Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Charlotte's Pastoral Letter to Sen. Ted Cruz


January 13, 2015

Dear Senator Cruz,

I received your recent letter with reports of your work in the 114th Congress, so here is my letter in response. This is not so much a point-by-point political argument about the ways you and I would approach our state’s problems and solutions (although you and I do seem to have very different opinions on many of these matters). Rather, since I am a Christian minister, this will be more a pastoral reflection on the priorities of Jesus Christ and how his values might help you and your fellow senators better care for “the least of these” in America. (You probably recognize Jesus’ words in the parable from Matthew 25).

Of course there are countless differences between Jesus’ time and ours, but there are some timeless attitudes he demonstrated and some abiding charges he delivered to those of us who dare to wear his name: Christ-ian.

Since you are a man who speaks openly about your Christian faith and since I am a pastor, I want to believe you are continually seeking to grow in these fundamental Christian disciplines.

1) Love God. Love Neighbor

Jesus was pretty clear about priorities – his and ours: we are called to love God with heart, soul, strength and mind and we are expected to love our neighbors as ourselves. He was also clear about who is a neighbor and how we are to be neighbor. (See the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke chapter 10.)

In a nation such as America, our citizens are free to understand and worship God as they see fit. As a Christian minister, I am grateful for the bold vision of our Constitution and the way our First Amendment protects people from state and federal incursions into our religious practices. I believe very strongly in the separation of church and state because I see how marrying religion and politics has deeply compromised both our government and the church of Jesus Christ.

That said, Jesus’ call to be the neighbor and to love our neighbors can inform and improve how Americans live together in our society for the common good. A Christian discipline for the love of neighbor demands an unselfish generosity and a willingness to sacrifice our own preferences and convenience for the good of the other.

I am deeply concerned about our neighbors here in Texas and across America; I am concerned that their own government is working against them instead of for them. Those who finally have access to affordable health care may lose it if you have your way; the push to repeal the Affordable Care Act sounds selfish. Your pledge to work against immigration reform instead of working with President Obama to find solutions sounds foolish. Your effort to undermine our public school systems sounds short sighted. Such actions would undo the progress we have made as a community of neighbors, a community that looks out for one another: for “the widows and the orphans,” for the “little ones,” for the “strangers" among us, for those who are trampled under the feet of the rich and powerful. Your programs and policies that increase the benefits of the privileged and compromise the possibilities of the underprivileged are not the way of the Christ.

2) More is Less and First is Last

As you read your Bible, surely you have read Jesus’ words that proclaim “the least among you is the greatest;” that the “last shall be first and the first shall be last.” Throughout the story of Scripture, God has always honored humility. One of my favorite biblical characters is Jesus’ own mother who responded to the news of the coming Messiah with a prophetic song:

God has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
God has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.

Mary’s Magnificat celebrates God’s mysterious, upside-down-way in the world that honors the poor and lifts up the oppressed. When followers of the Christ acknowledge that same reality in our own day, then we too must do whatever we can to speak for those who have no voice, to stand for those who have no standing, to align ourselves with those who are maligned and dismissed by the rich and the powerful.

I am deeply concerned about the gridlock in Congress that keeps you from cooperating together to work for the common good of ALL the people of America. These days – even more than most - you elected officials of Congress seem to be representing your own interests instead of the interests of those you are elected to represent. There is too much self-promotion and preening, too much self-righteousness and condemnation.

There is too much hubris and not near enough humility. Your inflammatory language is inexcusable. Your refusal to compromise with your colleagues is harmful. Your unwillingness to consider all sides of any issue is small minded. Your alignment with the rich and powerful is not the way of the Christ.

Senator Cruz, this effort of mine to do pastoral and theological reflection on the work and role of our elected officials is my resolution for this new year. I have complained enough; now I will be sending my insights and suggestions directly to you since you are my Texas Senator. I plan to follow your work and to communicate with you frequently throughout the year.

Please feel free to communicate back to me – preferably with a real letter (rather than a form letter) so that we can have an honest dialogue about the appropriate intersections of faith and public life in America.

