Dear church leaders,
Particularly those of you leading churches in America. I used to be a church leader. I don’t envy you this weekend.
It’s hard being a church leader. It gets really tricky around times like these. It’s hard when you have deeply held beliefs, both spiritual and political but lead a group with a diverse range of beliefs. I’ve been there with Brexit, I desperately wanted us to stay in the EU and probably did an extremely poor job of keeping that under wraps. It’s hard to hide our feelings.
The wisdom passed down is that we should keep our mouths shut. Never share our opinion on political things. I see some wisdom there but I think these are days when we have to speak out.
The world is watching and many are aghast at just how quickly draconian and oppressive policies are flowing from the Oval Office in the Trump White House. This week we have heard that ‘torture works, that refugees are a threat to the US.’ The borders of the richest country in the world are now closed to the most vulnerable and desperate people on the planet. The most heavily armed nation on earth is closed to destitute and desperate Syrian families, because they pose a threat.
I know it is hard to speak out. I know that the issue of abortion is woven deep through the culture of Christianity, nowhere more than in the US. I know that during the Obama Presidency the church feels that it lost huge battles in the so called ‘culture wars.’ I know you feel views of morality have been forced upon you. I heard your protests. I know that Hillary Clinton seemed like more of the same to you and you wanted anyone but her. I know that Donald Trump spoke of his pro-life convictions and that he stood against what you see as the liberal destruction of family values. Whilst I don’t think he is any more pro-christian values than Clinton, that is no longer relevant. She lost. He won. All the attention is on him now. She is no longer relevant, her day is done.
Tell me that when you heard the words ‘torture absolutely works’ coming from the same mouth that, in the same interview, criticised barbaric states around the world for torturing their prisoners, your spirit groaned. Tell me that when you were told that refugees, bombed out of their homes, bereaved, desperate, afraid and homeless were a danger that something in your heart broke. Tell me you heard the voice of Jesus, ‘this is not my way.’
Tell me that Jesus call to love your enemies echoed loud in your ears when the President of the United States spoke of his desire to open black sites to torture those who see the US as their enemy. Tell me that the call of Jesus to serve the least of his brothers and sisters didn’t echo in your ears as the president shut Syrians out.
I’ve read your tweets and your Facebook posts. I’ve read your blogs and watched your videos this week. Whatever my personal views are, I watched the hashtag #marchforlife celebrate the mass movement of people in celebration and defence of life. I watched you applaud the Vice President, Mike Pence, as he said life was being supported in America again. I have watched for years as the US church has galvanised around abortion. The US church are a powerful group of people that can effect policy and get candidates elected, and you are a leader in that group. Please don’t waste your power, your influence and your voice.
In Proverbs 31:8-10, King Solomon, wrote what I feel is a call to the church in light of this week;
Speak out on behalf of the voiceless,
and for the rights of all who are vulnerable.
Speak out in order to judge with righteousness
and to defend the needy and the poor.
I know you know this verse, it’s a pro-life standard. It’s more relevant this week than ever. Life that is under threat spreads long after 26 weeks gestation. The voiceless life of the already born Syrian, men, women and children need your voice. The voiceless life of orphans, widows and broken people need your voice. When Jesus spoke of the least of these, this is who he meant. When Solomon spoke of the voiceless, the vulnerable, the needy and the poor, this is who he meant. If you’re serious about being an Evangelical, bible-believing, gospel driven leader, then you have to be serious about this. You have to speak out.
I know people are scared that the Syrians are coming to kill them. Fear is a powerful thing isn’t it? As a leader you’re called not to give way to fear but to conquer it with love that casts out all fear. So deal in facts and deal in hope. The proportion of refugees that have had any link to terror in the US since 9/11 is 0.00038%. This is not a number to be afraid of. The percentage of serious harm from taking an Advil is hundreds of times higher.
However, that’s not the point is it? This isn’t about the statistics around a threat. We don’t deal in fear in the church of Jesus Christ. We deal in hope. We teach of a God who protects and who guides. We teach from a Bible that repeatedly tells us not to be afraid, not to fear, not to dismay but to hope, to have faith, to stand strong. This weekend please take your responsibility seriously and speak on behalf of the weak and the vulnerable. Please speak out against this. Please speak in defence of the refugee.
It’s harder than ever to speak out against a policy or a position of a political figure because we are instantly cast as being a supporter of their opponents. That’s hard for an American church leader who must speak out against the policies of the pro-life candidate. I know that you’d be afraid that your congregation will call you a liberal, or even worse a Democrat. Please don’t give into that fear. Please speak loudly about being pro-life if that is your opinion, but this week speak out about the fact that it is impossible to be pro-life and not include the already born. Speak out and say that it is impossible to be pro-life and believe in torture of the living. Speak out and say that it is impossible to be pro-life and believe that refugees fleeing the murderous cult of ISIS, the destructive Assad regimes and coalition and Russian bombs, lives are not worth taking the risk of helping.
This Sunday stand in your churches and preach boldly that you believe in life. Use your voice for the voiceless, use your voice for the vulnerable. Speak out about the torture of prisoners. Use your voice for the religious freedom of Muslims. Don’t be fooled, if a government doesn’t believe in the religious freedom of one group because a tiny percentage of those claiming that religion pose a threat, then that same government doesn’t believe in freedom of religion at all.
I know you’ve noticed these things. I know your heart has been grieved and offended this week by what is pouring from the White House. I know that if you read the same Bible and follow the same Jesus that I follow that you have deep convictions for the protection of the weak. I know you’re paying attention.
I also know it is hard to speak out. I know it is hard to stand in front of a church and share your convictions. Your job is tied up in your beliefs. Your home is sometimes part of that job. I know that your friendships are often based on your job. I know that your kids already get enough attention because of what you do. I know that you feel isolated and lonely already. I know that the thought of putting your head above the parapet in support and defence of the weak and to raise your voice against the most powerful man in the world is scary but we cannot stay silent anymore. I know it keeps you awake at night.
I know that you know that God is on the side of the refugee. The Old Testament is the story of a refugee people finding their way back to freedom as they flee an oppressive regime. Jesus is from that refugee people calling all of us back to that same God.
Please, as you gather your thoughts for tomorrow’s prayers and sermons commit yourself to raising your voice and calling on your people to do the same. The world is watching and listening for your voice. Don’t hide your light under a bushel. Don’t pass by on the other side. Don’t pray that they will remain warm and well fed, whilst giving nothing to their cause. Be a voice of hope, of welcome, of safety and refuge. Be the voice of Jesus into the noise. Speak and speak and loudly, even if your heart is terrified.
I’m praying for you. May you know His strength tomorrow.