Thursday, December 29, 2016

The only race that matters....Christianity vs. Trumpism

As I wrote in my previous blog entry, "What Profits A Man...," Trumpism is all about winning, no matter what it takes to win. The Christian faith is built on the premise that a moral victory is more important that a worldly victory. The founder of our faith was  humiliated and crucified by the Roman empire. His little band of followers had to go underground and were persecuted for many years after his death. Yet this did not stop the movement which he started.
             The Greeks and Roman loved competition and for them winning was as important as it is for Donald Trump. But Romans and Greeks also believed that it was important to win honorably. Socrates set an example by sticking by his principles even though it cost him his life. And Jesus set an even higher standard when he voluntarily went to his death in order to redeem humanity. He spoke these unforgettable words to his followers; "What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?  (Matt 16:26)
              These words have inspired non-Christians as well as Christians for the past two thousand years. From St Martin (the pacifist saint)  to Martin Luther King, people of conscience have come to see that winning isn't everything. Even the pagans knew that. But Christians above all know that what really matters is a moral victory. 
               During the next four years, our faith will no doubt be tested in countless ways. We will be tempted to lose faith, or to compromise our values, or even to give up and go shopping (as many Americans have seemingly done already). But the apostle Paul reminds us that we are called not to win the race, but to complete it as best we can, and to be faithful:

6As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. 8And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing. ( Timothy: 4).
        I love these words, spoken from the heart from a man who knew he was about to die. Yesterday Jill, my mother-in-law Donna, and I went to the Art Museum in Santa Barbara and I saw a painting by Jean-Baptiste Corot the touched my heart. Corot painted this landscape in his final days and it vividly conveys the darkness of dusk. The trees are black and ominous, and there is a faint rim of red along the horizon--a pale glimmering of sunlight. In the foreground, however, you see the dark silhouettes of nymphs dancing, one holding up a tambourine. This type of painting, called a souvenir, reminds us that cultures and religion decline, yet remain hauntingly alive in our collective memory. It was a final message by the artist, much like the ending of Zorba the Greek. In the end, everything we hoped for may fail, but that's not the final word. If we are willing to dance, and willing to use our God-given talents in the face of darkness, what appears to be a sunset may in fact be a sunrise.

What profits a man if he wins the presidency.....

When I posted these interesting facts about the results of this election and how they clearly indicate that Trump does not have a mandate or even a majority of Americans supporting him, a Facebook friend responded with a comment I found deeply disturbing and cynical: "Trump won the only race that matters."
         This comment, coming from someone who is not a Trump supporter, was disturbing to me because it is pure Trumpism. For Trump, it doesn't seem to matter if you win due to deceit, demagoguery, incitement to hatred and prejudice, intervention by a foreign power and the FBI, or a rigged system, including voter suppression and an outdated electoral college system. The only thing that matters is winning.
     The idea that winning is everything became a central theme of Trump's campaign. At one point, he said, "We don't win anymore. As a country, we don't win." Trump then promised to change that: “We're going to win so much. You're going to get tired of winning."
     For Trump, winning is a core value, the essence of what he stands for. According to Trunp, those who aren't winners are losers, and can be treated with contempt. Trumps tweet on losersThat's why any hint that he may have lost the election in a moral sense due to FBI and Russian intervention touches a nerve and elicits such a strong response from Trump.  
     What we need to keep in mind, and remind our fellow Americans, is that Trump's "victory" was an anomaly, the result of a antiquated and obsolete electoral college system. In the past twenty years this system has failed twice to elect candidates chosen by a majority of Americans, namely Clinton and Al Gore. Many of us feel our democracy is broken. Here's what recent statistics show:
  • In the 2016 election, Clinton won 48% of the votes, Trump 46%. Johnson 3.3 % and Stein 1%.
  • In 2012, Obama won 51% of the votes, and Romney 47%. 
  • In 2008, Obama won 53% of the votes, and McCain 46%. 
  • In 2004, Bush won 51% of the vote, and Kerry 48%. 
  • In the 2000 election, Bush won 47% of the vote, Gore 48%, and Nader 2.7%. 

