Sister Simone Campbell: Time to talk about race, poverty and justice

RNS asked some of the country’s top faith leaders, scholars and activists to consider what changes the religion landscape will see in 2018. Find all their predictions here.

(RNS) — I predict that in 2018 race and poverty will be front and center in the national dialogue as faith leaders step out into the public square to issue a cry for justice. This cry will galvanize people around the country with the truth that poverty and racism are structural in our society and We the People can and will change that reality.

In the election cycle we will talk about the truth of 21st century poverty where families of our nation are poor because their wages are so low. We will talk about how food stamps and Medicaid go to working families because their employers neither pay enough in wages nor give benefits to their workers. In that conversation we will be able to shine a light on the policies passed by Congress that have created the racial wealth gap. These policies include redlining, the GI bill, student loans, and so many more. Once we recognize this structural racism, then we can make change happen.

Faith leaders will call out the lie of politicians who says that “we can’t afford the programs such as food stamps and Medicaid. We will demonstrate that these programs have become business subsidies to make up for the fact that our workers are not paid enough and therefore use programs to survive. We will call our nation to be its best self and to change the rhetoric…and the policy.

2018 will not change everything, but it will be a step towards publicly engaging the truth about race and poverty in the United States. Once raised to consciousness, we then will commit to change. This requires a step away from hyper-individualism and fear and toward community.

I’m not sure we have the courage to take this step, but, I believe, that 2018 will give us the clear choice. Once we talk about the truth of race and poverty in the U.S., will we be willing to commit to change? To answer yes, I believe that faith leaders will need to stand up and lead the way forward through a new wilderness on the way to healing and hope.

(Sister Simone Campbell is a Sister of Social Service, a lawyer and a poet. She is the Executive Director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice and leader of NETWORK’s Nuns on the Bus. The views expressed in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)