Christian Hypocrisy and Roy Moore

Hypocrisy.  There’s no other way to describe the decision of many Evangelical Christians to stand with Judge Roy Moore.

Moore has seen his campaign upended by accusations from seven women that he sexually harassed or assaulted them as teenagers.  Moore is the Republican candidate for an open Senate seat from Alabama.

Judge Moore made his political career insisting that the 10 Commandments be engraved in stone and placed in the Court House; that homosexuality is an abomination in the eyes of God; that same-sex marriage undermines the sanctity of traditional marriage; that abortion should be outlawed; that the Second Amendment has no limits.

It’s ironic that Moore who made his political bones on the basis of moral self-righteousness, is now accused by credible witness’ to sexual abuse of minors.  In his hometown it was an open secret  that Moore in his 30’s preyed upon teen girls.

Why then do so many Christian pastors and voters say that they are standing with Roy Moore?  The answer seems to rest with the growth of the Religious Right as a power broker in the Republican party.  https://www.memeorandum.com/171120/p8#a171120p8

For a growing number of conservative Christians the ends justify the means.  Their agenda includes:  Packing the Supreme Court with conservative justices; outlawing abortion rights; rolling back gay and trans-gender rights; limits to immigration; support for NRA.

Why these limited issues?  Why not advocacy for civil rights and social justice?

Consider the many societal  implications of Jesus’ teaching: “Whatever you do unto the most vulnerable of my sisters and brothers you do unto me.  When you clothe the naked and visit the prisoner, feed the hungry…it is as if you are doing it to me.” (Matthew 25: 31 – 46).

There is a lot of cherry picking going on within the Christian community. Choosing to focus on some issues to the exclusion of others.  Some choose to wrap their faith in the flag of nationalism and even nativism. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nativism_(politics)

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Imagine hearing the words of the Hebrew prophets and the teaching and witness of Jesus with fresh eyes and ears.  Imagine approaching the reading of Scripture with humility.  Humility in knowing that we each bring a cultural bias that effects what we hear and to see.  Imagine allowing the Spirit to open our hearts, minds and imaginations to what is possible.

In I Corinthians 13 the apostle Paul says, ‘now we see in a mirror dimly, but one day we will see (God) face to face’.  Our call is to approach our faith with humility.

I don’t know about you but I’m wary of those who say ‘behold sayeth the Lord’. Particularly those who condemn, exclude and divide.  Annie Lamott says it best:  ‘When God hates the same people you do then rest assured you’ve created God in your own image’.

The Christian faith teaches that we catch a ‘glimpse’ of what Paul speaks of when we see love, forgiveness, justice and compassion put into practice.  These are the voices we long to hear.  May it be so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving Out

Elizabeth O’Connor was a co-founder of Church of the Savior, a radical church formed in the 1950’s in Washington D.C. She along with Gordon Cosby put into practice the core words of Jesus in Matthew 25: 40 “Whatever you do unto the most vulnerable of my sisters and brothers you do unto me.”

Never focused on brick and mortar this church opened free medical clinics, summer camps for inner city kids, workshops on leadership development, a hospice for street people, micro loans, and the list goes on and on. Always their work was rooted in the radical teachings of Jesus to love and include those of us on the margins. For this church, works of compassion and advocacy became a mystical place for meeting the risen Christ.

Evelyn O’Connor wrote: “When the church starts to be the church, it will constantly be adventuring out into places where there are no tried and tested ways. If the church in our day has few prophetic voices to sound above the noises of the street, perhaps in large part it is because the pioneering spirit has become foreign to it. It shows little willingness to explore new ways. Where it does it has often been called an experiment. We would say that the church of Christ is never an experiment, but wherever that church is true to its mission it will be experimenting, pioneering, blazing new paths, seeking how to speak the reconciling Word of God to its own age.”

It’s been said that we live in a post-Christian era. In part this refers to our increasingly diverse culture that finds meaning in many places both religious and secular. The church is just one of many voices competing to be heard. In many ways this is good. It is easy to become complacent even arrogant when you are in the majority.

In many ways for the Christian movement the twenty-first century is similar to that of the first century. First century Christ followers like Paul, Peter, Lydia and Silas realized that they were but a minority voice and fueled by their passion went out into the public realm to share their story.

Two thousand years later we are once again a minority voice. The question is will we stay hidden away in isolated enclaves? Or will we like the early church, (and like Church of the Savior) be willing to let go of what is comfortable and familiar and become a part of the wider community where we can serve, learn from and share with a wonderful mix of perspectives and traditions.

photo of church aisle with open doors

It takes courage to leave the familiarity of what is. It means having clarity that you have something of importance to share. But it also requires a spirit of humility, that those with a different belief have something of value to offer as well.

In the fourth century, a bishop in the fledgling way of Jesus, Augustine of Hippo in North Africa said this:

“Do not think you must speak the truth to a Christian but can lie to a ‘pagan’. You are speaking to your brother or sister, born like you from Adam and Eve: realize all the people you meet are your neighbors even before they are Christians; you have no idea how God sees them. The ones you mock for worshiping stones … may worship God more fervently than you who laughed at them…. You cannot see into the future, so let every one be your neighbor.”

For those of us who love what the church can be and love the way of Jesus, this is a challenging and exciting time. The days of waiting for people to come to us are over. Are we ready to leave the safety of our buildings? Are we clear on what we have to offer? And, are we open to the blessings, the wisdom that other traditions and voices have to offer to us?

To say ‘yes’ is to be open to being changed. To say ‘yes’, is to know that we don’t journey alone. It was true in the first century and it is true today.

Who is Your Neighbor?

I recently moved to a new community. The neighborhood I work in has a bustling downtown. Cabot Street features restaurants, coffee shops and boutiques that invite people to browse and visit. Often I cross paths with people I know, sometimes we offer a quick wave, often we stop and talk. One of the things I enjoy most about my neighborhood are the people I’m getting to know as friends.

Within the downtown are those less visible. They are our neighbors who are homeless. It is not uncommon for people to walk past the homeless as if they weren’t there. Perhaps we walk past because we think that their story is so different from our own? Perhaps we walk past because they remind us of our own vulnerability?

image of homeless

The church I serve has long been seen as a hospitable place for our neighbors on the street. We serve three meals per week for guests who are homeless or live on the margins. This past week we partnered with another church to house three families with ten children. Soon the winter weather will come and our most fragile friends will come seeking warmth,to use the restrooms or plug in a cell phone.

Providing hospitality isn’t easy. Some guests are active in their addiction or struggle with mental health issues. Sometimes we have to set boundaries for appropriate behavior.

Some churches lock their doors and see assistance as enabling. Some cities seek to criminalize the most vulnerable and force them into jails or to the next community.

I’m grateful for churches and communities that strive to provide a warm welcome and practical assistance. Gradually I’m getting to know the names and stories of my new neighbors on the street. I’m reminded that our stories have much in common.

Jesus in Matthew 25 says, ‘whatever you do unto the most vulnerable of my sisters and brothers, you do unto me’. Jesus identifies with the most vulnerable at the deepest of levels and invites us to do the same.

Recognizing one another as a neighbor has all sorts of implications. As we get to know and care about each other, we begin to see the complex issues that bring someone to the streets. We begin to explore what social services are necessary for a healthy community to provide, so that all our neighbors are treated with dignity. But it all begins by simply knowing each other’s name.

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