THOUGHTS FROM PASTOR MARK
“Christ instructs us to love our enemies, which does not mean a submission to their hostile agendas or domination, but does mean treating them as human beings also created in the image of God and respecting their human rights as adversaries and even as prisoners.”
— Jim Wallis, founder and editor of “Sojourners”
As I was walking during the Women’s March on Washington last Saturday, I was praying about the worship service I would lead the following day. We were receiving new members into the church by reaffirmation of baptism. Among the questions to those joining the church is: “Do you promise to resist oppression and evil?” It dawned on me that this really was the crux of the Women’s March.
Those who saw the March as a partisan protest are wrong. There were church people and business leaders there who I know to be Republicans. They were there to witness their solidarity with women: women who were disparaged during the elections in so many ways, but especially women who have suffered sexual abuse and whose scars were ripped open by the exposure of Donald Trump’s “locker room talk,” which described his physical assault on women. Whether fantasy or actual, this way of speaking perpetuates oppression of women.
I also bore the emotional burden of a disabled friend of mine as I walked. She blasted me on social media on November 9 for congratulating Trump voters and for vowing to respect the office of the President. My friend has neuro-muscular disease similar to that of the reporter whom candidate Trump mocked. She could not fathom how I, someone of religious conviction and moral leadership, could support the POTUS-elect. She chided me for saying I would do so. I prayed for her and myself along with President Trump.
It is rare that I overtly mention politics from the pulpit. Partly that’s because I believe the gospel of Jesus Christ to be so radically political that I needn’t mention specifics in national politics. To say that, “Jesus is Lord,” means that I will not submit to any other earthly authority. To say that I am a disciple of Christ means that God’s kin-dom values that Jesus proclaimed supersede all other values, whether national, denominational, or any other category.
As I walked on Saturday, I was also channeling Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when he spoke about the role of the church, called as the guide and critic of the government, but never its tool. I wondered how we, as a faith community, would proceed if President Trump made good on his promise to round up millions of immigrants and to ban the free movement of Muslims in the country. Could we, would we, provide sanctuary for these vulnerable people?
You can say that the Women’s March(es) on Saturday was participation in partisan politics, but I would heartily disagree. For me, it was faith in action, heeding the call to follow Jesus and making good on my baptismal promise to resist to oppression and evil. I do believe that this is a time for people of faith to claim our God-given, Jesus-ordained moral authority. In doing so, we may ruffle a few feathers. The alternative seems to be relenting to bleak despair.
I echo what one pastor-blogger, John Pavlovitz, wrote recently about the blow back from people of faith to the political rhetoric of the political campaigns:
“We will not allow people to be vilified for their religious traditions.We will not tolerate the civil rights of any group to be removed.We will not be divided along lines of color, gender, religion, orientation, or politics. We will not accept the physically and mentally ill to be left without healthcare. We will not allow people of color to be discarded by those sworn to protect them.We will not allow women to be devalued or overlooked with regard to pay, opportunity, or safety. We will not tolerate elected officials whose allegiances are not with all those they represent.”
If this sounds radical to you, that we will push back when politicians cross those lines, it should. But it’s not partisanship. It echoes the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
On Sunday, I’ll be preaching on The Beatitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. As I prepare to do so, Jesus’ words are causing deeper reflection: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” If I’m not willing to take a little heat for speaking the truth to power, I should pack it in and forget about serving Jesus and the church. Quite frankly, I’d rather be dead than forsake Jesus’ gospel and a chance to participate in the kin-dom of heaven in the here and now.
I wonder: How does your faith inform your politics? Or is the other way around? Would Jesus recognize his values being worked out in your life? In our common life?