ends meet. Some people may have either more difficult or easier access to debt sources and these sources can have varying loan terms with higher or lower rates, shorter or longer length of the loan term and other loan terms such as fees, late payment levels, etc. When people with lower incomes also have bad credit, the terms available to them, if they have any access at all, often are very problematic. When bad loan terms are combined with a lower income level inadequate to meet basic needs, the result can be a long-term debt circle/trap that becomes very difficult to get out of.
Credit cards are one such source of individual debt. They are not available to everyone, for example if someone has defaulted on credit card or other debts in the past or if some or all of the total debt has been assigned for collections. Other people may have a low credit score and can qualify only for a bad credit card that has high rates, high fees and a low spending cap. Still others only may qualify for a secured credit card. As a result, many people have credit cards with both various terms and conditions along with a total amount of debt that can be very burdensome.
The amount of total credit card debt in the U.S. reached an all–time high of $870 billion in December 2018. The average American owes over $5,500. A little over 41% of Americans have credit card debt and the highest balances are carried by people in the Northwest and West Coast, as the average balances vary a great deal among states. Delinquencies are increasing again after falling for a few years since the Great Recession. The total amount of interest earned by credit card companies is estimated to reach $122 billion in 2019 up from $113 billion in interest paid in 2018. (“How Fed Rate Hikes Change Borrowing and Savings Rates”, Nick Clements, magnifymoney.com, June 14, 2019.) Including fees, the total earnings grew to $180 billion in 2017 according to Bernie Sanders.
Credit Card Debt Impacts and Payment Strategies
The impacts of too much credit card debt can be damaging in several different ways. The interest payments can add up to a great deal of money over the repayment period. If late payments have accrued, the interest rate may be increased further and there are likely to be late payment fees. And, if the card holder continues to use the card, the total debt keeps increasing along with the amount of interest owed.
As a result, many people get to a point where they can only make the required minimum monthly payments. When this is the case, it can take many years to pay off a debt. For example, assume a $1,500 credit card debt with a minimum payment of $30 per month (2% of the outstanding balance). With an 18% interest rate and if the original $30 minimum monthly payment is maintained throughout the repayment period, this loan will take 94 months (7.8 years to repay) and the credit card holder will pay $1,293.35 in interest over the period plus repaying principal.
And these results are obtained with relatively favorable assumptions: the minimum monthly payment of $30 is higher than some minimums. (Different institutions use different formulas to determine the size of the minimum payments – Bank of America charges the greater of $25 or 1% plus fees and interest, for example.) The 18% rate could be increased if any payments have been missed; and if there are any late payments, there will be late fees and interest to pay as well. Also, the minimum payment for the first payment was maintained throughout the repayment period in this example rather than reducing the minimum payment each month as a small amount of principal is repaid monthly. If the revised minimum payment is used each month, the repayment term is much longer and the interest paid is much higher.
To see the impact of alternative terms, assume for example a minimum payment of $25 per month instead of $30 on the loan in the example above; the interest paid will be $2,366 over 155 months, or 12.9 years. If the payment goes down to $20 a month, the debt will accrue negative amortization – the interest paid will not be enough to cover the amount of interest due and the deficiency will be added to the principal balance. And, if you have surpassed your credit limit for the month (say $1,200 instead of the $1,500 debt), there usually is a fee for that misstep too. Finally, if cash advances are used, their rates are typically higher than the rate for charged items on the credit card.
The standard minimum monthly repayment fee is a crucial area of focus. This payment used to be 5% of the outstanding balance in the 1970’s; however, when the card companies saw that the card holders could have reduced pressure while the companies would be much more profitable, the minimums were reduced to around 2% by the early 2000’s. (“Credit Card Minimums: Perfectly Calibrated to Keep You in Debt”, Claire Tsosie, Nov. 7, 2016, Nerdwallet.)
In some cases, making minimum monthly payments can take up to 20 or 30 years to repay, depending on the requirements. If minimum monthly payments instead of fixed monthly payments are made, it would take 232 months (19.3 years) to repay the $1,500, 18%-interest loan, and the total interest paid would be $2,897. Or, this same loan with a fixed monthly payment of $23 would take 258 months to repay, or 21.5 years, and the total interest payments would be $4,414.
