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Clergy Leadership Network Responds To State Of The Union

Clergy across the county take aim at President Bush's State of the Union Address.
Clergy Leadership Network (  http://www.clnnlc.org/ )Responds To State Of The Union

The Clergy Leadership Network is a new interfaith movement of moderate and progressive clergy who are pursuing greater political participation as an expression of an inclusive faith and a religious social conscience.

Just as the prophet Jeremiah spoke truth to power in ancient Judah, we find ourselves compelled, out of a sense of faith and patriotism, to give voice to our concerns about the integrity and well-being of our country.

It comes as no surprise to us that George Bush should find the state of the union so healthy. For himself and those he associates with, times have surely never been better. That is because, in spiritual terms, his Administration has been one that has coddled the wealthy and catered to the powerful at the expense of desperate and even destitute people. While this Administration seeks to aggrandize the corporation and the profiteer, millions of God's children are plagued by unmet needs: the struggle to find jobs, to shelter their families, to educate their children, and to heal their illnesses.

We reject domestic economic policies that favor the advantaged and pander to greed. The pursuit of such policies is irreconcilable with spiritual commitments and biblical convictions. But worse, to wrap these policies in a false cloak of 'compassion' moves into the arena of cynicism and public hypocrisy.

Tonight, President Bush also defended - and even celebrated - his violent and unnecessary war in Iraq, which has brought so much human suffering to Americans and Iraqis alike. We share the President's goal of security for all our people. But faith teaches that security realized through conquest is no security at all. Only policies that affirm human dignity, provide for basic human needs, and create global partnerships can lay fair claim to having enhanced security for us and for all nations.

Furthermore, it is unconscionable that public resources can be found to tear down and rebuild an entire society abroad, but when it comes to pressing human priorities here in our own communities, the nation's coffers have mysteriously run dry.

The President persists in establishing a dubious link between his preemptive invasion of Iraq and the imperative of stopping terrorism. He addresses terrorism's consequences but not its causes. Terrorism thrives where there is political oppression and economic exploitation. Rather than taming terrorists, the incineration of Muslim nations provides the seed bed for recruiting new terrorists.

Forsaking fellowship for a climate of fear, the Bush Administration has squandered the respect and admiration of the global community. We are now on a perilous path, trying to remake the world according to our own vision. Four years ago, Candidate Bush called for a more modest foreign policy. But President Bush has given us policies woven of international hubris, self-righteousness, and intimidation.

The President has also offered a vision of space travel that includes a mission to Mars. Has the Earth become so unmanageable that we must now seek new outposts? Science and discovery are certainly important forms of human progress. But before we take on this interplanetary frontier, we must take care of unfinished business here on Earth: lifting up the poor, comforting the afflicted and pursuing justice for all. That would indeed be 'one giant leap for mankind.'

Just yesterday, the nation celebrated the 75th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. January is also the month of the birth of Rabbi Abraham Heschel, the great Jewish scholar and colleague of Dr. King. In the most tragic of ironies, we celebrate two of history's most passionate advocates of peace and social justice, while our government tramples their ideals as never before.

We had hoped to work with this President, especially given his promise to 'change the tone' and to be a 'uniter, not a divider.' But when it comes to those with perspectives different than their own, the leaders in this Administration are not interested in engagement and compromise, only arrogance and condescension.

We have concluded that the Administration's faulty vision for our nation and our world, as measured against God's caring, cannot be corrected. It must be repudiated - challenged from our pulpits and rejected in our voting places. We have concluded that this is a time for national leadership change. Nothing in this evening's address leads us to believe otherwise.

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