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

Mother Emanuel’s Open Door

The door was open for a Wednesday night Bible study at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. It had been a busy day at this historic African-American church with several lay members being ordained to preach the Gospel. Once the festivities were over approx. twelve leaders of that church remained to listen for God’s leading from the ancient scripture.

A young white male, age 21 walked in. This was his first time and he received a warm welcome and listened as the small group shared, sang and prayed. At the conclusion when the benediction was given, he took out a handgun and murdered nine people. Each time he reloaded he uttered racist oaths.

The shooter fled and left behind a devastated church who had lost nine well-loved members including their pastor. The city of Charleston and the state of South Carolina which has a long and painful history with slavery, segregation and racism struggled to make sense of such blatant racist hatred.

This tragedy adds to the conversation on racial tension that we as a nation are being forced to have in the wake of recent police shootings of unarmed blacks and abuses of ‘stand your ground laws’ in Florida and elsewhere. It also highlights the desperate need we have to restrict access to guns.

In the midst of the heightened emotions and debate the people of Emmanuel AME Church continue to show us the way to live. Drawing upon their faith in the teachings of Jesus they offer us a way beyond hatred, beyond violence, beyond revenge.

The day after the killings, the families of the murdered stood before the now captured accused and offered forgiveness. Said Nadine Collier, daughter of 70-year-old Ethel Lance: ‘You took something very precious away from me. But I forgive you. And may God have mercy on your soul.’ One after another, each family member bore that same witness.

In Charleston, the church is known with affection as ‘Mother Emmanuel’. Since its founding as a church for slaves in 1820, this community has witnessed to the Good News that each person is created in the image of God and has inherent worth and beauty. It was a belief that made this church a beacon of hope during the painful days of slavery and Jim Crow. It was this belief that empowered Mother Emmanuel to be a leader for Civil Rights. And, it was this belief that enabled those victimized by an act of racist hatred, to see even their assailant as a fellow child of God, worthy of mercy and forgiveness.

On Sunday morning, just days following the mass murder, the doors to Mother Emmanuel were open. Open doorAn elderly African-American usher welcomed a little black girl to worship. He wanted her and all of us to know, that love always win. His faith was rooted in the belief that we are loved and cherished by our Creator, that there is no ‘them’ but only ‘us’.