As of today I’m heading Interfaith Reflections in a new direction, talking about faith and politics. I’m doing this because my country is stressed by social inequalities and injustices that threaten to tear it apart, and perhaps irretrievably destroy its citizens’ trust in democracy.
As a person of faith and a pastor I’m taking this step not to stir up anger, but to protest unfair and unrighteous treatment of “the least of these,” as Jesus put it. I take up my pen as the Hebrew prophets did, to defend the poor and the dispossessed, and to call the nation back to paths of righteousness. My motives are similar to J. Herbert Nelson’s, the Director of the Office of Public Witness of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., who was arrested in July while protesting with interfaith colleagues in Washington, DC. He wrote:
My call to be arrested is united with a challenge to break through the mess of political spin and sound bites that inflame the U.S. electorate without informing it. Church leaders cannot stand idly by while our congregants lose their homes, withdraw their children from college because financial aid is cut, live in fear that their social security checks will not be delivered, search fruitlessly for jobs to support their families, and watch their children grow up uneducated and without opportunity. Isaiah is right, “The Lord will guide you always.” However, we are required to put some feet on our prayers. We must move toward building a world that represents the will of God for our lives. At this time, it will take extraordinary faith, courage, and resilience to transform this broken political machinery. However, the greatest challenge is rediscovering as a nation the true virtues of government of the people, by the people and for the people. My prayer is that others will take on leadership roles in their local communities, to challenge the fallen structures of our day. Our challenge begins by rethinking and discerning our call. Church leaders are called to a public witness. Therefore, as we encounter a Congress that is unwilling to compromise for the good of the nation, let us not despair, but remember our mission, which our Savior makes clear at the very beginning of his ministry:
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. ”
J. Herbert’s plea that we “put some feet on our prayers” is being answered in part, I believe, by the Occupy movement, which started on September 17th in New York City, and has since spread to many U.S. cities, including my own, Wilmington, Delaware. My wife and I have been participating in the general assembly meetings of this grass-roots movement. We are encouraged by Occupy’s process of decision-making, which is something like a mashup of Roberts’ Rules of Order and the Quaker process of concensus building. We are also impressed by the gentleness and kindness of most participants. The violent and destructive behavior of Occupy hanger-ons in Oakland, California was not representative of the movement, and has rightfully been decried by Occupiers who are faithful to the moment’s ideals.
This is an interfaith blog. I am a concerned Christian who has begun a thread about viewing the ills of our nation from a personal faith perspective. I invite my local interfaith friends, and blog visitors to join the discussion. How does your faith speak to the social ills that threaten to tear us apart? How does your faith speak to the waning trust in our democracy? Are you encouraged by the Occupy movement? By the Tea Party movement? By some other sign of righteous indignation? Please think critically, and do your best to write with compassion and respect.
- ‘Protest Chaplains’ Shepherd Movement’s Spiritual Side (huffingtonpost.com)
- Richard Schiffman: Zen and the Art of Occupy Wall Street (huffingtonpost.com)