       To sum this up, Trump received fewer votes in this election that losers received in other recent elections. Of course, 2000 was another anomaly: a loser named Bush won the Presidency, thanks to the Electoral College. And the consequences were catastrophic for our country and the world: futile wars leading to the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression.
        Even though 46% of Americans voted for Trump, he had a favorability rating of only 42% when he was elected. This raises an interesting question: did people who had an unfavorable view of him vote for him? If so, what's that about? Did they vote for him simply because they disliked the other candidate  (i.e. Hillary Clinton) more?

     Favorable Ratings of Recent Presidents-Elect
Donald Trump2016 Nov 9-134255
Barack Obama2008 Nov 7-96827
George W. Bush2000 Dec 15-175936
Bill Clinton1992 Nov 10-115835

          Trump's favorability rating has gone up somewhat since Nov 9, but it's still much lower than previous Presidents Elect.  44 percent favorable  to 50 percent unfavorable according to a Dec 5 poll by  Economist/YouGov Poll. Gallup says this marks the "pinnacle of Trump’s popularity so far."
           Trump's popularity will probably continue to rise somewhat after his inauguration, especially among Republicans, but I believe our job as people of faith is to remind our fellow Americans that they were right not to vote for him or to hold a favorable view of him and his policies. We also need to remind our fellow Americans, particularly those who profess to be Christians, that winning isn't everything.  For a Christian perspective on winning, see "The Only Race That Matters..."

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Christmas Greetings 2016

Greetings and love to you all during this holiday season!

This is the fifth Christmas letter that Jill and I have written together, and we are deeply
At the wedding of our niece
grateful that "God has brought us together for a purpose beyond what either of us can imagine" (a line from our marriage vow) and given us so blessings, especially our family, friends and colleagues. May the Spirit of Love continue to inspire and guide us all during the upcoming year!

Anthony: During a time when our country and the world are being torn apart by partisan politics and
With Diane Randall at FCNL
violence fueled by xenophobia, racism and bigotry, I feel that God is calling me more urgently than ever to work for peace and reconciliation. In January Jill and I went to Peru to take part in a world gathering of Quakers from every continent and theological background, from Evangelical to liberal. We had a blast making friends and helping to build bridges of understanding. All 350 of us united around a concern for sustainability, agreeing to take concrete steps to help preserve God’s precious creation for future generations. Since returning to the US, Jill and I have spoken about stewardship and living sustainably at a number of Quaker gatherings and given tours of our home.  I continue to serve on the board of Interfaith 

In Peruvian costume
Communities United for Justice and Peace—work that seems more important now than ever. Another highlight was going to Washington, DC, right after the election to take part in a lobby day sponsored by Friends Committee on National Legislation. Our theme was “love your neighbor: no exceptions.” Over 350 people of faith joined in this effort to lobby for mandatory sentencing reform; and I am now organizing advocacy teams in the LA area. Jill and I had a blast celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary at Niagara Falls. It was also fun to go camping with my men’s group at Joshua tree. Thanks to my wonderful spiritual director, I’ve connected with the Community of Divine Love, a group of Episcopal monks who do amazing prison ministry. For more about what I’ve been thinking and doing, see my blog, which includes an article Jill and I wrote about Bolivian Quakers engaged insustainable cattle ranching.                                                                                                  

