When Faith and Politics Meet

Some friends on Facebook who share my Christian faith have suggested that I’ve crossed a line between politics and faith.  In particular it has been suggested that I’ve become too political by supporting the upcoming Women’s March https://www.womensmarch.com and critiquing President Trump’s stated policy on deportation, climate change, women’s rights.

I offer this response.

‘Dear Friends:   Thank you for sharing your concerns regarding the upcoming Women’s March.   You are correct in pointing out that this Women’s March in Washington D. C and similar marches taking place in cities across the United States are supported and being promoted by a wide variety of groups. Some of these groups are explicitly political.  Many others are rooted in their faith.  

This reminds me of the Civil Rights movement in the 1950’s and 60’s  when a wide range of groups, some overtly political, secular and some faith-based  worked in common cause to ensure civil rights for all.  While there were surely differences amongst such groups, their shared desire to protect and expand civil rights was a uniting factor.

At the church I serve,https://www.fbcbeverly.org/ we  have several members who will be in Washington D.C and many more in Boston. Each are going at their own expense guided by their faith and conscience.  Dr. King said ‘that the church is to be the conscience of the state’. 

Jesus said in Luke 20: 25 ‘Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s and to God the things that are God’s’.  The rub is discerning when to follow the emperor and when our faith says ‘no’.

For many of us, the policies voiced by President Trump will have profound implications for us and our neighbors:  Deportation of up to 11 million undocumented neighbors; roll back of climate change treaty, undermining of Women’s reproductive rights, potential loss of affordable health care etc.   The question for all of us as people of faith is:  How does our faith inform us as citizens?  What would our faith have us do?  What do we do when our faith informed conscience is at odds with the policies of our government? 

 I believe that people of good will can come to different conclusions as to how ones faith speaks to the policies of our time.  I respect if your faith leads you to a different conclusion.  The creative tension is that we are each responsible for listening for the leading of the Holy Spirit. 

 The challenge for all of us is to remain in respectful relationship.  Remain in relationship even as we disagree.  Believing that in our passionate disagreement the Spirit remains at work…expanding our hearts and minds as to what is possible.

 I share with you a love for this nation and a love for God.   I join you in praying for wisdom and for the  well-being of President Trump and his administration and for all elected officials of whatever political persuasion.   With you I commit to helping our nation become more loving and just.

Grace and peace be yours’. ~ Kent

When a Hero Dies

Dan Berrigan is dead at 94. A Jesuit priest and poet whose defiant protests helped to shape the tactics of opposition to the Vietnam War and landed him in prison. Along with his brother Philip (also a priest) a defining point was the public burning of Selective Service draft records in Catonsville, Md. Their action inspired protests, marches, sit ins, the public burning of draft records and other acts of civil disobedience across the nation.

photo of Dan Berrigan

In 1980 Daniel Berrigan was again arrested for taking part in the Plowshares raid on a General Electric missile plant in King of Prussian, Pa. Here Daniel and Philip and others rained hammer blows on missile warheads. They then poured a vile of their blood on the nosecones and waited to be arrested. In 2006 Daniel was again arrested for blocking the entrance to another nuclear missile facility. This is but a sample of their willingness to pay a price for their beliefs.

The Berrigan brothers actions were rooted in the Hebrew prophets and the teachings of Jesus. They took to heart the words of Isaiah:

“God shall judge between the nations and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.’

The witness of the Berrigan brothers fueled debates around kitchen tables and in houses of worship. My politically conservative Dad argued with our pastor, Fred Buker about the Vietnam War. Fred was a veteran who had become a critic. The witness of the Berrigan’s angered my Dad and inspired our pastor. Such is the work of a prophet.

Dan and Philip Berrigan’s activism was rooted in the pages of Scripture as it was for Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr. and obscure figures like my childhood pastor. The words of Scripture, when taken to heart, have the ability to transform the hearer. To take us from selfishness to selflessness, from war mongering to peace, from fear to hope.

Some years ago I went to hear Daniel Berrigan, then in his 70’s. He said: “Tonight you are going to love what I have to say. And, you are going to be pissed off by what I have to say. The words however won’t be mine. You will be both inspired and angered by the words of Jesus and the prophets. You will be equally inspired and discomforted by the places these words can take you.”

photo of Dan Berigan as old man

Daniel Berrigan inspired and offended many within and beyond his Roman Catholic tradition. He inspired and at times pissed us off. Such is the work of a prophet.

Heroes come and go. The words of faith remain. Who among us will give voice to these ancient words? Who will take up the mantle of a prophet?