Bottom-Up Equity By Craig Howard

While watching the recent Republican presidential debate at the Reagan Library, I was reminded of the hope and optimism president Reagan brought to the country in 1980, when the nation was at a very low ebb. However, in addition to this optimism, Regan introduced a disastrous economic program called trickle-down economics. He believed that if the wealthy does better, then the resources would somehow trickle down to the workers and the middle class. This idea has since been proven false many times. In 1978 the ratio for CEO pay to the average worker’s pay was 30 – 1. In 2021 it was 400 – 1. The trickle-down theory bottle-necked, and funds never rarely made their way down to the average worker.

On Saturday, Rev. Jamie Frazier introduced a twist on Reagan’s trickle-down economics.  At an event sponsored by the Presbytery of Chicago and the Covenant Network, Frazier challenged us to focus on those on the margins and at the bottom of society and find ways to lift them up. His concern was for the LGBTQIA+ population, and in particular, queer people of color. Frazier said that when we lift folks up from the bottom, equity will flow from the bottom to the top. If we find ways to solve the problems of those who are in need, then we will also benefit those who are privileged in our community and society as well. As Presbyterians, our challenge goes beyond identifying those in need and knowing who our neighbors are. We must then use our resources, connections, and skills to help them.

I was at Friendship Presbyterian Church (Rev. Shawna Bowman is pastor) this past Thursday at another presbytery event. This one focused on New Worshiping Communities and brought together those who wanted to dream a new future for God’s church and God’s people. At lunch time, Friendship opened their doors and welcomed the migrants living at the police station across the street. People were everywhere in the fellowship area of the church where the food was being served! Children were playing with toys, conversations were happening at tables, diversity filled the space. And they were all fed.

We had a program planned for those who wanted to dream a new church, but the experience of seeing Friendship helping others in need lifted all of our hopes for who we can be as God’s people and what we can do in communities in our own back yards. Equity sprang from the bottom up.

Rev. Craig Howard