On the other hand, making a monthly payment slightly above the minimum payment allows the card holder to repay the debt much more rapidly. The table below shows all these different scenarios where the impact of more rapid repayment clearly can be demonstrated. So contrast these minimum payment scenarios with making monthly payments even slightly higher than the minimum required, or $40 in this example:
Credit Card Interest Rate Fixed Months Years Interest Savings
Balance Payment to Repay to Repay Paid
$1,500 18% $30 94 7.8 $1,293
$1,500 18% $40 56 4.7 $ 721 $572
$1,500 18% $25 155 12.9 $2,366
$1,500 18% $23 258 21.5 $4,414
So it is very important to pay as much over the monthly minimum as possible.
Here is another example shown in the table below: a credit card balance of $5,000, with an 18% APR, and minimum payment as 2% of the credit card balance. Making fixed payments set by the minimum payment for the first month, it would take 7.8 years and $4,311 in finance charges to pay off this debt, not including any fees incurred over the life of the credit card balance. Increasing payments to $125 a month would allow a pay-off of the same debt in 4.6 years and with $1,774.42 spent in interest.
Credit Card Interest Rate Minimum Months Years Interest Savings
Balance Payment to Repay to Repay Paid
$5,000 18% $100 94 7.8 $4,311
$5,000 18% $125 62 5.2 $2,693 $1,618
$5,000 18% $240 26 2.2 $1,040 $3,271
$5,000 14% $100 76 6.3 $2,547 $1,764
$5,000 23% $100 168 14 $11,740 ($7,429)
The impact of paying off even faster also is evident. If affordable, a monthly payment of $240 could repay this debt in a little over 2 years with a total of $1,040 paid in interest and a substantial savings of $3,271. The impact of a lower rate also is clear. If this card holder’s credit score is better, the rate can be lowered. In this example, a 14% rate with $100 monthly payments results in a 76-month repayment period (6.3 years) instead of 94 months (7.8 years) and interest paid of $2,547 instead of $4,311.
Your credit card statement is required to show how long it will take to pay off the debt using the minimum payments. Additionally, there are many credit card calculators on the internet that will help with determining how fast the debt can be repaid with different levels of payment, how much total interest is paid with these different monthly payments, etc. (For example, seehttps://www.bankrate.com/calculators/managing-debt/minimum-payment-calculator.aspxwhich includes both minimum payments and fixed payments.)
These calculations can get tricky. That is because each minimum monthly payment may include some amount of principal repayment each month. When that occurs, the next minimum monthly payment goes down because it is set as a percent of the remaining principal. This method results in much longer repayment terms and a much higher amount of paid interest. So it is critical to keep paying the debt at the same actual monthly dollar amount or higher throughout the repayment process rather than re-setting the monthly payment lower as each payment is made.
Using the minimum monthly payments results in much longer repayment periods and much higher total interest payments. There are other repercussions from too much credit card debt and/or late or missed payments. First, your credit score probably will fall. 35% of your score depends on making payments on time. It is crucial to make payments on time and not miss any payments. It is damaging if you can only make minimum payments on the debt as you will be judged less likely to be able to be a good risk for other debt; but even if you make minimum payments, they should be made on time and no payments should be missed.
And another 30% of the credit score is based on the utilization rate on your card – the percent of the credit maximum that you have charged on the card; this rate should not be more than 30% -- and preferably lower – to positively impact the credit score. For example, if your credit access line is $5,000, you should not carry more than $1,500 (30% of $5,000) on your balance the next month; if the amount, and therefore the percent, is higher, it can negatively impact your score. It is likely that your score will fall when you are in a situation where you are paying only the minimum monthly payments because the utilization rate is likely to be too high.
If you have missed two consecutive payments – i.e. if you are late for 60 days – the card company may be able to increase the rate on your card (check your agreement with the card company to determine the specific policy). If you default on your credit card, the interest rate you pay can increase to as high as 30%. Now, look at the same loan in the table above – $5,000 with a $100 monthly minimum payment – but with an increased rate of, for example, 23%. This loan requires 168 months or 14 years (compared to 7.8 years) to repay and the amount of interest paid is $11,740 (compared to $4,311) or an extra $7,429 in interest.
If someone has this type of situation on more than one card, the impact is further multiplied. If the same person continues this pattern for several years or decades, the impact grows. So it is not just one card and one debt that typically is the issue. It can be many cards over many years along with other debts. In these situations, the extra interest that has to be repaid can be extremely burdensome and have a great impact on someone’s life.