Janet and Jill
Sarah and Jill
Jill: Mentoring and teaching emerge as a theme this year for me. Highlights include the joy of working with: Sarah Pruitt to help organize my office and finalize my syllabus for my Housing Justice course at Azusa Pacific University (APU); Chase Andre, a Fuller Seminary Intern, and realtor, who did excellent research on granny flats—those back yard dwelling units (he discovered 750 in Pasadena!); Flo Annang and then Janet Randolph on Christian community development efforts on N. Fair Oaks (the city approved all the capital improvement projects we submitted—the community wants to feel more connected with crosswalks, thriving businesses and traffic slowing measures). On June 4th I led a day-long Housing Justice workshop in Denver for 36 faith leaders. I felt God’s hand working powerfully each moment and hearts move—including mine. In the spring, I felt so honored (and sometime nervous) to play the role of professor to eight MA Social work students at APU. My student Denise sent this email: “All of the knowledge you gave me last semester is helping me at my agency as many of the homeless are sleeping at our building after the city decided it was against the law for them to sleep on public property.”
Another theme is advocacy. Proverbs 31:9 says, “speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.” Not just in Denise’s city, but many are seeking to make homelessness illegal, including Pasadena. “But where do they go?” asked Andy Wilson, one City Council member. Good question. Like Jesus, there is no room in the inn—shelters are full and housing is too expensive. The night that criminalizing homelessness was on the agenda, we went from only one council person, Tyron, who was against it, to 100% vote not to make aspects of homelessness illegal. I rallied 16 folks to speak on 16 talking points. It felt like church. When Pastor Manning preached how Jesus cares for the poor, everyone in the Council Chambers clapped! Throughout the evening Councilman John Kennedy disclosed “I think I’m not the wrong side of this issue; my mind is being changed”. The Holy Spirit was alive and well. We kept praying. And God answered. I will never forget what Daniel, one of the 20 homeless brothers and sisters who attended, said, “I never knew people cared about us until tonight.”  
Part of advocacy is helping dispel negative notions about affordable housing. The prophets warn, but also help us to imagine a better world. Tours of award-winning affordable housing help us to imagine. I coordinated a tour for 65 folks for the CCDA national conference. We piled on the chartered bus and stopped at eleven sites—the ornate marbled-wall Rosslyn Hotel turned into 250 permanently supportive housing (PSH) units for formerly homeless; the 102 PSH Star apartments, with huge manufactured units stacked up like a star, and 1,093 senior units created over the a tunnel (who said we had no land?). When asked at the debriefing what was most impactful, many agreed it was when I gave folks a choice to climb the bus, or walk to the next site through a sea of homeless folks living in tents on the street. LA County is indeed the nation's homeless capitol with 47,000 homeless people. May God have mercy and raise up more compassionate leaders with vision to end this crisis. 
I feel that my book and work aremore needed now that ever. My friend Mike, who is presently reading Making Housing Happen, said, “I thought I would learn about housing from your book, but I'm learning more about Christian faith and action.  Thank you for such a meat-y book.” I never dreamed I’d be an author, or a professor or be able to persuade city leaders, God indeed loves to surprise us. There was no surprise greater than for God to enter the world as homeless baby…to bring peace on earth.

Your Help is Needed!

You may be part of my regular support team that has faithfully given for years… thank you!! Last month one donor gave $1,200 donation.  If you can give this or $20, it is all needed to help our ministry.  
This Christmas I invite you set up a monthly giving account to N. Fair Oaks Empowerment, to support Janet ‘s beautiful efforts to lead that initiative.  Also, please consider a direct withdrawal or monthly credit card contribution to my account: Jill Shook. A Homeless Summit with Pasadena churches and a Housing Justice Institute are on the horizon for 2017.   Homeless friends are slowly being housed but we have much more work to adequately house the  530 unhoused still living in Pasadena, as well as the 26,000 households in Pasadena on the waiting list for affordable housing.
Contact: Missions Door
2530 Washington Street, Denver, CO 80205
Phone: 303-308-1818
Jill Shook & Anthony Manousos

