I was one of a group of black faith leaders from inner cities who attended a meeting with President Trump at the White House Wednesday to talk about the importance of the church in building community – especially in the area of prison reform and workforce development for former prisoners.
Unfortunately, the political and cultural climate in our country has plummeted to such a petty and disturbing place that I fully expected I might be attacked afterwards. Nevertheless, I accepted the invitation. I believe that the ability to help others who are marginalized, disenfranchised and voiceless is an important pursuit, and I remain committed to the cause of Christ beyond pettiness and politics.
Sadly, my fears were realized when I and some of the other leaders were attacked after this meeting – both in our churches, our local communities and from others nationally. Our statements, and even the opening prayer, came under intense scrutiny and our remarks were also taken out of context in order to generate click-bait headlines.
Much has been made about my thanking President Trump for “caring for all people.” Some individuals have misconstrued that statement to conclude I was giving a blanket endorsement of everything the president has done. That was not the intent of my statement.
I am on record as disagreeing with President Trump, including on aspects of his immigration policy. However, I would happily hop on a plane to Washington again if I were invited to sit down and talk through other issues that will help the disenfranchised, marginalized and voiceless...
The president expressed to us that he is concerned about the incredible challenges our prisoners and former prisoners face under the current system. He said his administration is currently working on prison reform legislation to help.
I thanked President Trump for this and for “caring for all people,” meaning I am encouraged and hopeful about his desire for prison reform, his wish to help the formerly incarcerated, and his determination to partner with the faith-based community on important issues affecting the community.
On other issues, I am on record as disagreeing with President Trump, including on aspects of his immigration policy. However, I would happily hop on a plane to Washington again if I were invited to sit down and talk through other issues that will help the disenfranchised, marginalized and voiceless, like I did on at our meeting this week.
But what is most disturbing about the reaction to Wednesday’s meeting is that it shows the vitriol and contempt that is present even when President Trump’s efforts are positive and will clearly help those who need it most (his First Step Act prison reform legislation has strong bipartisan support).
My prayer is that we no longer sacrifice the people who need help the most on the altar of our egos and political ideology. We don’t have to agree on all things – in fact we might only agree on a few things – but I still believe we can work together for the betterment of this country, its citizens and our communities.
As a Christian, my ultimate example is Jesus, and in the spirit of the popular bracelets from years ago I think we have to ask the question: “What would Jesus do?” This answer is simple. He would work to make a difference in the lives of people, regardless of who is in the White House. I pray that we do likewise.