The images of tiki torches and the shouts of racial slur have taken the news cycle by storm here at the end of the summer. The President was called to condemn, the pundits were looking for baffling ways to explain, and it seems like the division in our country have scraped the bottom of the barrel of humanity.
As the story unfolded in the White House, we watched as statements were made condemning the hatred, then equating two groups as equally responsible for violence, and then a flip flop for more condemning. It certainly was a head spin. But in the middle of it all, the advisory committee of business leaders supposed to be at the President’s manufacturing and business counsel, disappeared.
CEO’s from Johnson and Johnson, GE, Under Armor, Intel, 3M, and many more decided to resign from the counsel in protest to the President’s Comments. In an effort to save face, the President decided to disband the committee before the last CEO remained standing.
As I watched the business leaders of the world leave the table from this controversy, I decided to take a peak at the religious leaders willing to take a stand at condemning White Supremacists, the neo-nazi movement, and the KKK. What I found was disturbing.
The Atlantic reported all the religious leaders standing up for race and denouncing groups. The article references Jack Graham from Texas and Russell Moore from the Southern Baptists, but as far as a wide swath of evangelical leaders – SILENCE. Even Franklin Graham was unable to denounce the White Supremacists by issuing a statement like this, “pray for Governor of Virginia Terry McAuliffe, law enforcement, and everyone struggling to deal with the chaos and violence that reared its ugly head in Charlottesville.” Noticeably leaving out any hint of the ugliness of race violence by naming the groups involved.
May Catholic Bishops and African American church leaders came out strongly against the racial divide, but evangelicals, especially those affiliated with the President’s spiritual counsel were silent and remain in their positions.
I found it odd that business leaders were able to stand up to the push of the White Supremacy in Charlottesville, but the Religious leaders stood by silent. Why would a group who promotes the “Creation of Mankind in God’s Image” be unable, or worse, unwilling to stand up for minority groups in our country?
After all, wasn’t that Jesus’ mission?
He stood up for the ‘poor in spirit’ giving them access to the Kingdom of God in Matthew 5.
He wiped the tears of the prostitute as she poured oil on his head.
He gave value to the tax collector, the most vile of the community.
He healed, He fed, He broke down all the walls of “Us vs. Them” and gave a new vision of what it meant to be a part of the human community.
So where are the religious leaders today?
Optically, it seems like the business leaders of America are standing in solidarity with the broader conversation of racial divide, while the evangelical leaders are standing with…well, the Presidential Ambiguity. (to be fair, in the middle of the controversy the President finally denounced Neo-Nazi’s, White Supremacist by name, but then reverted to the comment “There were good people on both sides” in later comments)
I found a Progressive Report that quoted a few evangelical leaders of the President’s counsel, all of which have decided to stay in close proximity to power.
Now, I understand the noble honor of standing beside someone in a time in history that is difficult and in need of spiritual advisors. Even Tony Campolo stood beside President Clinton when it was unpopular, during the impeachment hearings of the late 90’s, and he took HELL from the faith community for it. And if that’s the reason faith leaders are willing to stay silent and underground, I get it.
Often times sensitive counseling happens in the shadows of the media, and progress can be much greater in quiet. After all It’s one thing to operate under the radar, giving advisory counsel to the President, and maybe that’s the right thing to do. Maybe, in this instance it’s better to hang in there with the President and continue helping him see the faith implications of this race war rather than leaving a void.
But if by chance that’s not the case, we’re watching the moral authority from the evangelical community continue to erode around the need to be in proximity to power, well we’re watching in real time the reason why so many young people are leaving the faith in droves.
So what is actually going on here?
Are the religious leaders able to stand up to the President when race rears it’s ugly head?
Or, fearfully, is power and the proximity to power, something that’s blinded today’s Evangelical Tradition?
Many of you know, I’m the father to two beautiful African American children. We were the victims of graffiti the night after the election with clear racial phrases and disgusting phallic symbols chalked on my home. So this kind of hits closer to my narrative than many of my white friends.
If the option of power and proximity to power is the answer, let me join with many colleagues who are saying, THIS IS THE BEGINNING OF THE END.
For those willing to justify their political affiliation within their religious communities when standing in the face of right and wrong, God will not be mocked. He will not stand in unison with people willing to negotiate the creation of all mankind by using His name as the justifying catalyst.
And if the judgement of God isn’t enough, the mass migration of the next generation will usher in a European like void in the monstrous mega-churches who avoid this issue. The next generation of spiritual journeymen and women will call into account where you stood during this cultural crisis, and they will no longer attend, give, or be affiliated with your brand.
Like the moments through history where we remember where we were…
The assassination of John F. Kennedy.
The Moon Landing
The Challenger Disaster
The next generation will remember where you were when you decided to stand idly by in the face of power.
This is no longer a subjective conversation. Either you’re going to stand up for those oppressed by the threat of violence, or you will remain quiet to justify your political affiliation.
My hope is, there are good people willing to give the President sound advice, but if my gut is right; and power and political party are variables in this equation, this will be the end of evangelicalism as known for the last hundred years in America.
And maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
I’ve been watching the moral center shifting in America for the last several years.
I’ve seen the voice the evangelical church once held powerful begin to diminish, and the most unusual outlets are calling on moral clarity.
Even the renowned atheist Bill Maher on his weekly HBO show REAL TIME, has called evangelical guests to task by inciting the teachings and principles of Jesus in the midst of their own political decisions. It’s kind of interesting to watch areas of culture begin to shift like this.
On a recent addition of REAL TIME, Maher asked Tony Perkins (President of the Family Research Council) about the differences between current political ideas and what Jesus would do?
Imagine that? An atheist employing Jesus? It certainly feels like we’re living in an alternative universe.
My hope is the silence from faith leaders is loudly operating in the hallways and the backrooms of strategic ways for Christians to come to the aid of our brothers and sisters.
My optimism wants to take over and think, we’re just on the verge of seeing a huge impact when people who follow Jesus will actually put aside politics and stand together against hatred for the good of all mankind.
But my realism kicks in and wonders, Do leaders have the moral courage to come out to be together, or will the temptation to collude with power be too intoxicating?
I suppose we’ll see in days to come.