The 21st Century Church Must Reclaim Its Moral Authority

A few weeks ago I was having a conversation with a pastor colleague about the sociopolitical and economic state of America and the rise of Donald Trump. His immediate response was, “I do not answer to Donald Trump, I answer to God.” While the latter may be true, his response in my opinion lacked the moral fervor required of a minister and it is antithetical to the prophetic office. Put simply, his response served as a deviation from the conversation-- so that he did not have to take responsibility or be held accountable for not speaking truth to power.

I have found that this is true of many ministers. But, the fact of the matter is, there are people in their congregation, I can imagine, who choose to answer to God, but are still adversely affected by a myriad of immoral governmental policies that requires something more than prayer. It requires us to blend our prayer with our protest, which means that we must take a practical stand for justice not just with our words but with our actions.

I often lament at the 21st century church who seems to be concerned more with ascertaining material wealth, rather than the spiritual and social empowerment of humanity. The church as an institution is at eye-level with the many issues and challenges that we face in society, yet many of them remain silent when it comes to engaging the public square.

Many would much rather engage in sanitized and deodorized discourse around important social concerns such as immigration, abortion, sexual violence, and racial justice to name a few-- instead of engaging in authentic truth-telling and raising its moral voice to effectuate change. Why is this? Is it because ministers would rather play it safe and not run the risk of losing the support of the plutocrats and oligarchs? Are modern day prophets simply afraid to put their life on the line for the sake of the Gospel? Or is it because they are counterfeit prophetic representatives masquerading as prophets?

I don’t know and I don’t pretend to know the answer. I continue to wrestle with these questions even in my own ministry. Nonetheless, all I know is— the job of a prophet is to function as repositories of truth. Prophets are not restricted to the four walls of the church, but prophets take the pulpit to the streets. Hence, prophets are not popular, because they speak what is right, and not what is politically expedient to appease the masses (Isaiah 30:10).

What I have discovered is that churches must reclaim their moral authority if we are to experience true freedom and liberation from the shackles of bondage, discrimination, racial injustice, and other wide-ranging social inequalities. Churches are powerful, transformative, and influential social institutions that has the power to alter and reshape the course of history just as Martin Luther King Jr. and others did through the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

Nonetheless, based on my exegetical and hermeneutical imagination, I have come to the understanding that the church is an outward manifestation of an inward truth. In other words, the church exists in society as a personified embodiment of the kingdom of God. It has a role inside and outside of the church. Therefore, the Christian community has a moral and ethical obligation to stand flatfooted against systems of marginalization that demoralizes and corrodes the integrity and dignity of humanity.

This quest for justice and liberation summons the collective participation of all people, but it especially petitions the ‘haves’ in society to show compassion to those living on the margins and to divest themselves of their privilege. It is a clarion call that bends in the direction of the poor. And, more importantly, it is a call to accountability for those who are tasked with carrying the message of the Gospel— to speak the unadulterated truth in season and out of season. The prophet Micah reminds us of what God requires of us, and that is to act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).

For that reason, the church must not passively legitimize the status quo by remaining silent in the midst of brewing governmental chaos. It is time that the church reawakens and begin to stand against the embarrassing debauchery of Trumpism, the volatile political attack against Muslims, the violent assault perpetrated against black and brown bodies, the aggressive and perverted attack on women and their reproductive health, the vitriolic rhetoric against Mexicans, and the vicious and malicious attack against Obamacare. Now is the time that the church return to its rightful place and pick up the cross and walk-- by extending its hands to the foreigner and the stranger, the widow and the orphan, the left-out and the strung-out, the outcast and the outsider, the alien and the leper. It is when we do this that we will be truly reconciled to others, to ourselves, and to God. Remember: Love Trumps Hate.

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