In my 25 years of pastoral ministry I have sought to inspire people of strong religious faith to be active and constructive participants in the political processes in our communities. I have often been challenged that politics is too dirty for people of faith and for clergy in particular. I have always responded that if good people do not participate, our politics become poisoned by cynicism and despair. Without people of faith and vision, the people will perish.
Last week’s austintalks.org article printed in the Austin Weekly News on my reaction to the selection of the 78th district state representative had the kind of mischaracterizations that make good people recoil from participating in the political process. I was characterized as a minister willing to bargain principle for votes on a highly charged social issue of our times: Would legal civil unions be a humane resolution for people who are sharply divided on the issue? As people of faith, we do not have to agree with people in order to be civil, respectful, loving and sensitive. When people of faith participate in political processes, we too can disagree without being disagreeable and be led by the high principles fair play. Seeking the high ground of the common good is the only way that people from the West Side and Oak Park will be able to work together. We must thoughtfully engage wedge issues that divide us, so that we can address together issues of quality education, economic development, public safety and the growing numbers of children in poverty.
We on Chicago’s West Side have some critical political decisions to make in the coming months. There are precious few progressive, visionary voices guiding our politics in these critical times. Traditional machine politics are more entrenched with every round of resignation, appointment and committee selection. Childhood innocence and promise are dying on our streets, and the spirits of the people are at an all-time low. We have lost the great faith that has helped us overcome in the past.
The African American male in our community has few role models of family and community leadership. We feel powerless against our violent slide into a hopeless abyss of compounded degeneration. Frankly, we need people of great faith now more than ever. Providing vision and energy to this generation for our community has been my life’s work. We must be challenged to believe again in our personal and political lives.
I was disappointed that the Austin Weekly News coverage of the recent political appointments did not provide the kind of thoughtful political analysis of a Frank Lipscomb or a Delores McCain and others. They would inquire, are we further ahead or behind in our West Side quest for independent, progressive politics? Which emerging political and community leaders provide a compelling vision and a will to fight for the people? Which voices are willing to speak truth to power? We need this kind of reporting now more than ever.
Yes, I was personally disappointed by austintalks.org characterization of me as a desperate and unprincipled buffoon; although my academic preparation and life of service is public record. What disappointed me more, however, was the lack of thoughtful analysis for the community benefit. The Austin Weekly has been historically one of the finest community newspapers in the country. Today, we need you to live up to that reputation now more than ever.
Rev. Hatch is pastor of New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church.