Recently, I’ve read a lot about social and cultural ills, and, how the Church ought to respond to them. Some of these have to do with specific events. I read one this morning that just put me over the top with incredulity. David Hayword shared a story that I found totally unbelievable. Here is a link to David’s blog, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nakedpastor/2013/06/money-women-and-guns/
I could go on and on about the growing economic disparity between the so-called 1% and everyone else. I could mention how our elected leaders are owned and operated by various special interests…special interests that are only concerned about their own interests. Tony Jones wrote a very insightful piece about this at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/2013/06/08/our-eternal-war/
So, what is the Church saying and doing? From the sermons I’ve heard and the people I’ve talked to, it seems that we are really, really concerned about personal piety and creating a counter-cultural presence. Now, please don’t get me wrong. I’m not disparaging these. (Although, I think the counter-cultural thing is counter-productive. But, more on that some other time.)
I hear so-called Christian leaders speak out against LGBT folks on a regular basis like these people, who, incidentally, God loves. I hear our leaders worrying and complaining because their children masturbate. I listen to well-meaning folks break down to tears because alcohol exists…or tobacco, or pot. I listen to high profile ‘leaders’ talk about gender roles as if they had a hotline to God. Oh, and don’t get me started about science and evolution. What a ‘slippery slope’ these topics present to the ‘faithful.’
I think that it’s far easier to identify specific ‘sins’ and issues that differentiate us, that make us exclusive, than to deal with the real task of building God’s reign here, now, on Earth. What does that look like? I certainly don’t have an exhaustive answer to this. I do know, however, some of the characteristics of it. From Jesus, himself, I see his understanding of this vocation. From Luke 4:18-19 we read, “18. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed, 19. To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”(NASB)
I don’t see a lot about complementarianism in this. I do see a mandate for caring for the distressed and marginalized, however. James adds more insight into the heart of God. He wrote in chapter one of his letter, “Religion that is pure and undefiled in the sight of God our Father is to care for the orphans and widows in their distress, to keep oneself pure from the world.” (trans. mine.) Many evangelicals will say, “Aha! Keep pure from the world. That means individual moral purity. Exactly what we’ve been preaching!” My response is, “Not so fast.” What is James’ understanding of what we translate ‘world’? He used ‘Cosmos’ for this. The idea contained in this language has to do with world systems, not individual piety. The systemic abuses of greed and power undergird this verse. Systems that continue the marginalization of entire groups of people are included here. Embedded privilege is condemned in these few words by the apostle. While we nit-pick about masturbation people who Christ loves and gave his life for are set apart as ‘other’ and judged to be something ‘less than’ us. While we look for ways to define who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’ girls and women are abused and subjected to horrific conditions so that men might cling to their power and privilege. Workers are denied living wages so that some corporation can pay handsome dividends to its stockholders. Hundreds can die in a factory in Bangladesh in order to pad some executive’s pockets with pictures of a guy named George. LGBT people are forced to choose between honesty and self-loathing because some religious leader preaches hate-filled sermons to the ‘faithful.’
No, our responsibility to God and God’s good creation is to be a royal priesthood and holy nation. A place of safety for the distressed and marginalized people of the world. Not to defile ourselves by being a party to the very systems that cause the distress and marginalizing.