Our Bible Study at Orange Grove

Highlights of 2016:
January: Jill and Anthony traveled to Peru for a world gathering of Quakers. We loved the Sacred Valley, Machu Pichu, and the local Peruvians we met.
February: We attended a memorial service for Grandpa Vic Heirendt, “romantic dancer” and “father of the year” who was brought up in an orphanage, raised 10 kids, & died at age 100 on Valentine’s Day!
March:  We were speakers on sustainability for the Orange County Friends Retreat in Julian, CA. We helped plan the Palm Sunday Peace Parade with the theme “Peace Without Borders: Welcoming Refugees.”
Jill's birthday party
April: We celebrated at the Rose Bowl the 20th anniversary of the STARS tutoring program, which Jill founded.  We saw youth that Jill recruited, now grown, in love with Jesus, attending college, and running STARS.
May: We celebrated Anthony’s 67th birthday at El Greco CafĂ©, a  Greek-themed dining area under our grape arbor.
June: Anthony coordinated peace and justice activities at Pacific Yearly Meeting at Walker Creek Ranch in Marin, CA. Jill lead a Housing Jusice workshop in Denver.
July: We organized “Complete Streets” event on N. Fair Oaks, with community leaders, churches, and neighbors. We also enjoyed a visit from Jill’s fun-loving brother Doug and his wife Vicki, who came all the way from Australia.
Fabulous gals: Jill and her "Mamacita"
September:  We had a blast attending Jill’s niece’s wedding. Annie Hereindt married Tervis in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. We started “Marriage Mentoring” with a wonderful African American couple. Anthony helped organize “Not in God’s Name,” a conference focusing on an interfaith response to violence fueled by religion.  It featured Jewish, Muslim, and Christian scholars and honored interfaith peace activists.
"Homes, Not Arrests": Standing up for Our Homeless Neighbors
August: We went to New York for a conference with Mission Door, Jill’s mission; celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary at Niagara Falls, and visited Anthony’s sister and her family in Princeton Junction, NJ. At CCDA Jill gave a housing justice workshop and led an Affordable Housing Tour in LA.
October:  Anthony went camping at Joshua Tree with his men’s group. Jill led a strategic planning for churches addressing homelessness at Temple City. We started attending “aqua-therapy” at the Pasadena Rosebowl to help with our aches and pains.
November:  Anthony went to DC for FCNL’s annual lobby day and Jill went to Knoxville, TN, for a gathering of organizers at Highlander Institute. We celebrated Thanksgiving with the Heirendt family in a lovely home in the idyllic foothills near Fresno and we all went to Yosemite to enjoy its magnificence

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Will Trump's policies towards immigrants differ much from Obama's?

Trump incited crowds by talking tough, and irresponsibly, about immigrants. He said they were pouring into the country and Obama had done little or nothing to stop them. He claimed they were mostly criminals causing a crime wave of stupendous proportions and were jeopardizing American jobs, He said we need a huge wall to protect us from rapists and criminals crossing our borders. 

Almost everything Trump said is factually untrue. Obama deported more undocumented immigrants than any President in history, and most them had criminal records. Immigration went down during the Obama years. And the only flood of immigrants crossing the borders were not rapists, but children and mothers fleeing violence in Central America.

This chart shows how unauthorized immigration went down, not up, during the Obama years. Unauthorized immigration increased by nearly four million during the Bush administration when Republicans controlled Congress as well as the Presidency. Unauthorized immigration declined by over a million during the Obama years. 

For more facts about immigrants that challenge Trump's fake news, see Pew research on immigration.

When you look at the facts, you see there is really little difference between what Trump called for, and what Obama actually did, when it came to deporting criminals living in this country illegally.

The big difference is that Obama wanted comprehensive immigration reform, and so did most Republicans until they changed their mind and opposed it. See immigration reform. Frustrated by Congressional inaction, Obama took steps to prevent hard-working, studious young people from being deported whose only "crime" was being brought here as children by their foreign-born parents. 

Since there a lot of "fake news" circulating during this campaign, I think it's important that we cite sources that we feel are reliable, and let others know what these sources are. Every reputable source I know states that Obama has deported more undocumented people than any other President--over 2.4 million--and most of them had committed some kind of crime. See Obama's deportation policy.

Obama made it the goal of his administration to deport any undocumented person who commits a crime. According to the government website:  

"ICE has continued to increase its focus on identifying, arresting, and removing convicted criminals in prisons and jails, and also at-large arrests in the interior."  

In fiscal year 2015, 91 percent of people removed from inside the U.S. were previously convicted of a crime. Some of the "crimes" were fairly minor--marijuana offenses, or reentering the US after being deported, which is now considered a felony.  

Trump says that there are 2 million to 3 million immigrants with criminal records in the United States illegally. Trump was referring to a Department of Homeland Security report covering fiscal years 2011-13. That report said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement estimated there were 1.9 million "removable criminal aliens" in the United States at the time -- not 3 million. We don't know how many of those "aliens" were here legally, or how serious their crimes were. Returning to the country after being deported is now a felony, and so is cocaine possession.See report on deportation laws.

Jill and I know from our personal experience that many of those charged with "crimes" were not doing anything worthy of being deported. For example, we know of a Latina  whose undocumented husband got angry with her and started pounding on his car. A neighbor filed a complaint, the police arrived, and he was ultimately sent to detention and deported. Many undocumented people have been deported for such minor offenses, causing their families enormous pain and suffering. Even military vets who risked their lives for their country were deported for minor offenses. See deported vets.

