The Things We Choose to Talk About
"I cringe at what pastors may say from the pulpit tomorrow"
The text came through the day of the protests and attack in Charlottesville. My friend wondering how her white pastor and predominately white church would react to what happened. She soon had her answer. And texted me again
"So nothing from *Name of church redacted* today. Not even a prayer???? We at least prayed for Ferguson during Mike Brown. This is BS"
My friend is of mixed race. She has spent most of her life navigating two different worlds' points of view. She has worked hard and generally been able to understand the views of each world even when they were in conflict. But as she sat in her church that Sunday she couldn't understand anymore. She felt ignored. The message she received was that the pain she was experiencing didn't even merit a mealy mouthed "let's pray for our nation" much less a full throat denunciation of racism. A few years ago when her city was considering passing an LGBTQ anti discrimination bill her pastor felt this was apparently a big enough deal to talk about it from his pulpit...to encourage his congregation on the "right way to vote"....to give them signs to put up in their yard declaring their intention to vote that "right way."
But on this particular Sunday he couldn't muster up the words. The words to call what happened in Charlottesville what it was. Racism. Evil. Sin. He proved the phrase that day "white silence is white violence." The pain my friend felt that day was violent. Visceral. She's still struggling with it. Unsure of how to go on. How to keep serving her church faithfully the way she has been for so many years. Her message wondering why going unanswered. Her voice silenced.
The things we choose to talk about matter. Last week a group of (mostly white) Evangelical pastors from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood released a statement. Called the Nashville statement one of the many things it declared was that LGBTQ relationships cannot ever be correct in the sight of God and that those participating in such relationships are departing from "Christian faithfulness and witness". The statement goes even further to say "We deny that approval of homosexual immorality or transgenderism is a matter of moral indifference about which otherwise faithful Christians should agree to disagree." So it's not just my friends who are gay and in committed relationships who can't be faithful Christians, but by affirming their relationships neither can I.
It was imperative to these leaders of the faith to get this statement out. Not so imperative? Their need to speak after Charlottesville. There was no "Charlottesville statement" saying that not only those who march as Neo Nazi's step outside the Christian faith, but those who affirm them (or should I say "see violence on many sides?) step outside it too. How could they issue such a statement? To do so would indict the president many of them voted for and continue to support.
It's hard to speak truth to power. It's hard to speak truth to your pews that don't want to hear it. They don't want to hear that their church building has been a haven for people who espouse terrible views about those created in God's image. They don't want to hear how even if they're good people they can sometimes in word and action support a systemic racism that has kept their brothers and sisters of color living as second class citizens since the moment they first unwilling arrived on our shores. They don't want to hear that in our desire to protect our seats of power and position we threw our lot in with a man who has no interest in the things that most interested Jesus. They don't want to hear that.
So instead we choose to talk about the easy thing. The thing that doesn't require us to look at the beam in our own eye but rather the speck in our brothers. We use our pulpit, our words, our declarations to draw a line in the sand on a issue that frankly has already been drawn by us a thousand times before. We didn't need a Nashville Statement...we needed a Charlottesville statement. Did anyone not know what these certain people thought about LGBTQ issues? I don't think so. We didn't need a Nashville Statement...we needed a Charlottesville statement.
What we didn't know was what these people thought about Charlottesville. Just like my friend doesn't really know what her pastor thought about it. She knows what he thinks about LGBTQ "issues". She knows that loud and clear. The things we choose to talk about are a good indication of what it's in our very souls. Now where have I heard that before?
Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. (Matthew 12:34)
Those who signed the Nashville statement and were silent after Charlottesville...my friends pastor. You'll forgive us if the next time you stand on moral authroity to tell us how to live lives of Christian faithfulness we don't pay as much attention. We've seen the things you choose to talk about and the things you choose to stay silent about.
We'll focus on the speck in our eye and leave you to the one in yours.