“We have learned a bit too late in the day that action springs not from thought but from a readiness for responsibility.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison
I suspect that there are many believers who, like me, wonder just how long evil will have to persist before the righteous rise up to renounce it. We may know what we think personally about some issues, but we either don’t know or don’t seek to know what to do.
But across every generation there are those voices–like singer/songwriter Keith Green–who urge us to action:
The world is sleeping in the dark
That the Church just can’t fight-–
Cause It’s asleep in the light.
How can you be so dead
When you’ve been so well fed?
Jesus rose from the grave
And you, you can’t even get out of bed!
After 40 years of legalized abortion in America…
after hearing that our current president’s priority is to further undermine traditional marriage…
knowing that this administration is committed to a national health care scheme which strikes at the heart of Christian conscience…
and witnessing how society is debilitated more and more as the family unit is weakened and redefined…
Is the Church finally ready for action?
The answer may be yes, or the first stirrings of YES. I was encouraged to read in our local paper (The News-Sentinel of Fort Wayne, IN) last week about an ecumenical group of more than 130 local priests and pastors of various denominations who have banded together in a group calling itself Shepherds United, which exists to promote life, traditional marriage and religious liberty–“a response to the erosion of values firmly rooted in both Scripture and the American cultural and political tradition.”
In his article dated January 12, 2013, Kevin Leininger writes:
Unlike some churches on either political fringe, most of the denominations represented at this week’s news conference – mostly Catholics and Missouri-Synod Lutherans but others too – do not regularly mix worship and politics, at least not in a partisan sense. And when my pastor does mention abortion, same-sex marriage or other contemporary social issues in a sermon, it’s usually in the context of that day’s Scripture readings.
That’s because Christ created the church primarily not to make this a better world but to proclaim the Gospel of forgiveness and eternal life – the very thing I suspect all of the clergy members gathered in the Courthouse rotunda this week would have preferred to be doing.
But the church also exists to call people to repentance and to urge Christians to put their faith into action for the benefit of others. Shepherds United is perfectly consistent with both those missions.
The group is equally consistent with centuries of American tradition, from the rights granted by the Creator acknowledged in Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence to the role of the church in ending slavery, Jim Crow and the war on poverty.
…In that context, a failure to respond would represent not only an abdication of citizenship, but would border on theological malpractice.
In the very same spirit, on a national level, the Roman Catholic Church has declared 2013 to be The Year of Faith, and is calling for prayer and fasting on behalf of Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty.
As heartened as I am at these resolutions, I could wish that there was a more humble spirit, like that of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor who spoke out so forcefully against the anti-Christian horrors in Nazi Germany. Here is an excerpt from his book, Ethics, which he was writing during the early years of the Third Reich:
“The Church confesses that it has not professed openly and clearly enough its message of the one God, revealed for all times in Jesus Christ and tolerating no other gods besides…
“The Church was mute when it should have cried out, because the blood of the innocent cried out to heaven…
“The Church has looked on while injustice and violence have been done, under the cover of the name of Christ. It has even allowed the most holy name to be openly derided without contradiction and has thus encouraged that derision…
“The Church confesses that it has coveted security, tranquility, peace, property, and honor to which it had no claim, and therefore has not bridled human covetousness, but promoted it.”
We Christians who have not been outspoken in our denunciation of evil DO need to repent it. And we need to pray that any actions we take as the Church now are not too little too late.