Listen To Article
Jennifer Holberg is away today. We welcome Chad Pierce.
The world feels like it is in a rough spot right now. This past week has given us too many examples of pain and suffering. In the Middle East, thousands of refugees are fleeing for their lives, for safety, for security, for a home. In South Carolina families have lost everything in what meteorologists are calling a “thousand year flood.” In Oregon a murderer went on a rampage killing so many for no apparent reason. Regrettably, this list could be much, much longer. These events alone are heartbreaking.
Equally as heartbreaking has been the general church’s response to these crises, at least if my Facebook page can be seen as normative. The plight of Syrians who have lost everything has been reduced to tired squawking on immigration reform and terror. Lives and homes lost to flooding have become lost to simplistic rambling about climate change. And the horror of young lives taken while only trying to better themselves through education serves only as a selfish vehicle for a debate on gun control.
All of these political issues are important for those of us in the United States and around the world. The US, like other nations, needs to develop and implement an immigration policy that is humane and yet protects its boarders. Governments around the world must wrestle with its role in the care of this planet. The US in particular must engage in a dialogue around the proliferation of gun violence and a commitment to the second amendment. All of these are indeed important.
And yet to reduce these debates to American policy and politics does not give justice to them as citizens of God’s Kingdom. The church has been privileged, fortunate, and maybe even apathetic in that we have allowed governments to be at the forefront of these debates. In some ways it makes sense. Governments can do things. And yet, maybe without knowing, the church has conceded the debate to our broader society. We have allowed others to drive the debate, while we have gone along for the ride.
It’s not that Christians don’t care. We do, deeply. My concern is that we are only voices in a much bigger choir that we are not conducting. Rather than wrestling with biblical, theological, and/or spiritual realities, we too have been sucked in to overly simplistic “red state” “blue state” talking points. The elephant and the donkey have become north stars for so many in the church.
It’s time for the bride of Christ to wake up. It appears to be time for this family to put its house in order. First, this will allow us to engage our debates with a more productive hermeneutic that those currently offered. It would be my hope, maybe a naïve one, that the church could rise above noise and vitriol and find a safe space for honest discussion about kingdom matters such as loving the alien, care for the poor, stewardship of creation, and the sanctity of all life. Of course there will not be consensus but there is at least the hope of deeper discussion. At least then we would control the dialogue. And maybe even more that the outcomes, the church could control the nature, spirit, and tone of our discussions and disagreements. That alone would be a gift to the debate itself.
Second, it gives the church an opportunity to find its prophetic voice. These muscles, at least in Protestant circles, have atrophied. It’s time to start flexing those muscles again. Not in a combative manner of course, but in a way that calls people into a better reality, the way of Christ. The questions of life, creation, and care are not always simplistic. We have a foundation that runs deep, that is not governed by sound bites or news cycles.
Now I am not naïve enough to assume that our prophetic voice will bring about the changes we desire, the changes that God desires. The biblical witness does not even give glimpses of hope for immediate success. In fact, things don’t generally end well for the prophets. Speaking truth, especially God’s truth to power is no easy task. Yet we are not called to be successful. Like so many who have gone before us we are only called to humble yet passionate obedience.
I pray that we are able to open our ears, our minds, and our spirits to each other. Only then will we have the confidence to open our mouths to speak God’s grace into the world.
Chad Pierce is pastor of Faith Christian Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan.