Updated: Oct 14, 2018
A few weeks ago, I saw a meme that said "if you ever wondered what you would be doing during slavery or the civil rights movement, you are doing that now". I was scrolling through Instagram. Doing nothing. Ouch. I followed up that gut punch with studying the Sunday School lesson for the week about unjust leaders as compared to our just God.
Then I turn my TV on and I see families getting separated at the border. I still cant wrap my mind around this one. Humans...being separated from their loved ones. Children taken from their mothers, and sent anywhere USA. Forced into the prison pipeline without regard for the trauma that has already been experienced, our leadership has stripped them of their humanity and increased the severity of their experience. How many of us can even begin to think about our children being stolen? It hurts to even consider. This is life for people who are seeking safety in a country that promises freedom and justice for all.
AND NOW...Cheeto Satan has met with "religious" leaders about prison reform. One pastor even said that he "believed that God sent him there". Really Bruh? Are you seriously sitting quietly at a table with the leader of the free world (that hurt to type) as a representative of Christ with nothing to say? Where were you for President Obama's 8 years of leadership? Clinton's 8 years? This isn't a new problem. Consider this, my dear evangelical friends: Jesus was an immigrant. Jesus associated himself with the "least of these"...the hated tax collector, the sick, the blind, the homeless, adulterers...and even you. He spoke against the religious leaders of the day and said what was necessary without apology. We couldn't even get a peep out of you. I get it. You just wanted to visit the White House.
These events have caused me to question what I'm doing as a life long social work student, American Citizen, and most importantly child of God to help my city, my country, the world? What is the church universal doing? Not much. How was I able to sit in church Sunday after Sunday under the leadership of some great people, and never even feel connected to the community? How could I pull up to church in my car, go inside and never really consider the people that I walked past? Maybe I'm being too hard on myself. Maybe not. But I cant help but to experience a significant level of cognitive dissonance every week. How can we read about Jesus and his direct, philosophical and controversial leadership but sit in our comfy theater style sanctuaries with our noses up in the air to breathe in cotton candy worship? Aren't we supposed to go into the world? Aren't we supposed to be humble and caring, and loving, and open minded? So often, we think that Jesus leaving the 99 to get the 1 is crazy. Why leave the masses to go looking for the one who may or may not want to be found? Well, I must admit I struggled with this concept too...until I was that one. Until my family members were that 1. Until people in my community were the one(s).
Many Pastors and church leaders think that they are too big too fail. They build beautiful edifices, drive nice cars, and live a lifestyle that they couldn't otherwise afford. Is that all bad? No. However, it is when the community in which you are planted can't even get a sandwich from you. It is when people that walk by think that they aren't worthy of coming in. It is when you ask the people in your pews to sacrifice, and you are doing everything but.
Good people, I wish that I could take credit for coming up with all of what I said above. Then you could call me a heretic and ex-communicate me from the church. *Kanye shrug*. But this has been water-cooler conversation for me. It always started with
Them: your husband is a pastor, right?
Me: No. He's a preacher.
Them: Ok. Well, can you tell me where my tithes go? Cuz all I see is my Pastor prospering
Me: *tries to defend it* He or she prays for you, your family...
Them: So does my grandma.
Me: *Dora Blink* He or she takes all week to prepare a sermon, facilitate funerals, run the church (depending on size).
Them: So does the CEO, but at least they have a degree.
Me: I have a meeting...
I didn't have anything to say. I couldn't defend it. I had nothing to point to in the Bible or otherwise that would prove a point contrary to what they were saying. They didn't ask what the church was doing with the tithes. They asked what the PASTOR was doing with it. Here are my thoughts:
Church hurt is one heck of an experience. It's the equivalent of being hurt in the hospital, asking for help, and all of the medical staff look at you, and step over you. In my opinion, at the ordination for church leadership they should take a church version of the Hippocratic oath. First- do no harm. This person needed an answer from me. I couldn't provide it. I couldn't even give a band aid. Not helpful.
2. Being honest about the business of the church is not a bad thing.
If every other non-profit known to man finds it not robbery to provide an annual report, why are church finances a secret? What are we hiding? Just FYI- people do a lot better with giving when I know where my money is going...I mean when THEY know where THEIR money is going. Just be honest. I'm not saying that you have to completely open the books, but give people something to hold on to.
3. In the words of Amtrak...If you see something. Say something.
Social Justice Jesus needs you to be the voice at the table. Fighting for the marginalized and those who don't have a voice. Our churches should be at the forefront of social action and change. Am I asking us to rally and march? Maybe...maybe not. Take small steps. Have church outside. Say good morning to people in the community. Have a block party. Adopt a school. Adopt a family for Christmas. Make people feel welcome. Show love. If you see a need, fill it. If you see someone being treated wrong, say something.
Our churches have got to do better. I was recently asked "what took you so long?" in a room full of church administrators. My response...for years I saw church leadership asking for sacrifices that they weren't making. Hypocrisy. The Jesus I heard about and the Jesus that was presented to me in Church didn't match. In my reading he was a teacher and a bit of a trouble maker for the religious right. In church he made you shout and did stuff for you.
What's the cure for this particular brand of hypocrisy? My voice. My work. It relives the dissonance.
Millennials- let's do this.
Generation Z- we hear you. You're up next!