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?

Politics continue to hurt the church

political BibleI wanted to comment on one of the articles I didn’t include in today’s links. The article is called “The Future of Faith.” Diane Butler Bass looks at the future of Christianity and notes two cultural forces that are shaping religion in the United States: the increased number of religiously unaffiliated people and the growing religious pluralism in this country.

Then she says

The first group, the unaffiliated, is largely uninterested in conventional religion, embracing humanism, non-specific forms of spirituality, or post-institutional forms of community. Their concern with old-fashioned religious questions is waning, as is their commitment to religious structures of the past. They are, by all reports, angry at the admixture of religion and politics that has roiled American life over the last three decades, and prefer more inclusive, less dogmatic but more pragmatic politics.

Why yes, I did fell like yelling “Amen, Sistah.”

Note that this is the opinion of one who studies social research, so it should be taken as that. Educated opinion, but opinion none the less. But it’s opinion I highly agree with. The church is damaging itself through political activity. The more we point that out, the more political people become.

There’s an article in the links today on pastors’ views of global warming. In the article, Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research, says, “Pastor opinions on global warming reflect their own political beliefs.”

What? You mean Republican pastors doubt global warming and Democratic pastors believe in it? Can’t be. Ministers’ views aren’t shaped by political parties but by religious conviction. Aren’t they?

I guess the comfort in all of this is the hope that as the church dwindles, maybe the political party she chooses to give her strength to will gain in power. That’s what matters, right?

I’ll end with one more quote from today’s links, by Stephen Mattson. In his article on what’s wrong with American Christianity, Mattson notes

Power-hungry Christians view their faith as a battle, a series of wins and losses. Control and influence is valued above all else, and Christianity’s success is measured by research, statistics, attendance and the success of church-supported laws at the state and federal level. Success is hardly gauged by the fruits of the Spirit or by how well we’re following Christ’s example.
A thirst for power results in Christians who prefer political might over spiritual strength, legal enforcement over personal choice, conscription over evangelism, punishment over grace, fear over hope, and control over love. In extreme cases, even violence and aggression is viewed as a necessary means of gaining power.

Questions about respecting the king

I’ve got questions, questions about respecting authority and respecting authorities.

  • At what point would Christians be justified in rising up in armed revolt against an existing government?
  • To what degree can Christians resist and oppose a government they view as evil?
  • Does “respect the king” leave room for us to speak about governing officials in insulting ways? Does that command apply today? Does it apply beyond a head of state?

Thanks for your input!

No more speaking up for evil

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAOK, I want to go back to a recurring theme on this blog, the idea of speaking to the political system from outside the system. I admittedly wrestle with terminology a bit, for I tend to think of politics in terms of partisan struggles, while others think that anything affecting the public (the polis) is politics.

What I’m talking about is Christians refusing to align themselves with human groups, be they liberal or conservative, Republican or Democratic. At some point, those groups begin to exist with the aim of winning elections and guaranteeing their continued existence. Ideas begin to be judged more in terms of practicality, feasibility, and electability, rather than in terms of right and wrong.

So we Christians speak out on the issues, but not with the same talking points that our non-Christian friends use. If your political views line up with a non-believer’s political views, your views probably aren’t Christian. It’s as simple as that.

One area where I’d like to see Christians take a firm stand these days is on the topic of life. We need to be pro-life, far beyond what those who merely oppose abortion are. We need to be anti-death. We need to stop saying, “Well, this form of killing is worse than that form of killing, so I’ll oppose it.” I read a Christian blogger who said that the conservatives are wrong for supporting overseas wars, while liberals are wrong for supporting abortion, but he’d support the conservatives because of “body count.”

No! When we choose the lesser of two evils, we are still choosing evil.

Let’s be known for saying, “I don’t care who gets elected. I don’t care if this idea has public palatability. I’m going to speak the truth.” Let’s be known as the people who won’t compromise their beliefs just to be able to identify themselves with a popular movement. Let’s be known as those who unwaveringly seek the truth. (imperfectly, yes, but relentlessly)

Let’s stand up for life. From womb to the tomb, as they say. We oppose abortion. We oppose war. We oppose humans causing the death of other humans.

Once we start speaking out against ALL killing, people will realize that we aren’t just another partisan voice in the political maelstrom. As long as we choose the lessor of evils, no one will believe that we are really speaking out for good.

 

photo from my old friend, MorgueFile.com

Marriage: The minister as agent of the State

In talking about how church and State work together in creating marriages, I observed that a wedding is a unique moment, when the Christian minister becomes an agent of the State. It seems to me that we need to think long and hard about the implications of that.

Because what the minister is doing is not only a church function but a public function as well, the minister is open to State control in a new way. This is currently seen when governments (sometimes state, sometimes county) determine who can and can’t perform a marriage ceremony. Many places require that the minister have a certificate of ordination. Most ministers within churches of Christ don’t have such a certificate unless they’ve had one created specifically for this purpose. In other words, while not normally practicing ordination, they will do so (or pretend to have done so) to meet governmental requirements.

This is a small thing, I guess, but it seems to me that the subject could become quite complicated. To some degree, government decides now who can and cannot marry. If the minister is an agent of the State, could he not be compelled to marry whomever the government decides may be married? Couldn’t restrictions be placed on this public affair as to what can and cannot be said? Couldn’t the State decide many details about this public ceremony?

I’m not much into slippery slopes, so I don’t want to make this overly dramatic. Still, it bears some consideration. Once you agree to perform a legal function, a governmental function if you will, it seems to me that you’ve opened Pandora’s box.

I should state the obvious: I’m neither a lawyer nor did I get to play one in 12th grade English class when we had the mock trial based on “Enemy of the People.” Still, I’m beginning to have concerns about the wisdom of performing “official” weddings. What am I opening myself up to when I sign that wedding license?