In addition, if your credit score falls, it can increase the rates you have to pay on other loans, such as car loans or mortgages which often are determined by your credit score. There is a very great impact on how much you pay for these loans depending on how you handle your credit card and other debt and what your resulting credit score is. The impact on someone’s life becomes even greater in this situation and can be repeated over many decades.
The examples above showed how much interest the card holder has to pay over the course of repayment when only the minimum payments are made. If you still have to use your credit card while making these minimum payments, the total debt amount escalates quickly as does the minimum monthly payment; when this situation occurs, the debt becomes more burdensome and the likelihood of late or missed payments exists – which brings more fees and interest payments.
Repaying Credit Card Debt
It clearly is beneficial to repay credit card debt as quickly as possible using as high a monthly payment as possible. But how can that be done when the credit card holder can only afford to make the minimum monthly payments or slightly higher than the minimum?
A process to get out of this trap is available. The first step is to review your budget, in-depth. At Community Development Finance, we use a very detailed budget on an excel spreadsheet to help people go through their expenses. A very helpful preliminary step is first to track every amount of money you spend for a couple of months and then separate these expenses into categories and add any other payments that you haven’t made during the two months that you might make on a periodic basis – bi-monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually. Once someone sees the actual expenditures, it often becomes very clear where cutbacks can be made that will free up some extra cash each month that can be added to the minimum payments. In addition, there are ways to earn additional income; one of CDF’s financial training workshops covers ways to earn money on the internet through a computer or phone by doing things such as taking surveys, playing video games, submitting grocery shopping bills, etc. Either or both of these methods combined can generate a certain amount of extra cash each month.
With this extra amount of money, someone facing debts can utilize either one of two different methods to repay debt: the Snowball or the Avalanche. For either one of these methods, all the debts need to be put on a spreadsheet of some kind. Since we are discussing only credit card debt, only the credit cards will be included in this discussion, but this method is used to create a strategy for addressing all debt and we will return to this method when we discuss all kinds of debt in a later blog.
For this spreadsheet, each credit card should be listed along with the total amount of debt, the interest rate and the minimum monthly amount required by the card company. With the Snowball method, the smallest debt amount is paid off first. So, list all the credit card debts starting with the smallest amount first leading down to the highest amount of debt. With the Avalanche method, the card with the highest interest rate is paid of first and the list is made by starting with the highest rate first and moving down to the lowest.
In either case, the minimum monthly payment will be paid on all the debts except the first one that is targeted. For the first one, take the extra funds you have made available through reducing your expenses through the budgeting exercise described above and/or the extra income created by some other method (using the internet as described above or an extra part-time job, selling some of your unused belongings, etc.) and add that to the minimum monthly payment for the first targeted credit card debt. Then pay that debt off as soon as possible using these higher monthly payments. Then, when that debt is repaid, use the payment amount from repaying the first debt plus the minimum payment amount on the next debt to repay the second debt. And so on until the debt is repaid.
The Snowball method uses the smallest debts first as repayment targets. This approach gives a sense of accomplishment as you watch the smaller debts fall off the list. The Avalanche method pays off the highest interest rate debts first; these debts may be higher amounts and may take longer and results may not be seen as quickly. But the total amount of interest paid can be smaller using the Avalanche method.
For example, assume credit card debts in the following amounts and terms:
Amount Rate Minimum Payment
$750 15% $25
$2,000 20% $30
$3,500 25% $30
For the Snowball method, you would start with the $750 card debt. The minimum monthly payment of $25 would be added to the additional income created by re-budgeting or adding more income of, for example, $150 per month for a total of $175 paid per month. This first debt could be repaid in about 5 months. Then, take the $175 monthly payment used to repay the first debt and add the minimum payment from the next smallest debt of $30 for the $2,000 debt for a total monthly payment of $205. This debt could be repaid in 11 months. When that occurs, take the $205 paid on the $2,000 debt and add in the minimum payment that was being made on the last debt of $3,500 for a total monthly payment of $235. This debt could be repaid in about 19 months and then the holder should be free of the $6,250 credit card debt in 34 total months.
The Avalanche method would start with the highest interest rate debt or the $3500 balance. Using the $175 monthly amount available, this debt would be repaid in 27 months. Then the $2000 debt would be repaid using $205 per month and it would be repaid in 11 months. The last debt of $750 would be repaid in 4 months. This method took longer in this example, and the interest paid was greater than the amount using the Snowball method. In other situations, the amount of interest paid using the Avalanche method will be smaller. The holder can figure out the results ahead of time and make a decision based on interest saved, the amount of time required, and the type of psychological results that are considered more desirable.
Other Repayment Options
There are other ways to attack repayment of credit card debt that can be undertaken in combination with one of the above methods or used alone:
Credit card issuers make up for the rate hike with the automatic rise in variable back-end rates, as well as the increasing spread between the prime rate and what consumers pay on new accounts. They can also increase other fees, like late payment fees or balance transfer fees to keep long 0% deals viable. (“How Fed Rate Hikes Change Borrowing and Savings Rates”, Nick Clements, magnifymoney.com, June 14, 2019.)
A bad credit score can be very costly. Many rates may be attached to credit scores; some mortgages, car loans, credit card rates and others are lower if the credit score is higher or they are higher when the credit score is lower. This can cost a lot of money over the years.
For example, consider a $5,000 amortizing car loan with a 5-year term.
With a High credit score: $5,000 loan at 8% for 5 years
Payment = $101.38 per month
With a Low credit score: $5,000 loan at 26% for 5 years
Payment = $149.70 per month
DIFFERENCES: $48.32 per month
$579.87 per year
$2,899.34 over 5 years
The gap for credit cards can be less extreme, but burdensome nonetheless:
For borrowers with high credit scores, the average rate was 17.73 percent last week (May 2019), compared with 16.71 percent a year ago. For those with poor credit scores, the average is now about 24.99 percent, compared with 23.77 percent a year ago. “Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez want to cap credit card interest rates at 15 percent”, Renae Merle, Washington Post, May 9, 2019.
Now, imagine if you have similar loans at different times during your lifetime and imagine you also might have much larger loans, such as a larger car loan or a mortgage. The amount of additional money spent on interest rates when you have poor credit can create a substantial financial burden on you and your family over your lifetime.
Use of your credit cards can impact your credit score positively or negatively. A credit score tends to be comprised of the following elements:
Several years ago, FICO also allowed us a peek behind the curtain and showed usexactly how badly common credit mistakes can mangle your credit score. A few examples of mistakes and their effects that FICO revealed at that time include:
The higher your score, the more points you’ll lose due to such mistakes. Keep in mind thata perfect FICO score is 850, and you’ll generally need a score of at least 730 to 760 to get the best possible rates on loans, depending on the lender. (“The True Cost of Bad Credit”, Stacy JohnsonMay 18, 2017.)
Again, the impact of mistakes or avoidance of issues with credit cards can have a large impact.
And these cards can have a high rate as noted in the same article: “In some cases, customers end up owing more in interest than the original bill. Many store cards carry rates around 30 percent.”
Credit card debt can be a huge issue for most of us. We are pressured by society’s values to buy things and lead certain lifestyles. But the typical American may not earn enough to support these lifestyles and many do not earn enough to cover basic monthly costs. Nevertheless, credit has been made available relatively easily to allow us to support these lifestyles. But then, it is possible to get into problematic or even deep debt issues. There are ways to address these issues and keep credit card and other debt within workable limits.
© 2019 Daniel Leibsohn and the California Council of Churches. All rights reserved. calchurches.org/financial-coaching.html Permission is granted to reproduce this article for noncommercial use in local congregations as long as this copyright notice and link are included.
Although new reports seem to indicate wholesale round ups of immigrants have been postponed, the threat remains.
For those concerned about the threat against both undocumented and documented immigrants, we offer a resource.
Interfaith Mobilization for Human Integrity, a California based activist and advocacy organization we trust, has a comprehensive guide to action.
Take a look here
We encourage those in California to join with IM4HI in their trainings and with their activist alert rapid response efforts, all spelled out in this link.
Please do whatever you can.
If you wish another action, you can call the office of Sarah Fabian of the Justice Department who argued that children in concentration camps (our words, not theirs) don't need soap, toothpaste and brushes, and other items such as beds and blankets. She made this argument before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday, June 18. If you'd like to address these issues, her office number is 202-532-4824.
If you'd care to address these issues with your Senator or Representative, please call 202-224-3121
Below are examples of posters you can print out and display at your home, place of worship, or place of work.
