In the Name of Jesus, What Are You Doing Now?
Let me be clear:
If you have a pastor who speaks out about social justice and decries from the pulpit and in the streets white extremism, white supremacy, racism, bigotry, incitements toward nuclear war, and the hateful, ignorant, toxic rhetoric coming out of this White House and this President, embrace your pastor. Encourage your pastor. Thank your pastor. Lift your pastor up in prayer. Be public in your appreciation of your pastor. Buy your pastor lattes and carbohydrates and their favorite evening beverage of choice.
If your pastor is silent, ask your pastor why.
It might be for any number of reasons, related not least of all to vocational and personal fear or uncertainty.
To one degree or another, those fears and uncertainties might be understandable.
But pulpit silence is not.
All the more reason to embrace your pastor. Encourage your pastor. Lift your pastor up in prayer. And remind your pastor that s/he is called to be prophet as well as pastor in that pulpit.
And still buy your pastor lattes and carbohydrates and their favorite evening beverage of choice.
Pastoral colleagues, bishops, we are called to support publicly and privately, with words and even financial and vocational support, those pastors who wish and want to speak up in the name of justice, but have legitimate reservations about doing so.
We are in a new state of the Church.
We honestly don’t have time for dithering about whether politics belong in the pulpit.
People are being killed in the streets.
We have identified Nazi sympathizers in the White House.
We have a President who has not yet condemned a terrorist bombing of a Mosque last week, and who anemically spoke about “both sides” in Charlottesville today, and who blithely threatens nuclear war.
Amos didn’t so much worry about mixing politics and faith.
Nor did Jeremiah.
Nor, actually, did Jesus.
In the Age of Trump, and all the more after every one of his offensive tweets/postures/vacuous silences in the face of evil, those who self-identify as Christians are being asked whether they identify more as Christians, or as Trump supporters, or, by way of silence, more as people concerned with their comfortable and personally safe status quo.
Baptized Christians, those two words, “Baptized” and “Christian” have meaning and import!
They have moral and salvatory heft!
If you are baptized, you have been immersed into the Way of Jesus, who was also the Christ. This Jesus welcomed, fed, healed, forgave, and called out those who refused to do the same.
If you call yourself a Christ-ian, you acknowledged that Jesus is risen.
You acknowledge therefore that death does not have the last word–even the death of calling out your neighbor, your family, your spouse, your child, your congregation in the name of Jesus the Christ because their words and actions (or silence and inactions) thwart God’s agenda for the world.
All of that indignation aside, be assured that if you are bapitzed, you can reject the Way of Jesus, but Jesus will never reject you.
But I say this: Jesus will call you to account.
Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.”
Two quotes, then, on this eve of a week of racist violence which was met with belated, tepid, or no response from Trump, and after he played with threats of nuclear war like he were blustering at the table of one of his condemnable casinos:
One, from seminary and pastoral colleague Robert Johnson:
We have entered a time in Christian religion in which we must distinguish between the “Christian” as a title of identity, and the “disciple” who follows the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Truth. Do you only wear a cross, or do you daily live and die on one?
Lest we forget, the cross was a device of political execution.
And another from Aditi Juneja, on Twitter:
If you’ve wondered what you would’ve done during slavery, the Holocaust, or Civil Rights movement…you’re doing it now.
Brilliant and core-shaking, for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.
If you are baptized, perhaps most particularly if you have affirmed your baptism (“been confirmed”), then you have identified yourself as a disciple of Jesus.
Not of Trump.
Not of White Supremacy.
Not of silence in the face of evil.
You claim to be a disciple of Jesus.
And you are now being asked to trust your baptism. To not just identify as a disciple, but to be one.
To wrap, then, to the beginning of this blog, to prefer silence–yours, or your pastor’s–is to be a made a pawn of the Empire, and abdicate your baptismal calling to be an ambassador of the reign of God.
What, then, Christ-ian, are you doing now?
Encouraging admonisions for Christians to take seriously the advances of racism in our own time. Time to speak out and act prophetically in pew and pulpit against bigotry, discrimination against racial and religious minorities and the reversal of civil rights advances. Little Christs and little Bonhoeffers.
Thank you for this word! Yes. Little Christs…and little Bonhoeffers. Exactly. Peace.
To say Amen doesn’t seem to be enough – to say Amen is the most that can be said!
We are doing Narrative Lectionary and yesterday we began the summer series on Baptism — this is a perfect punctuation for me to share with the parish and gathered – as well as asking for prayers and lattes (for whatever reason they decide I could benefit by them
So glad to hear that this post resonated with you. Please keep me posted on how the summer series progresses! Peace to you, and thank you for all your work and courage.
My internship supervisor before ordination was a White pastor who served in segregation-era Selma, Alabama. Selma was his first call. He was one of only a handful of White pastors who joined Martin Luther King and the Southern Christian Leadership Coalition. Dr. King hand picked my supervisor to be on the delegation that convinced President Lyndon Johnson to support the equal voting rights act.
My supervisor would persistently tell me that it is not enough to preach justice, one had to place one’s whole body into justice. The voice is important; the whole body, however, transforms.
Over the past 2 years, I have tried to pay attention to the reflections of Mervyn Marcano, a leader in the Ferguson (Missouri) Action organizing group. He has this to say about White people being leaders against racism:
“Be complicit in dismantling racist structures by taking risks, putting your bodies on the line in the streets, sharing access to resources (and releasing agency over them), living in some discomfort with difficult conversations in collaboration, knowing when to listen and organizing other white folks.”
I think sermons from White leaders are helpful. But, this assumes that the preacher understands and acknowledges his or her own racism. Most White people – even progressives and liberals – refuse to take that important step. My former supervisor would instruct me that, as a preacher, it is useless to preach conversion when you yourself are not converted. He never preached rebellion if he himself was not planning to rebel. A prayer my supervisor taught me is a variation of Mark 9:24: “Lord, I am not racist. Help me in my racism.”