It is the last day of 2009 and in my mind the most important religious story of the year has been the silence of the church in the wake of the hatred that has been exhibited by Americans as we have struggled with change.
Roman Catholic bishops felt compelled to step forward in the debate on health-care reform, objecting to reform if such reform included money for abortions. It was the moral imperative of the church, they said, to speak up.
But, even in light of the First Amendment right to free speech, isn’t it a moral imperative for the church to speak up when hateful rhetoric being spewed on airwaves becomes a feeding frenzy for people who are already struggling with change? Shouldn’t the church, recalling that the Christ said in the Gospel of Matthew that we will all be held accountable for what we say, remind people that even in disagreement, there is a way to do and to say things?
I am thinking about how few church leaders spoke up to decry the Christian minister who preached that God wants President Obama to die, and for his wife to be a widow and his children without a father. Why the silence? Why no statement from a group of clergy stating that such a statement cannot be condoned by The Church?
Throughout 2009, people have wrestled with the changes we can see, most obviously President Obama in the White House. It’s been a bit much for a lot of people, who declare that they want their country back. They have called the president everything from a socialist to a fascist. Is it really necessary to call names just because one is afraid or uncomfortable?
When I was a reporter, years ago, I wrestled with this silence of the church. Had The Church been more vocal, I reasoned, there might not be so much racism. Had The Church spoken up, perhaps Hitler would have felt divine pressure to stop his murderous rampage against Jewish people. Had The Church just stepped up, perhaps “the least of these” might have fared better.
I asked Evangelist Billy Graham why he wouldn’t preach against racism when he was in Baltimore doing a revival. He said that until people started having people of other races in their homes, racism would never end.
That was good and all, but unsatisfying to me. I believed then, as I do now, that if The Church would speak up against the way humans mistreat each other, this world might be a better place.
Abortion is not the only thing God is concerned about.
It saddens me that The Church seems to be more interested in becoming wealthy, or maintaining its wealth, than in producing a wealth of love and respect among people. Isn’t that what religion is supposed to be about? Rick Warren, in “The Purpose Driven Life,” begins the book by saying, or getting the readers to say, “It’s not about me.”
In other words, this walk in God is not about what I feel or want, but how I can help make life better for others, and in so doing, better my life as well.
There seems to be a burst of political-religious fundamentalism happening in this country. Karen Armstrong writes that fundamentalism erupts when a group feels its status quo, what it is familiar with, is being threatened. That group then vehemently holds onto what it has known for so long.
Newness is frightening.
It seems that there is a lot of newness happening, and people are frightened.
And The Church is silent. So awfully silent.
Would that The Church would develop a spine and not care that it is more concerned with tithers, big buildings and well paid clergy.
The harvest is past … and we are not saved…because The Church is way too silent.