Whatever you can do, please do it. This is a potential crisis of historic dimenstions. Human lives are on the line. We need your witness and your action to protect families, channel them into human and responsible paths to residence and citizenship.
We must never be left with the question: where were YOU when the families were rounded up?
The Washington Post reports that our government is sending Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) throughout the nation to round up and deport millions of immigrants whom they believe to be undocumented. You can read the story here For the faith community concerned with justice and due process for our immigrant brothers and sisters, this is alarming news.
What can we do?
In Northern California immigrant rights activists have rapid response teams on standby. These teams cover northern and central CA counties from Humboldt down to Kern. They can give you information on participation and offer phone numbers where you can report ICE activities requiring a response. To access this list, please click here
We are waiting for updates from Southern California groups. We will try to repost those later.
Other resources, organizations from which you may get information on how to help, are available here This list includes the American Civil Liberties Union that has been on the forefront of many court cases judged in favor of due process and in opposition to mass roundups of immigrants and family separation policies.
If you can act, please do. If you are unable, please witness. If you can't do that, please donate to groups that are and can. If you cannot do that, please advocate.
There are laws on our books at state and federal levels that are being ignored both for the crisis of asylum seekers and their children and for those suspected of being undocumented. No one present inside our borders can be denied due process. That's what looms for them if this mass deportation round up occurs.
Please raise your voice, do what you can. This is a massive human rights violation, and we can be silent no more.
Many of you have responded with compassion to the plight of justice advocate, Scott Warren.
He was arrested and has been on trial for offering food and water to undocumented immigrants. We have published the story on our blog.
The trial ended with the judge declaring a mistrial since the jury could not arrive at a verdict. The really good news is that it was 8-4 in favor of NOT GUILTY. This is important because with the weight of the impasse leaning toward a NOT GUILTY verdict, it means the US Attorney - the one who said Scott's faith standards were NOT actually a part of his faith - will be far less likely to refile. It's not impossible for Scott to be retried. It is less likely.
Please keep in touch with his organization, No Mas Muertes of No More Deaths. There will be others who will be arrested for acts of compassion toward immigrants. They and other groups fighting the harsh treatment of immigrants will need all of us in the coming months.
Bu for now a bit of good news for Scott, for his friends, for justice.
In January this year, four humanitarian workers with No Mas Muertes – No More Deaths – were convicted in the US Federal Court in Tucson AZ for the crime of leaving water and food for immigrants crossing into the USA.
New standards of law had been put into place to increase the penalties specifically for aid workers. Convicted of trespass, of being in a federal land area without a permit, and of ‘abandoning personal property’ anyone else would have received a fine. Now the law specifically aimed at these people of faith, may sentence the volunteers to six months in prison plus a hefty fine.
Another volunteer, Scott Warren, is currently on trial in the same jurisdiction for “harboring” undocumented immigrants for also providing two men with water and food as they took refuge in an abandoned building. He faces much stiffer charges for both harboring immigrants and conspiring to harbor them.
All of the volunteers are people of faith, Warren’s defense rests on the recent Religious Freedom Restoration Act established by former US Attorney General Jeff Sessions. However, the American Civil Liberties Union has raised serious questions about the unequal application of the law.
Warren asserts that his faith (he is Unitarian Universalist) requires that we aid the alien in our midst. He states that he is motivated by many faith directives to assure that all people in need, including undocumented people, are protected against death and harm from hunger and thirst. That is the underlying motivation for the entire organization, and Warren was acting upon it.
In a chilling declaration, the US Department of Justice has declared that this is not a religious belief to be upheld.
The government opposed the motion, saying the prosecution does not substantially burden Warren's beliefs. DOJ lawyers said Warren “is not required by his beliefs to aid in the evasion of law enforcement. Nor were the people associated with these charges ‘in distress.’ ” (www.npr.org October 18, 2018.)
With this administration creating laws and standards within those laws that target only specific beliefs – ban on contraceptive coverage for Hobby Lobby and the rights not to bake cakes for same sex weddings – the First Amendment protections themselves are now under assault as much as the humanitarian workers.
The assault on religious freedom should alarm each and every one of us. In past cases such as the anti-abortion movement, the standards of law were universal. When barriers were erected around women’s clinic doors, the guidelines were consistent with all types of protests such as labor strikes, as were standards for federal injunctions that established permissible and non-permissible actions. There was one standard applied to all.
