Dear Evangelicals and Progressive Liberals
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I write to you by the power of the Holy Spirit that you all received when you accepted Christ as your savior. It is to you whom I write because the world is watching. I love the church but we have got some work to do.
To my evangelicals that are on the conservative right you may not be outwardly celebrating but you are happy today. To my progressive liberals that are on the left you are upset and enraged today because you feel like you have been let down. I want you to know that you both need Jesus just as much as the poor and marginalized need him. I’ve had the opportunity, pleasure, or even duty to be amongst many of you from different cultures, backgrounds, and socioeconomic statuses that are completely different than my own. I often ask God why do you continue to put me in places and around people who can think a lot differently than I do? Then there are times when I ask God why do you have me around people who seem to have the same care and thoughts for the marginalized as I do, but don’t recognize their own privilege and colonial behavior? It is in these devotional times that I found myself in the gospels hearing the voice of God to be the prophetic voice to a stiff neck people who He says, “I have given them over to their own lustful ways.”
This election cycle was about two things: Identity politics and rebellion against the status quo. Let me first deal with identity politics. I have wrestled with trying to understand how a Jesus loving sect of Christianity, namely white evangelicals could support a man who is totally contrary to who Jesus is. I have taken the time to listen. What I have heard are things such as “He’ll make sure our conservative Christian values will be intact. Then they will back it up with scripture to convince me of their logical choice because there is no way they could support a “baby killing liar.” Yet, when the behavior of the president elect Trump is brought into question it gets dismissed as “he’s just being stupid.” “I hate when he does that” or “We need to pray for him and still be the church to the broken and lost.”
What I have really come to understand in all of this is the lust for power and privilege. When you are used to be in control and setting the rules life is great and on your terms. When you begin to lose that sense of control there is a feeling you get of being left-behind in this world. What does control look like to a mainline evangelical church? It looks like 300 billion dollars in giving without paying taxes because you are identified as a 501c3. One of the things that the you were really afraid of in a Clinton presidency was the fear of losing your non-profit status. It meant that the church would have to begin paying on that 300 billion. The reality of that brought fear because now people who had resources couldn’t hide their money from the government and pass is through a Christian non-profit. This is not an indictment on the wealthy. Jesus never said it was a sin to have wealth. He did though condemn how it is used and our hearts being bent towards it as a counterfeit god. In 1968 Martin Luther King Jr. preached a sermon called “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.” In that sermon he spoke of wealthy people and their responsibility towards the poor.
“Jesus told a parable one day, and he reminded us that a man went to hell because he didn’t see the poor. His name was Dives. He was a rich man. And there was a man by the name of Lazarus who was a poor man, but not only was he poor, he was sick. Sores were all over his body, and he was so weak that he could hardly move. But he managed to get to the gate of Dives every day, wanting just to have the crumbs that would fall from his table. And Dives did nothing about it. And the parable ends saying, "Dives went to hell, and there were a fixed gulf now between Lazarus and Dives."
There is nothing in that parable that said Dives went to hell because he was rich. Jesus never made a universal indictment against all wealth. It is true that one day a rich young ruler came to him, and he advised him to sell all, but in that instance Jesus was prescribing individual surgery and not setting forth a universal diagnosis. And if you will look at that parable with all of its symbolism, you will remember that a conversation took place between heaven and hell, and on the other end of that long-distance call between heaven and hell was Abraham in heaven talking to Dives in hell.
Now Abraham was a very rich man. If you go back to the Old Testament, you see that he was the richest man of his day, so it was not a rich man in hell talking with a poor man in heaven; it was a little millionaire in hell talking with a multimillionaire in heaven. Dives didn’t go to hell because he was rich; Dives didn’t realize that his wealth was his opportunity. It was his opportunity to bridge the gulf that separated him from his brother Lazarus. Dives went to hell because he was passed by Lazarus every day and he never really saw him. He went to hell because he allowed his brother to become invisible. Dives went to hell because he maximized the minimum and minimized the maximum. Indeed, Dives went to hell because he sought to be a conscientious objector in the war against poverty.
And this can happen to America, the richest nation in the world—and nothing’s wrong with that—this is America’s opportunity to help bridge the gulf between the haves and the have-nots. The question is whether America will do it. There is nothing new about poverty. What is new is that we now have the techniques and the resources to get rid of poverty. The real question is whether we have the will.”
At the end of the day you will be judged with how you gave liberally to those in need. Are you really interested in investing in those lives or just offering crumbs?
This political cycle was also a rebellion against the status quo. My white Christian liberals who I love as well are also under judgement. While many of you do identify with the poor you still use your privilege when you need to. Most of my adult life has been around white Christian liberals who are all for social justice and equality which is a value I hold dear in my heart. What is frustrating about our friendship is that you become patronizing and oppressive in your attempts to help and empower. The frustrating part about your cause in this election was that you were the ones who were the Occupy Wall Street types but wanted a candidate that supported Wall Street.
I use to be an educator in the charter school world. We had many educators who were running those schools as principals, CEO’s and/or who were teaching in the classrooms where black and brown children learned. The question that I would often ask my white liberal friends was “Why don’t your kids go here?” That is indicative of Christian liberals who march with us, cry with us, but when it means to live in complete community with the poor you exercise your privilege by putting your own children in schools that are not failing like the ones you teach. Or homeschool your children because you can exercise your privilege for your own family interest but the people you serve don't have that opportunity. You have just as much opportunity as the conservative Christian does. You run in the same circles and have some of the same connections and access to resources. The gospels had a man whom I would call a liberal thinker who had access to resources too. His name was Zacchaeus. Jesus challenged him with his money in Luke 19:1-10.
“He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Jesus challenged this man’s lifestyle and Zacchaeus demonstrated joyfully by giving up half of his stuff and as a result Jesus responds and says, “Salvation has come to this house.”
In both stories that I share today challenges both conservatives and liberals all of whom have access to great resources. The gospel challenges both groups to give up what they hold dear if they are ever going to enter the Kingdom of God. We are all going to be judged at the end of the day on how we treated one another and how we treated God. Let’s not mask our own selfish desires for power and privilege with self-righteous narratives against one another. We all need a savior to redeem and rescue us from ourselves.
What an incredible time we live in. This is a time for the true church to emerge. This is a time for those who have been screaming from the margins to step into an opportunity to bridge divides and to calm fears. This is an opportunity for the gospel of reconciliation and liberation to be preached. This is an incredible time for the people of God to demonstrate justice, mercy and humility. What will we do in this new reality?