Under Obama, even children crossing the border to escape violence in Latin America were deported, and some were killed when they returned to their homeland.  I suspect Obama did this because of intense political pressure from the right--many of whom supported Trump.

There really is not a huge difference between Trump and Obama about deporting people who are here illegally. Both want to deport criminals and keep America safe,

Where they differ is that Obama wanted to keep in this country undocumented young people who had brought to this country as children, had committed no crime, and wanted to get an education and pursue the American dream of success. These so-called Dreamers were allowed to stay and complete their college education under a program called DACA. Obama also wanted to provide a path to citizens to the nine million or so hard-working undocumented people who are  not a  threat to the US. In fact, they are assets to our country, picking our fruits and vegetables, and cleaning hotels like the ones that Trump owns. 

Trump has said he wants to deport the Dreamers, and perhaps those nine million undocumented workers who don't have a path to citizenship and so are staying here illegally. That's the main difference I see between Trump and Obama when it comes to immigration. 

Will Trump actually deport these young people? In a recent interview, he seems to have softened, just as he scaled back on the proposed wall and his plan to jail Hillary Clinton. Now the ever-changing Donald says: 
 "We're going to work something out that's going to make people happy and proud," Trump said. "They got brought here at a very young age; they've worked here, they've gone to school here. Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they're in never-never land because they don't know what's going to happen." 

According to Jonathan Lemire's article, Trump "offered no details about a policy that would make that clear."
During the campaign, Trump's tough comments - including a vow to overturn President Barack Obama's executive orders on immigration - have led to fears among immigrant advocates that he will end Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Hundreds of thousands of young immigrants have gained work permits and temporary protection from deportation under the 2012 program, which aides to Trump have said would be revisited.
Will Trump follow through on this promise to deport Dreamers, or will he be a nice guy? Who knows? All I can say is that if we feel any compassion for these undocumented young people, and for the 9 million undocumented people living in this country who have committed no crimes and have helped our economy to grow, we need to demand that Congress and President Trump enact meaningful immigration reform, with a path to citizenship.

The reason that so many people are here illegally is that they don't have a way to legalize their status. Our immigration laws are hopelessly out of touch with reality and human needs. 1,5 million Mexicans wanted to enter the US legally last year, but only 26,000 visas were provided. Nine million people are living illegally in the USA and most of them would love to have a way to earn their citizenship, perhaps by paying a fee or doing whatever it takes to show their worthiness to be full citizens in the country where they work and are raising their families. See immigration laws.

In order to be respected, and followed, laws need to be consistent with common sense, and many of our immigration laws are nonsensical. If the federal government enacted laws that said that it is a felony to drive over 30 miles per hour,  tens of millions of Americans would soon be considered criminals. It seems absurd to label undocumented people "illegal" when they would happily follow the law if the law gave them a chance to become legal citizens. 

In order for laws to be respected by people of faith, they also need to be consistent with a higher law, God's commandments. 

According to Leviticus 24: 22, foreigners deserve the same legal protection as the native born (a right also conferred upon foreigners in the 14th Amendment of our Constitution*): 

"You are to have the same law for the foreigner and the native-born. I am the LORD your God.'"

In Leviticus 19: 34, God makes it clear how we are to treat foreigners not only fairly but with love: 

"The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God."

"Love foreigners as yourself." That's what the Bible repeatedly tells us to do. That's why we people of faith feel it's important for Congress to enact sensible and morally defensible immigration laws, ones that will enable people to have a path to citizenship so they don't have to be here illegally.

*The 14h Amendment states:  "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." By "persons" this Amendment is referring to non-citizens as well as citizens. Every person in the US has the right to due process and equal protection under US law. 

Faith-based lobbying about sentencing reform at the office of Representative Judy Chu and Senator Dianne Feinstein

One of the things that I most appreciate about the Friends Committee on National Legislation is that it teaches how to do faith-based lobbying. "Faith-based lobbying" means we are not doing it simply to advance a cause, but also to connect from the heart and spiritually as we do this work. As Quakers, we believe that there is "that of God"--divine goodness--in everyone and we try to reach out to that divine spark in  those we lobby, including those with disagree with. This week I helped organize two lobby visits in the LA area--one at the office of Representative Judy Chu, and one at the office of Senator Dianne Feinstein. We weren't visiting an opponent, but allies in our concern for prison reform, so it was easy to connect. 

