Along with many other religious leaders, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church signed a pledge to work for social justice in a variety of areas consistent with the Church’s understanding of the gospel. Called the “Campaign to Reclaim Jesus in U.S. Culture,” it rejects as contrary to Jesus’ teaching the resurgence of white nationalism, racism and misogyny in all of its forms. It rejects political language and policies that debase and abandon the most vulnerable. It rejects the pervasive lying that has become normal in public discourse. It rejects movement toward authoritarian rule, and it rejects “America First” as the theological heresy. It calls for following Jesus first in all the ways that the gospel proclaims.
The electronic news release about it invited comments, and the first two decried that there was now no place for conservatives in the Episcopal Church. The majority that followed were enthusiastically supportive, but a significant number complained, in increasingly strident tones, that dragging the Episcopal Church into politics was wrong, especially because it left no place for conservatives.
In related news, articles about the March for Life events held across the country on Saturday, March 24 have generated letters to the editor, and columns from some commentators, complaining that conservative minded students have been left out, their voices muted, and that’s not right.
Indeed, there may be no place in the Church for voices that are willing to tolerate racism, misogyny, policies that hurt the most vulnerable, habitual lying by public leaders, authoritarian rule, and nationalism that displaces discipleship. Satisfied with liturgy, music and preaching that remains sufficiently aloof from real life struggles for society to become more just, they’ve effectively muffled many, perhaps most, Episcopal clergy from making Christ’s voice heard in the public arena. It has allowed other voices claiming Christ’s authority to form powerful political movements promoting stands on issues that sometimes appear antithetical to all that Jesus taught. And if not antithetical, then leaving no room for other views, faithfully held, and firmly grounded in scripture.
Indeed, there may be no room for conservative minded students to join in the March for Life events, if conservative minded means advocacy of unrestricted gun rights, or a desire to highjack the Marches with some other agenda.
Voices that claim to represent conservatism, something about which I have strong doubts, have long complained that they were the forgotten ones, the downtrodden ones, the left behind ones. Nothing proved it to them more than the decline in well paid factory jobs for marginally educated persons, and the enormous turnout for Obama in his two elections. Yet backed by the earlier Moral Majority, then the tea partiers, NRA, talk radio, propagandizing t.v., and finally the election of a morally corrupt president backed by self proclaimed Christian evangelicals, they have been heard loud and clear for their endorsement of positions and policies threatening democracy, social justice, and economic well being for all.
No, there is no room for those voices in the Campaign to Reclaim Jesus in U.S. Culture, nor in the Marches for Life.
There are rooms for them, and they are free to make use of them, as they have already done with great effect. They are even free to claim they speak for Jesus, and the right to own carry all the guns they want. They are free to condemn homosexuality. They are free to demand that their religious freedom allows them to discriminate in public business. They are free to demand that the coercive power of the state be used to ban all abortions. They are free to demand that the coercive power of the state be banned from interfering in their private and public lives. They are free to claim they are conservatives.
They are not free to inject that into rooms where other voices are being raised.
And before the most frequent objection is made: it is wrong for protesters to boo down and drown out invited speakers they don’t like. Listen first, then boo; listen in stony silence with no response; don’t go at all; demonstrate outside without blocking others from attending. But never shut down an invited speaker no matter how repulsive the message may be.