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An open letter to the state legislators of the great state of North Carolina

Dear Honorables,

I’m sure you get hundreds of requests from individuals and groups urging you to vote in favor of or against certain pieces of legislation.

My purpose in writing is different. I don’t write in favor of or against any particular bill. I don’t write as a Democrat or Republican, as a liberal or conservative or as a Trump supporter or derider. I write as a lover of democracy and a believer in the power of love to change hearts to request that you do the right thing by fellow North Carolinians made voiceless and powerless by circumstances beyond their control.

I write to urge you, that when considering policy and laws, you remember the plight of those who because of adverse cultural and economic forces or poor decisions find it difficult to be heard or seen and need you desperately to speak and act on their behalf.

For those of you who believe in the Christian or Jewish God, I appeal to your commitment to follow and obey that God — the God who reserves a special place in his/her heart for those in greatest need. The God of scripture calls upon those who profess to heed God’s commandments, especially those who hold the reins of government power, to help “the fatherless” (Psalm 10:14); to treat the stranger as you would a local (Leviticus 19:34); and when considering their welfare, that you not be “hard-hearted or tightfisted … (for) God listens carefully to these people.” (Deuteronomy 15:7).

We all fall short when it comes to being faithful to the dictates of our faith traditions. Nevertheless, if we are only listening to the cries of the poor and needy and not also responding to them in ways that make their lives more abundant, we have not only failed them, but we have failed ourselves and our God as well.

I’m not asking that you miraculously fix every state problem or magically remove the racial, social and partisan walls that divide us. I’m just asking that you do right by those of your constituency who need your help the most. A small thing that would mean gigantic benefits to needy children and adults of the state we all serve and love.

In the 1st century, an itinerate Jewish Rabbi by the name of Jesus stood on Mount Olivet outside the walls of Jerusalem and pleaded with the people of his faith and time to do the right thing for the “least of these, my brethren.” By “least” he meant the neediest of his society, who continue to be so today — the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the ostracized, the unloved and the abandoned.

When asked to describe the essence of the Christian message, Mother Teresa would often hold up a child’s hand and recite Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:40: “Whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” She would then jiggle the child’s fingers one by one and repeat: “You. Did. It. To. Me.”

As Representatives and Senators of North Carolina, you have the means to ease the burdens of Jesus by easing the burdens of the poor and needy. Help them know that they continue to be valuable members of our great commonwealth. In the name of God and all that is holy, do the right thing by them.

Polk Culpepper is a retired Episcopal priest, former lawyer and a resident of Washington.