Seven of us from Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace went to the office of Senator Dianne Feinstein, who is a co-sponsor of the Senate Sentencing Reform bill. We spoke with her aides, Amanda Sabra and Cameron Onumah, who were not only well versed in policy but had visited prisons and detention centers and are eager to meet with community leaders around issues of immigration and mass incarceration. They very much appreciated our visit and support, and told us that religious groups like ours seldom come to their office. When we assured them we'd be coming back, and invited them to speak at ICUJP, they were delighted. 

At the office of Senator Feinstein: Carolfrances Likin, Cameron Onumah (aide), Elizabeth Hailey, Rabbi Jonathan Klein, me,, Steve, Ruby, Xochi Sanchez, and Amanda Sabra (aide)
At the office of Judy Chu: Gavin Kelly, Sarah Eggers (with her baby Theo), Elizabeth Malone,Allie, myself and  Judy Chu's aides Elizabeth Andalon and Anna Iskikirian.

Six of us (including Theo, a 7-month-old lobbyist) went to Chu's office  to speak out on behalf of Mandatory Sentencing ReformJudy already supports House: Sentencing Reform Act (H.R. 3713). We urged her also to support the Recidivism Risk Reduction Act (H.R. 759). 

What made each visit special and a spiritual experience was that each of us spoke from the heart, telling personal stories about why we are concerned about prison reform. Some of us have visited or worked with people in prison. Some have worked with their families. We see prisoners not as a problem, but as people, precious in the sight of God. 

As an elder who has spent decades working for peace and justice, it was utterly delightful spend the morning connecting with these wonderful young adults so eager to make this world a better place for everyone, including those in prison. 

My next-door-neighbor Elizabeth Malone shared this thoughtful reflection on her first experience doing faith-based lobbying:

Today was my first experience in visiting a Representative's office. My neighbor, housemate, and a couple of people I met just today gathered and met with the office of Congresswoman Judy Chu. Two aides met with us and listened and encouraged us. We were there sharing our personal stories of working with the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated, wanting to bring further attention to The Sentencing Reforms and Correction Act and the Recidivism Risk and Reductions Act. Our beliefs align with Judy Chu's on these matters, but the aides informed us that it is very helpful for groups to come in and share and to make phone calls because it puts these bills more into focus and helps Congresswoman Chu prioritize her support on them. To be honest, I was nervous! I am the type of person who never feels like I know enough and gets paralyzed from taking further action until I feel like I have "enough" information. I don't retain statistics or facts easily either. I am so thankful for my neighbor for inviting me. He has been a Quaker Lobbyist for many years and helped me to have such a positive experience today. I look forward to doing more of this in the future. It felt so pro-active and easy at the same time. I shared from my heart and was listened to! I write this to encourage those like me who care a lot but may feel intimidated by the political process. Grab a few people, make an appointment, and go. If you disagree with your Representative on issues, then share with kindness and humility. If you agree, encourage them to take a stand or to prioritize whatever it is that you stand for, and keep me accountable to keep doing the same.

If you'd like to support this effort to reduce federal sentencing, go to…/join-me-to-lobby-for-sentencing-ref 

For background about this bill, please read:

Rep Chu will be speaking about "Progressive Agenda in the Age of Trump" on Monday, Dec 12, 7-8 pm at Throop Unitarian Church in Pasadena. I encourage you to join me to hear what she has to say. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Tell President Elect Trump to Appoint Cabinet Members Concerned with the Rights of the Poor: an open letter to the Christian Community Development Association

 Nov. 30, 2016

Dear Friends at Christian Community Development Association (CCDA):

I feel compelled to write this open letter to CCDA in the prophetic tradition because I feel strongly that President Elect Trump’s choice for treasury secretary would be very detrimental to those that CCDA cares so deeply about. 

