Subject: NCC Newsletter: Student Loan Forgiveness, HR 40 & the Meaning of Nicholas

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Student Loan Forgiveness, HR 40 & the Meaning of Nicholas
NCC Newsletter
November 12, 2021
The ties that bind  
A functioning democracy requires majority rule, the protection of the rights of the minority, and a set of shared values. But if those three requirements become incompatible with one another and those in the majority say they can do whatever they want then we have a problem.

When people use the first amendment to say they have the right not to get vaccinated and therefore endanger public health or when they say the second amendment gives them the right to carry a gun anywhere and anytime then they are using the Constitution to undermine democracy, not to defend it. The tension between individual rights and protection of the defenseless and most vulnerable then gives way to narcissistic self-engagement.

In a year when the Capitol was overrun by thousands of violent rioters who refused to accept the results of a fair and free election, in a year when huge numbers of people continue to fall sick and/or die with Covid, in a year in which our government and our society is polarized, it would serve us well to reflect on how we can stay together.

It feels as if we are on the razor’s edge. Are enough people committed to the values needed to sustain democracy? Democracy has its weaknesses and its failures, but to have a democracy you have to be willing to stay in the game, to keep playing, even if you lose now and then or, even, a lot. The opposite approach is to fight for total control. That’s the opposite of democracy.

Recently, Rep. Lynne Cheney of Wyoming, herself under fire for saying the events of January 6 must be investigated, said, “Every single American has a responsibility. Our institutions are very fragile. Every single person has a duty.”

This is particularly important at a time when school board members and election officials are receiving vicious death threats, when the requests of low wealth marginalized people are not being heard, when disagreements are seemingly intractable, and when supply chains and the ties that bind us are broken. It would be good to remember the hard work needed to care for the common good and our democracy.

Albert Einstein put it this way, "The strength of the Constitution lies entirely in the determination of each citizen to defend it. Only if every single citizen feels duty bound to do his share in this defense are the constitutional rights secure.”

Einstein, a Jew, a refugee, an intellectual giant, and a revered figure, would not fit into Pat Robertson’s concept of our democracy when he said, "The Constitution of the United States is a marvelous document for self-government by Christian people. But the minute you turn the document into the hands of non-Christian people and atheist people, they can use it to destroy the very foundation of our society."

It can be discouraging to stay in the struggle right now and we must each choose our path. One friend left Washington, DC because of the ugliness of the atmosphere in order to go to seminary and find other ways to seek peace and dialogue. Another friend has purchased a home outside the US just in case things fall apart here. Both these people are still deeply involved in working to advance democratic values.

We all have to work at staying together whether in our families, our churches, our neighborhoods, and our nation. These are weird times. Self-awareness is required, humility is required. The old Hasidic saying says you should carry in one of our pockets a piece of paper that says, ‘the world was created for me’ and in the other pocket you should carry a piece of paper says, ‘I am but dust and ashes.’ The key to healthy living is to know which piece of paper to take out at any given moment. These pieces of paper and the thoughts they express have meaning.

Similarly, former US Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes said, "You may think that the Constitution is your security--it is nothing but a piece of paper. You may think that the statutes are your security--they are nothing but words in a book. You may think the elaborate mechanism of government is your security--it is nothing at all, unless you have sound and uncorrupted public opinion to give life to your Constitution, to give vitality to your statutes, to make efficient your government machinery."

Have we created a system, flawed as it is, that is strong enough to withstand the forces battering it? I don’t know, but this moment has been entrusted to all of us, even with our strengths and weaknesses. 

Grace and peace,

New Reparatory Justice Series Launches Next Week
This webinar on the Racial Wealth Gap led by Christian Brooks, MDiv, MSPPM, of the Presbyterian Church (USA) Office of Public Witness, on November 17, 2021, will include an interactive wealth gap simulation to help participants understand the connections between racial equity, poverty, and wealth. To participate in the full experience of the simulation from 2:30 - 4 PM ET, you must register on Zoom and have paper and a pencil ready. 

The experience is a good first step for people unaware of structural inequality, or for those who want a deeper understanding of structural inequality and the information and resources to address the quantifiable economic impact of each policy that has widened today’s racial income and wealth divides.
During the simulation, participants learn how federal policies created structural inequalities—property ownership and education are just two among many areas affected—and how these policies increase poverty in communities of color.

The simulation guides participants to an understanding of why racial equity is so important to ending poverty in the United States. Our hope is that participants, in becoming more aware of structural inequality, can support policies that undo and/or reduce disparities.

Since the simulation emphasizes the importance of racial equity, it can be a helpful companion tool for churches, organizations, agencies, schools, and communities that have begun working on race and want to learn more about the role that public policy has had, over time, in creating structural divides based on race. 

All of the sessions of this monthly series will be recorded on Zoom and then broadcast later in the day at 7 pm ET on NCC's YouTube and Facebook channels. 
Student Loan Forgiveness Webinar
The NCC is co-hosting a session on Student Loan Forgiveness on Friday, December 3, 2021 at 2:00 PM ET with the United Church of Christ.

Attorney Ashley Harrington, a senior level official from the Federal Student Aid office of the US Department of Education, will go through the process of consolidation of loans, public service loan forgiveness, and other methods to reduce and/or eliminate student loan debt for all, including religious workers and clergy.

