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Faith, silence and taking action in America

Ed Wolff • May 31, 2018 at 8:00 AM

As I was scanning Facebook posts over the weekend, it became obvious that many people watching the royal wedding were deeply impressed by the remarks of Bishop Curry, presiding bishop of our nation’s Episcopal Church, which is loosely connected to the Church of England. He talked about love and its power to bring people together with respect, understanding, forgiveness and reconciliation.

I am a Christian, an ordained minister, so the theological aspects of his message resonated with me, although I’m sure some of the Facebook responses were from non-Christians. The Facebook posts and Bishop Curry’s message have kept my mind active for the last two days.

(Permit me a little commentary freedom for my non-Christian brother’s and sisters. Please accept that the words in this article come from my own tradition. My comments aren’t meant to indicate Christianity is exclusive and/or has all the answers. I know a little about the Jewish faith because we were grafted on. I have experienced very little of the Islamic faith. Yet, I have prayed at the mosque and have deep respect for the Islamic faith, especially their commitment to prayer.)

I agree that love is a powerful force. It is both a feeling and an action. From my perspective, the opposite of love as a feeling is fear and the opposite as an action is control. One of my interpretations of “the fall,” as reported in Genesis, is that humanity wanted to be in control and the Divine, out of love, would not prevent it.

So, here we are, a nation that many believe to be Christian. We are in a cultural area that defines itself as “The Bible Belt.” Yet, even though we speak of our belief in the Man on the Cross who rose from death out of the Divine’s love, we joke about the creation of new congregations because of conflict. There is a lack of ministerial fellowship in our geographical area because of different theological convictions. Some will not come together for fellowship fearing the loss of congregants or being insecure outside their own edifice. Some congregations evolve into membership clubs failing to demonstrate to the world the kind of love Jesus asks of us. Congregational leaders will not always share their convictions fearing the wrath of congregants. We say that politics do not belong in the church; however, Jesus declared, “The kingdom of God has drawn near.” Culturally, at that time, it sure would sound political.

Below are a few examples of my concern for my faith tradition and it’s lack of a moral role for our nation as many remain silent.

We are considering the creation of a wall along our Southern border to keep aliens out. Yet throughout scripture we are taught to care for the aliens and welcome them.

All indications are that federal programs to assist the poor with food and other basic needs, such as shelter and clothing, are being reduced or eliminated. Jesus says that when we feed others, we feed him.

Our penal system is based upon punitive justice rather than restorative justice. Jesus says that when you care for those in prison, you care for him.

Jesus is quoted as being very critical of how we treat children. Yet, there are more children dying from guns in this nation than people on the battlefield. In addition, many of our school systems are treated as expenses rather than an investment to nurture and nourish our children.

There are undeniable scientific facts that Mother Earth is being drastically affected on the land, in and on the seas, and in the air. When the Divine instructed humanity to keep the earth, it seems to me we were created to protect and nourish the earth so that it could protect and nourish us.

Jesus healed the daughter of a Syrophoenician woman and, in a story, used a Samaritan as a model. Both were pagans. An early disciple baptized a eunuch, a person treated like LGBTs of today. Yet, we consider such people as outcasts.

Through Biblical stories, Jesus cured the sick and healed the crippled, blind, deaf and mute. Obviously he desired people to be healthy. Today we struggle within our own state to provide meager health coverage for those in the gap. There are those in this country who want to eliminate national coverage.

On May 20, many Christian congregations observed Pentecost when the disciples of Jesus were able to talk in other languages and demonstrated that, whether we are black, red, yellow or white, there is only one race. Skin color, language, traditions and nationalities became inconsequential.

The above is a litany of issues that affect our ”Christian” nation. Yes, our nation separates church and state but does not separate us as creations of the Divine. If we continue to focus on the above issues, we may do a little pruning, but not get to feeding the roots in a healthy way. Bishop Curry is correct. Love is powerful. Love does not control. Love does not embrace “power over,” but “power with.” Coming together with respect, understanding, forgiveness, and reconciliation, we might prune our nation to truly be “We the People.”

The Rev. Edward Wolff of Jonesborough is a retired Lutheran minister and progressive activist.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed by all Community Voices columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the official positions of the Johnson City Press.

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