Getting Political

On NPR’s “Fresh Air,” aired May 19, 2022, host Dave Davies related this story, “In 2020, Daniel Darling, an evangelical author and spokesman for the National Religious Broadcasters, spoke out in favor of COVID-19 vaccinations after his family had contracted the virus and his kids’ piano teacher had died from it. The resulting furor from religious conservatives angered by Darling’s embrace of the vaccine soon cost him his job.”

Mr. Davies’ guest on the show was Ruth Graham, a Dallas-based national correspondent for the New York Times, covering religion, faith and values. She stated that “the (Daniel Darling) episode is far from an isolated case.” She related the story of Rev. Kevin Thompson, pastor of Community Bible Church in Ft. Smith, Arkansas. Rev. Thompson, not in church, but in his blog, spoke out against a political candidate, and later, also in the blog, used the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” Rev. Thompson and his family were made uncomfortable enough that they ultimately moved to Sacramento, California, where he is an Associate Pastor at a larger church.

I remember, when we were young in First Presbyterian Church of Battle Creek, Michigan, the then pastor, Rev. David Robertson, spoke out against the serving of alcohol at C. O. Brown Stadium. Rev. Robertson became the recipient of significant criticism for his stance on that issue. Rev. Robertson weathered the conflict, however, and served First Presbyterian for several more years, as I recall. The Rev. Robertson story is related from my being in the congregation for that sermon, and from my
memory of the rumors floating after, certainly nothing that would “stand up in court.”

This from the PCUSA Book of Order:

“F-1.0304 The Great Ends of the Church

The great ends of the Church are:
the proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of humankind;
the shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the children of God;
the maintenance of divine worship;
the preservation of the truth;
the promotion of social righteousness;
and the exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world.”

Note that two of the “ends” of the church are, “the preservation of the truth,” and “the promotion of social righteousness.”

In the past three weeks, THREE WEEKS, gun violence claimed ten lives in Buffalo, New York, killed nineteen children and two of their teachers in Uvalde, Texas, and now, as I write, a story is unfolding in a Tulsa, Oklahoma hospital. Something must be done. But if we bring up gun control, we are “getting political,” and are encouraged to “sit down and shut up.” An appropriate definition of “getting political,” in my opinion, goes something like this: when the speaker says something the listener disagrees with, doesn’t like, or is uncomfortable with, the speaker has gotten political.

“Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:9, NIV

We need to get political. We need to “Speak up and judge fairly.” We need to “defend the rights (and well being) of the poor and needy.” We need to encourage our pastors, current and future to get political, to “speak up.” We may hear something that makes us squirm in our pew or raises our blood pressure, but it will be something we need to hear. Could the quote from Commodore Perry, as rewritten by cartoonist Walt Kelly, “We have met the enemy, and he is us,” actually apply to our
unwillingness to take a stand? As others send thoughts and prayers, consider this thought, that our God’s answer to those prayers might just be our activism.

Bob Bullard