This is Advocacy: Our Work Begins and Ends with God
April 29, 2021
by Nicole D. Hayes
Some would say it started earlier this year in January when the 2021 legislative session began in most states. Some would say it started with our increasingly more “live and let live” culture. However, the iniquity started before any of us were born.
In serving with CMDA’s advocacy team as the Director of State Public Policy, we have extensively engaged in 37 states in the last nine months on multiple bills with the help and prayers of our members and partners within and outside of those states.
Coming off the Christmas and New Year break, it was good that we had rested. We knew this year’s legislative session was going to be intense—and it has been. With the 50 states and the District of Columbia introducing countless bills at once, we had to be strategic within our small team to discern which bills to put our efforts and resources behind.
One of the first bills we engaged in fervently was Virginia SB 1406 and HB 2312, which would legalize possession and sale of marijuana in the state. With help from our Virginia members and partners, we educated legislators and the public on expected outcomes that would be devastating, unintended or irreversible if marijuana were legalized. While the public view of marijuana has become more benign over the last 10 years, the medical and scientific literature tells a much different story—especially for our teens and young people. Some of the unintended and devastating outcomes is increased addiction dependence (marijuana is a gateway drug to opioids), mental disease, depression, psychiatric disorders and motor vehicle accidents. We are extremely grateful for the many op-eds, testimonies and interviews given by Virginia CMDA member and physician James Avery, MD, whose book Marijuana: An Honest Look at the World’s Most Misunderstood Weed was given to Virginia legislators and Governor Ralph Northam to provide them the science that backed the facts. Unfortunately, on April 21, 2021, Governor Northam signed the bill to legalize simple possession of marijuana beginning this summer. This made Virginia the first Southern state to do so. We felt the sting of that loss, because we deployed every effort and prayer in hopes to kill the bill.
But there was no time to lick our wounds, as we were simultaneously engaging on bills in multiple states, monitoring for committee hearings and coordinating member testimonies in response to those bills. We are working to protect the unborn, or putting measures in place to keep babies alive who would survive an abortion, or to protect the vulnerable and those at the end of life from legislation that would hasten their death through legalizing or expanding physician-assisted suicide through the prescribing of lethal medications, or protecting healthcare professionals from being forced to perform procedures that would violate their ability to practice healthcare according to their conscience and faith. We are also protecting minors from being prescribed puberty blocking drugs or permanently disfiguring surgery—minors who, by every measure, are incapable of providing informed consent.
While, sadly, New Mexico legalized assisted suicide earlier this month, I am encouraged to say that, as of this writing, at least eight states have defeated assisted suicide bills or the expansion of existing laws this year (including Virginia and, most recently, Connecticut and Washington State). We praise God! We are still engaging in several states where this legislation is pending, including California, Kansas, Massachusetts, Nevada and Rhode Island. In states that have already legalized medical marijuana or assisted suicide, it becomes easier for those legislatures to introduce bills seeking to expand the limits or remove barriers to create greater access to wrongdoing. For example, Washington State legalized assisted suicide many years ago, and this year we fought against a bill that would expand it by removing protections, decreasing patient wait time and allowing lethal medications to be prescribed by a non-physician.
These are not the only issues CMDA cares about. As ambassadors of Christ, we are to have real concern for issues that affect the “total condition of man”—areas of justice and righteousness. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of God’s throne (Psalm 89:14). We are to integrate the gospel to transform the culture’s approach to life issues (like abortion, human sexuality, end-of-life care), to homelessness, hunger, immigration, poverty, racism and more. As salt and light, the Christian voice matters in these and all spaces to help stem decay, to preserve flourishing futures, to exact justice and to lead people out of and away from darkness. The challenges are real with each of these issues—such to the point that our passion for advancing good must be navigated with extreme care. Our advocacy and engagement efforts must not become tainted by fleshly arguments that lead to divisiveness but rather approach with God’s character, as the authors of Advocating for Justice: An Evangelical Vision for Transforming Systems and Structures allude to in their book. Otherwise, our efforts will be hampered.
This work begins and ends with God. He invites us to co-labor with Him in this work. In doing so, He commands us, “…Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9, NIV). In doing so, we rely on God’s faithfulness and His sovereignty, entrusting the outcomes to Him. The battle is the Lord’s.
I hope to encourage you with these verses from Habakkuk 1:1-4. Habakkuk expresses his lament to the Lord about all the wrongdoing that the Lord seems to “tolerate.” He asks, “How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?” In our advocacy for justice and righteousness in an increasingly immoral culture and one that is hostile to the gospel, we have each asked, “How long, O Lord,” will wrongdoing be tolerated, will the wicked seem to prosper? Based on the Lord’s answer given to Habakkuk recorded in verse 5, and because He knows the end from the beginning, we can confidently soldier on in this work: “Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told” (Habakkuk 1:5, NIV).
Carry on, soldier! Keep your hope! Continue to pray, participate in the Lord’s call on your life as we seek to frustrate the plans of the enemy. Have your “five smooth stones and sling” at the ready. Giants do fall. Let us look to see what the Lord will do!