This pandemic has served to reveal much about economic inequity in our nation. Requiring people to Stay Home / Stay Safe has caused many to see the sharp divide between salaried workers and hourly workers. Like many people in our nation, I am suffering from too many Zoom meetings, too much time spent at home within the same walls, too much overseeing of children’s studies at the dining room table.
Yet the hardships that many of us face will not be for the most part, catastrophic: We will still eat; We will continue to have a roof over our heads; We will continue to receive a regular paycheck. While our lives have been turned upside down, we will not need to fear what many workers in service industries of various kinds are worrying mightily about: Loss of jobs, too little food for themselves and their children, too many unpaid bills as income drops to zero, too little access to WIFI to allow their children to keep up with their studies.
Many of us have always known about this vast divide between those living with financial security and those living paycheck to paycheck in America. Seeking ways to bridge that divide has been the work of discipleship for a long time. Answering the call of Jesus to love our neighbors, rich or poor, has been a way of life for many good Christians. Despite those efforts, though, the reality of a nation full of people struggling every day to find a way out of no way has not made it to the consciousness of many in leadership.
All over America, the coronavirus is revealing, or at least reminding us, just how much of contemporary American life is a sham, "with power structures built on punishment and fear as opposed to our best interest. Whenever the government or a corporation benevolently withdraws some punitive threat because of the coronavirus, it’s a signal that there was never any good reason for that threat to exist in the first place".
Indeed, in recent days, we have seen that it is possible to provide food to those who suffer food insecurity. We have seen that it is possible to provide healthcare to all who need it. We have witnessed the release of folks languishing in our jails and prisons, those who had been kept locked up for minor offenses, often offenses which are related to the poverty that they live with. We have found the police do not have to help landlords evict tenants behind in their rent. We have seen Walmart provide paid sick leave for employees who must stay home due to their own or their family members’ illnesses. It turns out that the government, in pretty short order, can waive interest on student loans and provide much needed funds directly to most Americans. As Yale Divinity School Professor Chloe Staff says, “If all things can be done now, they can be done.”
The work of disciples of Jesus in the days and weeks and months following this pandemic will be to work to make God’s love and justice real for folks on both sides of the economic wall, by lifting up all these possibilities that have become realities during this crisis. This will be the work that we must dedicate ourselves to if we truly hope to live into Christ’s call to ‘feed my sheep.’ (John 21:17)
The Rev. Marilyn Kendrix is Bridge Conference Minister. Kendrix, a 2013 graduate of Yale Divinity, earned that school’s Henry Hallam Tweedy Prize for exceptional promise in pastoral leadership, the highest prize conferred on a graduating student ...