At some point in history, the Christian church decided that it was going to surrender its theology to the fringe, and by fringe, I do not just mean those on the right but also those on the left. Those on the right hold to a particular biblical worldview that includes white supremacy and nationalism. They feel it is okay to start wars and turn their backs on those in need. And those on the left have reduced scripture down to just another book of literature that is nothing more than a good book.
On Ash Wednesday 2018, 23 elders of the Christian church gathered in retreat to write a statement on reclaiming Jesus and Christianity from these fringe elements. This statement, more a manifesto if you will, begins:
We are living through perilous and polarizing times as a nation, with a dangerous crisis of moral and political leadership at the highest levels of our government and in our churches. We believe the soul of the nation and the integrity of faith are now at stake.
It is time to be followers of Jesus before anything else—nationality, political party, race, ethnicity, gender, geography—our identity in Christ precedes every other identity. We pray that our nation will see Jesus’ words in us. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
The 23 elders then go on to focus on 6 areas of importance:
- WE BELIEVE each human being is made in God’s image and likeness. Racial bigotry is a brutal denial of the image of God in some of the children of God.
THEREFORE, WE REJECT the resurgence of white nationalism and racism in our nation on many fronts, including the highest levels of political leadership. We reject white supremacy and commit ourselves to help dismantle the systems and structures that perpetuate white preference and advantage. Any doctrines or political strategies that use racist resentments, fears, or language must be named as public sin.
- WE BELIEVE we are one body. In Christ, there is to be no oppression based on race, gender, identity, or class.
THEREFORE, WE REJECT misogyny, the mistreatment, violent abuse, sexual harassment, and assault of women being further revealed in our culture and politics, including in our churches, and the oppression of any other child of God.
- WE BELIEVE how we treat the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, the sick, and the prisoner is how we treat Christ himself.
THEREFORE, WE REJECT the language and policies of political leaders who would debase and abandon the most vulnerable children of God. We strongly deplore the growing attacks on immigrants and refugees; we won’t accept the neglect of the well-being of low-income families and children.
- WE BELIEVE that truth is morally central to our personal and public lives. Jesus promises, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
THEREFORE, WE REJECT the practice and pattern of lying that is invading our political and civil life. The normalization of lying presents a profound moral danger to the fabric of society.
- WE BELIEVE that Christ’s way of leadership is servanthood, not domination. We support democracy, not because we believe in human perfection, but because we do not.
THEREFORE, WE REJECT any moves toward autocratic political leadership and authoritarian rule. We believe authoritarian political leadership is a theological danger threatening democracy and the common good—and we will resist it.
- WE BELIEVE Jesus when he tells us to go into all nations making disciples. Our churches and our nations are part of an international community whose interests always surpass national boundaries. We in turn should love and serve the world and all its inhabitants rather than to seek first narrow nationalistic prerogatives.
THEREFORE, WE REJECT “America first” as a theological heresy for followers of Christ. While we share a patriotic love for our country, we reject xenophobic or ethnic nationalism that places one nation over others as a political goal.
I believe it is time that we reclaim Jesus and in so doing we will reclaim not only the soul of the nation but our souls.
Read the Entire Statement Here