On Facebook, someone asked me why I posted about racism. Isn’t it a pastor’s job to be uplifting? Here is my response (slightly edited) . . .
Racism is evil, even demonic. If followers of Christ do not confront evil, then what good are we?
My “job” as a pastor – and I’ll broaden that to the baptismal call of any follower of Christ – is not just to make people feel good, especially people who are perpetrating evil, especially the privileged who exploit the marginalized. I don’t know where you got that idea but it certainly wasn’t the Bible.
Read any of the prophets. Read Jeremiah’s condemnation of those who would shout out “Peace, peace where there is no peace.” Read Jesus – not just the “feel good” parts but the prophetic parts, especially the way he begins his ministry with a radical quote from Isaiah. Read the Magnificat in Luke 1, where Mary says that Jesus is coming to lift up the poor and tear down the rich. Read Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation, where he says that a theologian of the cross calls a thing what it is; calls that which is evil the evil that it is. Read modern prophets like Bonhoeffer or Dr. King, especially the Letter from a Birmingham Jail where Dr. King chides white pastors who would rather keep the peace than speak out about racism.
Yes, my call is to proclaim the Gospel, But it is also to speak honestly about how we fall short.This is a reflection of the Bible in general and of Jesus’ ministry in particular. What Jesus said and did was certainly good news for the poor and powerless; it was not always great news for the privileged and powerful.
Jesus broke down all of the Law into two commands – love God and love your neighbor as you love yourself. I cannot love my neighbor of color – or my LGBTQ neighbor, or my immigrant neighbor, or my poor neighbor – if I do not speak out and try to change the injustices being done to them.
What good am I as a follower of Christ if I remain silent in the name of a superficial unity or counterfeit peace?
In your earlier reply you seem to indicate “outrage” is a bad thing. Outrage at racism and other injustice is not a negative; it is a motivator for positive change. There are some things we SHOULD be angry about. There are certainly things that anger God – there are certainly things that angered God in human flesh, Jesus.
As for my Facebook Posts, the ones that are not pictures of my pets and descriptions of meals, etc. (the vast majority) – the ones like this one on which you choose to focus – are made precisely because of the call I have as a pastor and follower of Christ.
It is a call to speak out against evil, evil reflected in racism and injustice and inequality.
Too many folks have the idea that Christianity is a religion of the status quo, supporting the privileged and the powerful. Too many people have the idea that Christianity is about keeping women in their place, keeping gay folks in the closet, and keeping undocumented immigrants out of the country, about “economic freedom” and American exceptionalism.
The voices of that kind of “Christianity” are unfortunately loudest. It’s the Christianity of my childhood that was silent about the segregation all around us in the south where I grew up, that was silent about the young men coming home in coffins from an unjust war, that was silent about poverty. It’s that kind of “Christianity” that helped keep me away from the church – and God – for years. Whatever I can do to let people know that those things are NOT what it means to follow Jesus I will do, including preaching, protesting, and posting on social media (and writing a book about my spiritual journey – Too Smart for God will be released June 3!).
Yep, that is ultimately divisive. But bringing people together by ignoring evil is not my call as a pastor or as a follower of Christ – it is not what Jesus came to do, either. ” “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” I know they don’t teach verses like that in Sunday School, but we are called to grow beyond Sunday School faith.
What unites us is the Cross – and the cross ultimately leaves no room for superficial “unity.” It’s life or death.
The best summary I have heard of the call to balance good news with necessary confrontation is this: Comfort the afflicted, but afflict the comfortable.
If this post made you uncomfortable (and it makes ME uncomfortable even though I wrote it), that might be cause for reflection.
Excellent! Well stated Pastor Dave. Thank you for having the courage and the calling to be a voice of peace in the midst of chaos and systemic injustice.