Several years ago John Lewis spoke at Montreat (a nearby venue, for readers unfamiliar with our area). Seated together on the front row of the auditorium, a group of elderly ministers were asked to stand. White ministers. Southern ministers. During the tumultuous sixties some of them invited Black speakers to their pulpits; some participated in demonstrations; some preached against denying Blacks the right to vote and use public spaces.
The actions of these ministers were met with fury. They were spit upon, their families threatened. Some were jailed, some fired.
Oh, that we saw such courage today.
The Gospel has been usurped. People calling themselves “Christians” conflate Jesus and guns. They would have us believe that God hates gays, that God cares more about a pin-sized collection of cells in a woman’s body than for the woman and her family. Until recently ministers proclaimed from the pulpit that God chose Donald Trump to be our president.
What has been the response of many Mainline Protestant congregations? (I hesitate to use the labels “liberal” and “conservative,” but to be clear “liberal” best describes what I’m talking about.) I call the church’s response “Rodney King theology”: Why can’t we all get along? From the pulpit we are admonished to listen to those who disagree with us, to reach out in love. We hear about Jesus’ compassion for the Samaritan woman, his compassion for Zacchaeus, his compassion for the masses.
Little is said about Jesus’ anger. The best-known example is his overturning the tables of the money changers in the temple. But scripture tells of other times when “he looked around at them with anger.” “Woe to you…” he says over and over in Matthew 23.
Pastor friends, I don’t lay all responsibility for a prophetic witness on you. We all need to speak out—not as politically liberal citizens but as Christians.
What I need from you is an acknowledgement of the anger and despair I and many are feeling. Prayers and mention of the past week’s disturbing news aren’t enough. Can you not from your public forum name the evil forces of our time and offer guidance on how we can confront them?
The words of an old hymn just came to mind: “Guide me, O thou great Jehovah/ pilgrim through this barren land….Strong Deliverer, be Thou still my strength and shield.”