Since the Meet-Up on Student Loan Forgiveness was so popular during the Christian Unity Gathering, we have collaborated to offer this additional webinar on Zoom for greater access. Registration is now open. Spread the word!

Do You Know What Nicholas Means in Greek?
Last week, NCC Associate General Secretary, Dr. Tony Kireopoulos attended a milestone event at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine at Ground Zero. Although the church will not officially open until construction is completed in April, a service to “open the doors” was led by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew during his visit to the United States.

Dr. Kireopoulos wrote about the experience:

"The church rises in glistening white marble on a site overlooking the memorial reflecting pools, where the Twin Towers once stood, and at one end of Liberty Park, a garden plaza that includes the monumental sculpture, Sphere, that was damaged in the towers’ collapse. In this setting of quiet remembrance and profound meaning, the church draws the visitor forth into contemplation of both the horror committed on that day and the hope invested in the future. From the plaza, one can gaze past the reflecting pools and up at the soaring One World Trade Center, and certainly find inspiration from the gleaming new tower’s spire pointing heavenward. But on that day, and in that place, the eyes of everyone present were focused on the top of the dome, to where a construction crane slowly lifted a large bronze cross and workers silently – and no doubt prayerfully – secured it into place."

It is for such contemplation and prayer that this church has been rebuilt. As many will remember, the original Church of St. Nicholas was the only house of worship destroyed in the 9/11 attack. The new Church of St. Nicholas will of course serve as the home for its generations-old parish community. But now, as a national shrine, it will also serve as a place of prayer and reflection for people of all faiths and those of no faith. Yes, on that day the Ecumenical Patriarch and other clergy intoned prayers, and the choir chanted, in the Byzantine tradition. One can only imagine the prayers and hymns of other traditions to be lifted there in the hearts of many in the years to come.

At the start of the service, in his remarks the Ecumenical Patriarch answered a question I had had for years. As rebuilding plans were drawn up and development proceeded, I had wondered why the name of the church hadn’t been changed, to something more universally recognized for its symbolism. I imagined it being called, for example, the Church of the Resurrection, a name that would have emphasized the Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, the eternal rest of the souls lost in that space, and the literal rising of this place from the ashes of destruction. But as the Ecumenical Patriarch reminded everyone present, the name Nicholas means, in the Greek, “the victory of the people” (“Ni-ke la-oú”).

All at once, for me, the name was…perfect. St. Nicholas – the church and the shrine – would now stand as a testament to the resilience of humanity, the triumph of good over evil, and indeed the victory of life over death."

Week of Action for HR 40
Join the week of action! This is a critical time for H.R. 40 and the establishment of a federal reparations commission. Urge the congressional leadership to bring H.R. 40 to the Floor for a full vote in the House. If your representative is not co-sponsoring ask them to join on and/or commit to voting yes when the bill comes to the Floor.

1. Send an email directly to House Leadership urging them to hold a vote on H.R. 40 immediately or thanking them for co-sponsoring:
2. For social media postings, use hashtag: #HR40ToTheFloor
3. If your representative is not supporting HR40, you can also call their office through the Capitol Switchboard (202)-225-3121.

Find HR 40 sponsors at this link

Black people in the US continue to feel the impacts of the legacy of slavery in the form of structural racism, violence, discrimination and disparities in health, housing, education, economics, policing, and law enforcement. The US has failed to provide comprehensive redress for this long history of abuse and neglect.
We are only 10 votes away from successfully passing H.R. 40 on the House Floor. The US cannot achieve racial justice without providing comprehensive repair but time is running out for H.R. 40 during this session. We can’t afford to lose momentum!

NCC’s reparations resources can be found on our website:
COVID-19 Pandemic Response:
Toolkit Against Health Misinformation
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have been exposed to health misinformation that is false, inaccurate, or misleading. This misinformation has caused confusion and led people to decline COVID-19 vaccines and reject public health measures.

The Surgeon General’s Community Toolkit for Addressing Health Misinformation provides 22 pages of specific guidance and resources for faith leaders and other trusted community members to understand, identify, and stop the spread of health misinformation in their communities.

In addition to the Toolkit, other resources available are a “Talk to Your Community About Health Misinformation” Infographic and “Health Misinformation Checklist” Infographic. All are currently available in English but the Spanish versions are coming soon.
From our Partners:
Child Tax Credit Deadline Next Week
The deadline for non-filers to sign up for the Child Tax Credit (CTC) is Monday, November 15 at 11:59pm. The White House digital toolkit provides ways for faith groups to spread the word on how families with kids can get a monthly payment. Low-income families with children are eligible for this crucial tax relief even if they have not made enough money to be required to file taxes.
Freedom Walk

The Black Women Leaders & Allies will hold a Voting Rights & Economic Justice Freedom Walk & Speak Out on Tuesday, November 16, 2021 from 11am – 3:30 pm ET.  Meet at the National Council Negro Women (NCNW) headquarters, 633 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20004, at 11 am ET then walk to the Speak Out at U. S. Supreme Court at 2 pm ET. 

The Black Women's Roundtable and National Council of Negro Women are still seeking national partners for this event to urge Congress to end the filibuster, to adopt federal legislation and budgets to protect our voting rights, and achieve economic justice.

Organizations can share how they would like to partner and take collective action when signing on.


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