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BY GUTHRIE GRAVES-FITZSIMMONS

February 4, 2019
Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren
2020 Democrats Agree: They’re Very, Very Sorry - via the New York Times:
  • Elizabeth Warren apologized for her controversial decision to take a DNA test to prove her decades-old claim of Native American ancestry.
  • Joe Biden lamented his role in crafting the tough-on-crime drug legislation of the 1980s and 1990s.
  • Kamala Harris said she regretted some of the positions her office took while she was a state prosecutor.
  • Kirsten Gillibrand said her past hard-line stances on immigration “certainly weren’t empathetic and they were not kind.”
  • Bernie Sanders apologized after reports of gender discrimination and sexual harassment in his 2016 presidential campaign.
“Do I hear you saying, ‘That’s not fair! God’s not fair!’?
 
“Listen, Israel. I’m not fair? You’re the ones who aren’t fair! If a good person turns away from his good life and takes up sinning, he’ll die for it. He’ll die for his own sin. Likewise, if a bad person turns away from his bad life and starts living a good life, a fair life, he will save his life. Because he faces up to all the wrongs he’s committed and puts them behind him, he will live, really live. He won’t die.
 
“And yet Israel keeps on whining, ‘That’s not fair! God’s not fair.’
 
“I’m not fair, Israel? You’re the ones who aren’t fair.
 
“The upshot is this, Israel: I’ll judge each of you according to the way you live. So turn around! Turn your backs on your rebellious living so that sin won’t drag you down. Clean house. No more rebellions, please. Get a new heart! Get a new spirit! Why would you choose to die, Israel? I take no pleasure in anyone’s death. Decree of God, the Master.
 
“Make a clean break! Live!”
 
- Ezekiel 18:25-32
I realize Republicans attacked President Obama for apologizing for the United States too much, but I honestly didn't think he went far enough. One of the moments during the Obama administration that disappointed me the most was when the president visited Chile in 2011 and refused to apologize for our country's longtime support of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. Obama wanted to live in the present, but the wounds our country caused in Latin America still run deep in the veins of the region's residents today. (Not to mention how learning from our past would prevent more terrible choices like intervening in Venezuela.) 
 
Why am I digging up Obama in Chile? Because I think it's important to go deeper than being anti-Trump. He apologizes for nothing, of course. The question is not how wrong he is, but how willing we should be to account for our past sins as a nation. I think this is a specific area where progressive people of faith can play a role in calling our nation to repentance. We must be the pro-repentance voice!
 
Repentance is not weak. "Voters want to see contrition, but also authenticity and reflection, without a candidate appearing overly weak," the New York Times reports. Each 2020 candidate has something to repent of because they, like us, are not perfect. They've evolved on some issues just like we've all evolved. We should discern who to support based on their record and how their repentance has lead to new policy positions. But we should not hold the fact they are repenting against them.
 
Repentance is not individual. "Ezekiel 18 has frequently been made to proclaim a gospel of individual responsibility that verges toward modern individualism," Duke Divinity School Old Testament Professor Anathea Portier-Young writes. "That interpretation doesn't square with the text, where we repeatedly hear the address: 'O house of Israel.' The life God wills is the life of the community. One challenge and gift of preaching this text is to re-embed the modern individual in this life."
 
Dr. Portier-Young continues: "God calls this church, this generation, this people to stop making excuses, and stop hiding behind other people's mistakes. We are to turn our honest gaze on ourselves and repent now, making life our ultimate value."
 
We must see repentance as the community's work. Ezekiel's call to “Make a clean break! Live!” is not just a call to each of the candidates, but to all of us. We need to make a clean break as a country from a culture of exclusion towards one of radical abundance and human dignity. We must turn, together, towards God and towards the common good.
Research the controversies surrounding Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Bernie Sanders, and other candidates. Read and consider their apologies prayerfully and research their current policies on those topics. Do all of this from a position of belief in the power of individual and collective repentance.
O God, we turn our backs on our rebellious living in the hope that sin won’t drag us as a people down any longer. We yearn to clean house as a nation, starting with the current residents of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Grant us new hearts and new spirits, so that we may live in the way that you call us to live: in peace and with justice. By joining in this holy work of resisting Trump, may we discover a deeper calling to be co-creators of a just world with you. Amen.
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