These recent cases in Arizona federal court are setting legal standards today that are directed against certain people by employing different sets of norms and consequences from those for anyone else.
We are also being told our faith values do not exist. They are the wrong values for this administration.
The immediate concern is the well being of the workers facing prison and further charges. If you would like to help, please go to nomoredeaths.org
You can also find links there to details about their work in general and to Scott Warren’s trial in specific and may make donations to the organization’s legal fund.
These are uneasy days for both humanitarian action and for equality before the law. We encourage you to take your voices to our elected officials on behalf of absolute equality in all matters pertaining to law and to conscience. We have a First Amendment for a reason. The law cannot undermine it for some groups while upholding it for others. That is the pathway to tyranny.
Our nation faces one of its most grave crises. We are watching the chief executive amass unprecedented power, defying the rule of law. Nothing in our history has prepared us for this challenge to our Constitution, to our statutes, to our interactions among the branches of government. We are fighting for the soul of democracy. No one can stay idle in the face of this challenge.
I was born in the early wave of the post war “baby boom”. I grew up with “Holocaust Consciousness” followed quickly by awareness of post-war threats to our own democracy in the wave of anti-communist fervor from many in Congress and society. Then came a growing awareness of the evils of Jim Crow segregation. To say I was a scared little kid would be an understatement. I remember my parents watching the Army-McCarthy hearings, not understanding much other than the danger to innocent people, Hearing my parents and their friends talk about those threats to democracy and equality, to justice and fairness was pretty overwhelming.
I have dreaded the day I’d have to find my courage to stand up against something as evil and scary as fascism had been in Europe. Would I have what it takes to resist? To be as brave as Miep Gies who hid the Frank family? To defy authority in the name of democracy and of my faith in Jesus’ teachings on justice for all people?
In 2003, just before the start of US bombing of Iraq, I participated in an 8-state convening against hate crimes that even then were on the rise. The last night we saw a film about German pastor and theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his anti-fascist resistance during the Third Reich. In the discussion that followed, the group leader said, “Be prepared from here on, to lay down your life for what you believe.” When asked what that meant, he said, “Devote your life to standing for justice. And, if needed, to lay down your life for that purpose.”
It was incredibly sobering and frightening to hear this. Would we need to do this? In America?
We at the Council of Churches have tried to live by that principle: lay down your life for what you believe. Some of you know that we have been under siege from vandalism and threats for doing exactly that. Some of our denominational affiliates have been contacted by extremists demanding they drop out of the Council, always by those who detest our stands for equality and for justice. No one has dropped out, and the retaliation, while minor, has resulted in vandalism, stalking, threats.
And yet we have stayed the course. Did we have any real alternative?
Now we call on all of you to do whatever you can for love of our fellow human beings, for the preservation of democracy, for the protection of the rule of law.
Remember the “Faithful Five Minutes” of calls to your elected officials every day. Bolster the strong, chastise the weak. Speak up and out for justice and our Constitution.
Rally when you are able. Join diverse coalitions of immigrant rights groups, labor, racial justice groups, civil rights groups, and diverse faiths then go to your representatives’ and senators’ offices, both federal and state level. Fight for the rule of law. Stand against oppression. Keep abreast of current events. Speak out where needed. Your voice is powerful.
We are struggling to keep the soul of our nation intact. This is the greatest threat we have faced since the Civil War. Today as I write, it is the 154thanniversary of the Confederate surrender, the Army of Virginia, to the forces of the Union Army at Appomattox. It saved the nation. Can we do this again, this time we hope without the bloodshed?
Only our actions through law can prevent another civil war, another rise of dictatorial power, another threat to democracy and our constitution.
I may be retired, but I will never stop working against injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.
Please do whatever you can, however you can, for as long as you can. Our nation’s survival is on the line.
Thank you. Blessings on all you do.
Director Emerita Public Policy
Words of greeting.
Words of peace.
“Hello Brother” were words from a young Muslim man who stepped up trying desperately to deflect the gunman entering a Christchurch, NZ mosque Friday March 15th. The words, meant to stop the shooter, were the last words the Muslim man spoke. He was killed. Forty-eight more lost their lives before the rampage through two mosques ended.