I have followed Dr. Perkins for over 35 years, and lived and worked at the Harambee center. My Christian faith has been deeply shaped by the mission of CCDA. As a Christian missionary, I was led to live in an African American neighborhood of Pasadena and committed myself to learn from my neighbors. Over the years I have witnessed gentrification and the exodus of African Americans from my neighborhood. This led me to become concerned about housing justice—writing, teaching and giving workshops around the country. I edited Making Housing Happen which features many CCDA leaders who have addressed the housing crisis and they have had a profound influence on me. Because of deep concern for housing justice, I am heart-sick to witness the cabinet choices of President Elect Donald Trump, especially his choice for treasury secretary.  According to a report from Democracy Now:

…..[ President Elect Trump] named billionaire Steven Mnuchin to be treasury secretary. Mnuchin has deep ties on Wall Street, including working as a partner for Goldman Sachs, where his father also worked. Mnuchin’s hedge fund also played a role in the housing crisis, after it scooped up the failing California bank IndyMac in 2008. Under Mnuchin’s ownership, IndyMac foreclosed on 36,000 families, particularly elderly residents trapped in reverse mortgages. Mnuchin was accused of running a "foreclosure machine." The bank, which was renamed OneWest, was also accused of racially discriminatory lending practices. In 2015, Mnuchin sold the bank for $3.4 billion—$1.8 billion more than he bought it for.

Living in Pasadena, CA, home of IndyMac later named One West (by the investor pool led by Mnuchin in 2009) I experienced first-hand the effects of this “foreclosure machine.” I have friends who worked for IndyMac and together we watched it follow the path of providing subprime loans to people who could not afford them. Loans were given to two immigrant families I knew who had high hopes for the American dream of homeownership. The documents, required to be in Spanish, were offered only in English. These families were not required to state their income. The loans were intentionally made so that the borrowers would not repay them. This led these families into serious financial difficulty. That’s where I came in, helping to save their homes. It was a race against time. Phone calls to the bank were never responded to, while foreclosure proceedings proceeded faster than we could fill out loan modification paperwork. After applying for programs designed to help, help never came. Their home was lost. The parents and their seven children were given 15 minutes to pack up and leave.

“Despite its secure financial footing, OneWest had a history of problems with regulators over its foreclosure practices and lending and has been accused of being unwilling to work with borrowers seeking mortgage loan modifications despite promises to do so. Community groups have accused the bank of being particularly aggressive about foreclosing on properties in minority neighborhoods.” [1]

In my book I feature Rose Gudiel who stood up to IndyMac when they tried to foreclose on her home. Courageous people, including the religious community, began an around-the-clock vigil preventing the sheriff from evicting her. Others protested at the home of the Steven Mnuchin, then president of IndyMac,  who lives in a 26 million dollar mansion in Bel Air. Only then did the bank decide to renegotiate her loan.

This is the bank president that President Elect Trump chose for treasurer secretary. His approach to banking reminds me of what one of my favorite theologians Walter Wink referred to as “powers and principalities”—the forces of Mammon, the God of Wall Street.

The prophets always spoke to nations, cities, kings and leaders, warning them to care for the most vulnerable. This incident causes me to recall the prophet Isaiah’s lament over Jerusalem:
Your leaders are rebels,
    the companions of thieves.
All of them
 love bribes
    and demand payoffs,
but they refuse to defend the cause of orphans
    or fight for the rights of widows.  Isaiah 1:23

I know that when we Evangelicals voted in the current election, we did not vote for a repeat of what happened in 2008 when low-income people were targeted for bad loans and lost not only their homes but most of the life savings. Many have not yet recovered from this devastating economic setback caused by bankers like Steven Mnuchin. Trump won support of the middle class by declaring “I will protect you from Goldman Sacs.”[2]   Now he is appointing a partner with Goldman Sachs. This is being called “a flip-flop of historic proportion.”[3]

As Christians, we are called to defend the rights of the poor. “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, ensure justice for those being crushed, yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice” (Proverbs 31:8-9). Therefore, I urge you to call upon President Elect Trump to reconsider appointing Mnuchin, and to urge your Senators not to confirm him. We need to insist that our President choose cabinet members who are concerned about the rights of the poor.
Here you can contact President Elect Trump,

I love our county and thank you for taking action.
Jill Shook

Jill Shook, Missions Door, Catalyst
Doctor of Ministry, Bakke Graduate School
Blog:  Website:
Author/Editor: Making Housing Happen: Faith Based Affordable Housing Models

Making sure that wall steet is in the drivers seat. Elizabeth Warren, “managed to participte in all the worse practices on Wall Steet.
Accused of descriminatry lending practices.