Grace and Peace,
Reverend Charlotte Vaughan Coyle
Paris TX


Charlotte is an ordained minister within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

31 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks! I hope you will write your own letter to your senator.
      Peace...

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  2. Dear Charlotte,

    Do they have female pastors now in Texas? How in God's name did that happen?

    Yours in Christ,
    Ted Cruz

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    1. That you are a female pastor, in Cruz's eyes most likely disqualifies you as a true representative of Christ.
      I am of the belief that religion represents the opinions, feelings and biases of the individual rather that the other way around......You can always find something to justify what you want to believe...

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    2. I don't disagree that religion is our human effort to search for the Holy, what is beyond us. When done well, that search makes us bigger and better and we are able to see and affirm so many others who are on this journey. When done poorly, religion becomes tribal, exclusive and self-justifying. Throughout history, people have used religion for power. Not at all what I read in my Christian Scriptures. Thanks for your comment.

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  3. I agree with everything you've said and applaud your New Year's Resolution. Keep up the good work.

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    1. Thanks Sally. I hope to send a letter once a month. Maybe you could write to your senators as well. We're all in this together.

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    1. Thanks Dorcie. Consider writing to your senators as well. It takes all our voices.

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    1. Thanks Lee. I hope you will write your own letter to your representatives.

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  6. I think my Senators and Congressmen are tired of hearing from me. It does not seem to make any difference what you/I or anyone else says to them. I will continue to write and email - hopefully, somebody/someday will hear us. I get many many form letters in answer. Loved your letter. If that response is really from Mr Cruz, he is more of an idiot than I thought.

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    1. Let's both keep up the good work, Judi. We never know when truth will break through. (no that was a joke; I haven't heard from Mr. Cruz.)
      Peace...

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  7. If he replies I am sure it will start ... Dear Charlotte, I am not a Theologian, but,,,

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  8. Replies
    1. Thanks Deb. "I am not a theologian but I play one on TV..." ?!
      :)
      I hope you will write your own letter. It takes all of us.
      Peace...

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    1. Thanks Suzanne. I hope you will write your own letter. One letter may not make much difference but a flood of letters may. Peace...

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  10. Dear Pastor Charlotte

    I am not a person of faith though I was raised a Catholic. I would like to applaud you for being some one who has the courage to point out Mr Cruz's hypocrisy. Though he's one of many on both sides. Pointing these things out from my side of the fence holds little to no weight as we are viewed by some to be soul less heathens with no moral compass. I would love to see if he actually engages you in dialog.

    Godspeed!

    PS...My screen name is taken from an obscure 60's film. I'm a decent fellow. Ask my mom. :)

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    1. Ha! Great screen name. It ought to be my name! Thanks for the encouragement. I plan to send a letter each month so I'll post them and we will all see what happens. You know as well as I do that one doesn't need religion to have a moral compass; please do write your own letter to your senators. It takes all of us. Peace ...

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  12. Thank you for that great letter, while I'm not sure that I believe in God I continue to follow Jesus's teachings as best I can.

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    1. We can't go wrong following Jesus' teachings, Ray. What we do always speaks louder than what we say. Thanks for your encouraging words.

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  13. A simply brilliant letter written on behalf of the Kingdom.

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    1. Thanks Sergio. I pray wisdom and courage for all of us.

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  14. Thank you for your new year's resolution and your courage. You are an inspiration and cause us to step out in hope. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice Paul, and all the brave women in our history are smiling down on you. Keep up the amazing work. We are all in this together.

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    1. We do stand on the shoulders of some amazing people, don't we? I sometimes wonder what my life today might have been without their courage. We MUST honor them and keep this crucial work going. Yes indeed; we are all in this together. Thanks again for your encouraging words.

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  15. Thank you for your new year's resolution and your courage. You are an inspiration and cause us to step out in hope. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice Paul, and all the brave women in our history are smiling down on you. Keep up the amazing work. We are all in this together.

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