In this latest of horrors, the rampant self-justification from the shooter’s own words shows he thought Muslims deserved to die. As the shooter in Pittsburgh, PA earlier shot down Jews for the same demented reason and Dylan Root shot nine Black AME Christians in Charleston, SC. They deserved to die for simply being who they are. Sikhs slaughtered in WI, Unitarians in TN. These are the victims of both religious hate and racial hate, but many more acts of violence have taken down people just trying to live their lives. We are losing count.
This isn’t a “Muslim problem”. This isn’t a “Jewish problem”. This isn’t a “Black problem”.
It’s a white Christian problem.
Before anyone says, “not all white Christians”, let us consider, in our hearts, if we have done all we can to make sure we didn’t turn a blind eye, stay silent instead of speak. Have we earnestly done all we can do to stop the new global wave of white, Christian terrorism, for that is what this all is, from spreading unchallenged? We have to search our hearts and our lives to see if we can do more.
I, for one, am tired of showing up after the fact. I hate candle light vigils and don’t attend them. I’m sick of press conferences decrying bloodshed and loss of valuable lives. I’m anguished by the sense of impotence at failing to prevent another senseless massacre. I’m frightened that there will be more.
Forty nine dead in New Zealand. Eleven in Pittsburgh. Nine in Charleston.
When will it end?
We are in the grip of an administration that demonizes “the other” be it immigrants, Muslims, people of color. We have unleashed waves of hate and resentment from white people who think equality means a loss to them. Males who see female equality as a threat. If you have to enforce your superiority with violence, are you really superior at all?
We can’t dismiss this thinking that we would never do this kind of thing to anyone. It flourishes if we tolerate it, if we don’t actively stop it. Silence is tacit assent.
We have to stand up, speak out, act affirmatively not passively in the name of our country’s promise and our faith’s direction. This isn’t on Muslim, Jews, Sikhs, Unitarians. It isn’t on Black people, Brown people, immigrants, indigenous people.
It’s on us: white, middle class, mainstream Christians. We are the only people who can speak out and uphold these truths of nation and faith. We can stay silent no more.
Hello brother. Hello sister. Hello everyone. End the silence. End the violence. It’s on us.
From our friends at the Religious Institute.
Never have I started an alert writing “Dear Friends” with more heartfelt truth.
I have been here at the California Council of Churches and Church IMPACT for 17 years as of next Tuesday, January 15, 2019. During those years, we have waded the deep waters of budget crises, of health care reform, of fighting for racial justice and for immigrant rights, for full equality for women, justice for our Muslim neighbors, for LGBTQ brothers and sisters, for honest government, fair redistricting, and meaningful elections among many other issues.
Occasionally I still meet staff members at the Capitol with whom I’ve never worked. They all know who we are. Why? Because our organizational voice is amplified millions of times over by you. I discovered fairly early in my tenure here that when I’d send out alerts, you’d take action in your district about which I often didn’t even know for months. Legislators heard from you, and it made my presence meaningful. Without you I’m just one person. With you we are legend!
However, after all these wonderful years with you, it is now time for me to move on.
At the risk of sounding like a discredited politician, I really do want to “spend more time with my family”. I have terminated my lobby registration and am cleaning out my incredibly messy desk. I have 17 years’ worth of calendars to save or throw away - can’t make up my mind – a lifetime of work, joy, frustration, fury, happiness, and accomplishment. If the paper gets recycled, the memories will stay. They are mostly about all of you.
I want to wake up without an alarm for a time, and I want to garden (I’m bad at it), cook things slowly instead of in a rush, read more, play the piano again, and go back to the Y to take classes that are always in the daytime hours. i want to find out if the "Churchlady" can Zumba.
I will also take time to listen to my inner spiritual self about what are my “next steps”.
I will miss all of you, friends through virtual reality and face-to-face. I am in awe of your creativity, your dedication to justice, your kindness. Your energies, devotion to advocacy and activism, your insights, and your love, humor, and wisdom have sustained me every step of the way.
This is adieu not good-bye. After a breathing period, I will write for our Blog and help with grant proposals, but we will have to rely mostly on you to “speak truth to power”. I will still have my email address for now and will answer questions, which I can do from home, so that you can take action, call for accounting, and move issues with clarity and authority.
We have every faith in you. You have worked wonders and given comfort to those who cannot speak for themselves. You have made California and America a better place. It has been my honor to work with you all these many years. You are all truly in my heart.
Elizabeth Sholes, Director of Public Policy
The Rev Dr Rick Schlosser