Picture taken at Memphis Harding Academy last fall when Harold Ford, Jr., came to speak.
Dear Congressman Ford:
The number one reason for my writing you today is to repeat my plea for you to use your influence to encourage a dramatic, UN led response to the situation in Darfur. The killings there besmirch us all. As Nicolas Kristof so aptly wrote this weekend,
“After more than three years of such brutality, it seems incredibly inadequate for the international community simply to hand out bandages when old women are roasted in their huts and young men have their eyes gouged out. What we need isn’t more bandages, but the will to stand up to genocide.”
Secondarily, I wanted to write my response to your concession speech.
Last year your presence at Harding Academy, your demeanor, your focus on each student’s questions, and your serious and articulate response captured the student body’s attention.
I believe that your presence in the school gave these students a chance to see you, as you are, not as a caricature created by political opposition. In a classroom poll, on Election Day, you won by large margin.
Your concession speech left many of them speechless. Your quotation from Ephesians reflecting the reality of the battle faced today-not a battle of flesh and blood, but one against authorities, rulers, principalities and powers of darkness got their attention. Such talk kindles a spirit in children of deep faith and biblical training.
I have observed, over the years, tapping into the sensitivity of the devout, from segrationists of the 50s and 60s to David Gerson’s rhetoric in Bush’s speeches, can be like darkness disguising itself as an angel of light.
I encourage my government students to understand themselves as the objects of political consultants. I tell my students about how Christianity Today in 2000 described the day that George W. Bush decided to run for president. CT reported that within hours of his decision Bush called Ralph Reed to ask how he could capture the evangelical vote.
Obviously, Bush captured that vote. Figures released by Pew Research after last week’s election show evangelicals solidly in the Republican camp. This was no surprise to me based on my experience in Georgia. For ten years, I lived in Newt Gingrich’s district and taught near the neighborhoods of John Linder, Bob Barr, and Ralph Reed. Along with Saxby Chambliss, all of these were guest speakers at our school. I experienced first hand the influence of the Republican Party and the religious fervor with which it was embraced.
I see tremendous darkness in this loyalty in the face of the Bush administration’s willingness to justify torture, dissemble on the nature of the Iraq war, inflame backlash against immigration, and make a pretense compassionate conservatism as public policy.
So why am I writing to you? Because of your concession speech.
Because I listened to Paul Begala and James Carville’s book on Democratic strategy and know that religious folks are the object of political consultants.
Because we need leaders who will establish social justice, peace, and an orderly society in which evildoers are restrained by a just, merciful legal system. We need leaders like Daniel and Joseph—like Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr., -- whose faith shaped their leadership and justice guided their policies.
Because you asked people to pray.
Here’s my prayer:
I pray for you to find a clear, unequivocal voice on controversial social issues that fall into areas of deep religious reflection.
Because I believe passionately that poverty, healthcare, immigration, prisons, and peace are moral issues, I pray for you to be a prophetic voice on these issues. I pray for the formulation of public policies that will address these issues effectively.
Though these prayers actually invite danger, it seems better to wage life as a God-fearing, justice driven, peacemaking leader than to settle for less.
I pray you can be strong, resilient, and forgiving in the ugliness of the fray.
I pray for the days ahead to be productive and high profile.
I believe, as you stated, there is a pitched battle not of flesh and blood, but one against authorities, rulers, principalities and powers of darkness. I don’t believe that one party or another intrinsically holds the key to this, but a civil authority exercising power justly, matters. From Darfur, to Baghdad, to Memphis, violence and exploitation must be and replaced by peace and justice.
I am glad that you took the time to come to Harding Academy last year. It was a pleasure to meet you and to introduce you. Although I won't be introducing you as Senator Ford his year, I expect that this, or another auspicious title, to be yours in the future.
With best regards,
Beverly Choate Dowdy
Other articles by Bev on politics and religion:
"When Red and Blue Meet in the Pew" published in New Wineskins magazine.
Bush-An Example to the World?
Rush Limbaugh and Silent Saints
Prayers without Borders
Don't DeLay, Morality is on its Way
Single Issue Senselessness