Today I joined several members of the Summit Interfaith Council in a meeting with US Congressman Leonard Lance for District 7. Our conversation centered around the issue of gun violence, gun control and background checks when purchasing guns. It is one of the ways that the Council is responding in the aftermath of the Newtown CT school massacre.
We shared with Congressman Lance how we as clergy are seeing a dramatic shift on the issue of guns in our houses of worship from all political sides.
Congressman Lance did not take a stand on gun control or background checks. Not yet. He heard our concerns. He shared with us that he is awaiting a bill from the Senate. Once a bill is before Congress, Lance will weigh in. He welcomed our group to return then.
Nevertheless, it was clear to me how important our meeting was.
Political leaders have shared that they hear from the extremes sides of issues all of the time. However, they rarely hear from the center where most of our country is. Certainly they can gather facts from polls. But who is calling their office? Who is voting? Often the extremes. Our UU Legislative Ministry NJ office has shared that our political leaders would often love to take a stand on issues that matter to Unitarian Universalists and others, but they don’t hear from the people in the center. They don’t hear from the average citizen.
In the last six months, I have also heard how important it is for citizens to establish a relationship with their government leaders. This is a great privilege that we are granted as citizens that we too often do not utilize. And relationships matter. When an important issue or concern arises, your relationship with your representative or congressional leader carries weight. You are no longer a faceless voice (perhaps ranting) or a signature on a letter (took you two seconds). While signatures and phone calls are very important, relationships matter. Taking the time to build the relationship matters. It shows that you really care about the issue and the person who will stand up to political fury to carry it forward.
Our meeting with Congressman Lance was supposed to last twenty minutes. We spent an hour and a half with him. We talked about gun control, Hurricane Sandy, the economy and the deficit, how unemployment is affecting our communities, and the sad state of political discourse. It was an important meeting in sharing our concerns and hearing his concerns. It was an important meeting in building a relationship.