Speaking out against injustice

In preparation for a discussion on immigration, I’m trying to get a feel for how the church has done when it comes to speaking with a prophetic voice on social issues. That is, how well we’ve done at speaking to issues from a Christian standpoint.

I’m thinking of a number of things that over time society has come to recognize as wrong. I’m wondering how well the church has done in speaking out on these issues before the general society did so. A good example today is abortion. The church, to a large degree, has identified this moral outrage as something that needs to be corrected. What about other issues?

Here are some issues that come to mind. Beyond the actions of specific individuals, do you think the church in this country was ahead of society or behind society in speaking out?

  • The genocide of the native population
  • The breaking of treaties with the native population
  • Slavery
  • Imperialistic wars/The taking of foreign lands by force (I’m thinking Mexican-American and Spanish-American Wars specifically; you might know of other such conflicts)
  • Child labor
  • The internment of Asian families during WWII
  • Jim Crow laws/racism

Christians often speak of following the laws of the land unless they conflict with God’s laws. Yet few of us can point to an example of anyone who has actually fallen into “civil disobedience” because of religious convictions. Some of the above might have called for such reactions, so I’d love to hear of examples.

Can you think of examples of how the church took a stand against the above injustices?

2 thoughts on “Speaking out against injustice

  1. Jerry Starling

    Having grown up in the Jim Crow south, I have some experience with this, and can provide you with anecdotal accounts, both good and bad – if you will email me privately I will either call or email you with some stories.

  2. David Cabe

    While our son was in graduate school in Boston, we attended a worship service with the Park Street Congregational Church, where our son was a member. You could palpably feel the presence of the great abolitionists and men of faith, William Garrison, Frederich Douglass, and Henry Ward Beecher, who preached in that very sanctuary against the evils of slavery long before emancipation became a rallying point for the Union during the Civil War. A former slave who escaped to New York, Douglas was widely sought after as a speaker on the subject of emancipation and ran a stop on the underground railroad. The spark of the abolitionist movement caught fire in the church in America, and spread throughout the Nation, in large part due to the courage of individual Christians like Garrison, Douglass, and Beecher and their willingness to stand up and be counted. Looking back at my mostly clueless and self-absorbed existence during high school and college I regret that I didn’t take a stand on what I believed during the turmoil of the mid to late 1960’s. That was for the hippies and not for engineers like me. However, as I approach the home stretch and take encouragement from the legacy of faithful men and women of the church, I pray that God will give me and the church of the 21st Century the courage and love to speak up for those who are persecuted and denied life’s basic dignities just because of their nationality or the color of their skin – even if my words aren’t popular.

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