Pastoral Reflection on Current Events
Dear members and friends,
I was deeply troubled by what I witnessed at our nation’s Capitol Building last Wednesday. I submitted an op-ed to the Cincinnati Enquirer on Tuesday of this week. My experience is that it has been exceedingly difficult to get my thoughts published. The editor has explained to me that the paper receives, literally, thousands of editorials. In any case, I wanted all of you to hear my pastoral reflections and give them consideration.
If you wonder why I do these things, I'll be glad to chat with you. For now, a brief explanation. In my estimation, this is a Kairos moment when the voice of Christianity must be clear. As a lifelong Lutheran, as a Lutheran pastor, and as a person of German descent, the silence of German, Lutheran clergy during the extermination of Jews and oppressed people in the last century weighs very heavily on me. If I am troubled by that silence, then surely I cannot be a silent Christian leader today.
Public engagement is our calling as Lutheran Christians. This is precisely why I will be leading our adult Sunday School class in the study of the recent ELCA Social Message on civic engagement. That message states, in part, “Over time Lutherans have learned that energetic civic engagement is part of their baptismal vocation, both as individuals and through the church’s corporate witness. Such civic participation is not simply voluntary, idealistic, or altruistic. The ELCA holds to the biblical idea that God calls God’s people to be active citizens and to ensure that everyone benefits from the good of government (Jeremiah 29:7 and Romans 13:1-7)
The events that took place at our nation’s Capitol Building on January 6 call every American to a time of pause and reflection. I have no education or experience to opine on what should take place legally or legislatively. However, as an ordained clergyperson who saw the cross on the flags of some people in the mob and at least one person in the violent crowd holding up the Holy Bible, the sacred Word of Christians, I do have thoughts in that regard. Those individuals do not represent my understanding of Christianity nor the Lord proclaimed in Holy Scripture. Lest any person be confused, that voice and those actions purporting to represent the Christian faith do not square with my interpretation of the teachings of Jesus.
I am called to reflect on the Christian response to what has been spoken in the public square of late.
When some Christians tolerate that immigrants are stereotyped as rapists and drug lords, when immigrant children are separated from their parents at the border, and when walls are built to keep out powerless people fleeing violence and seeking asylum from our generous, merciful, and just nation, my faith, rather, is that they are to be welcomed and cared for.
While some Christians have applauded the meteoric rise in the stock market (I confess that my 503(b) retirement account has appreciated significantly), I have been troubled by the widening chasm between the small minority of Americans who are very wealthy and the majority who are poor and hungry. The Bible teaches that the one who had much did not have too much and the one who had little did not have too little. When the government issued stimulus checks last year, many fully-employed Christians that I know, myself included, contributed those funds to ministries that feed hungry people who have been economically devastated during this pandemic.
While some Christians have remained silent and tolerated language that speaks in a manner accepting of racists, I have been motivated to join other faith-minded people in working to break down the walls of racial division. In our community, we founded Anderson Churches for Racial Unity, an organization that seeks to educate our community on the sin of racism.
While wearing protective masks became politicized, I can only understand wearing a mask as a sign of neighbor love. A Christian willingly makes personal sacrifices for the common good.
As I looked at and listened to the angry crowd that invaded our Capitol, I could only think of the stern biblical warning against the worship of idols. I was reminded of the words of the angry crowd at the trial of Jesus, “We have no king but the emperor.”
I support law and order, peaceful protest, and the pursuit of justice. The cross and Bible in the midst of a violent mob are antithetical to those beliefs. Please do not be confused by the militarization of the fundamental symbols of our faith or the perversion of Christianity that marginalizes oppressed and powerless groups of people even further. Rather consider, there is a Christian voice that sees the image of God in our neighbor, offers welcome to the marginalized, and compassionate generosity to the poor. That is my understanding of the Christian faith and I know many other people who believe likewise. Though we may not be the loudest voice in the media, we do speak through our actions that call us to peaceful citizenship and love of the neighbor. It is a sad irony that on the very day of the Festival of the Epiphany, when the Church recognizes Jesus made known to the Gentiles in the visit of the Magi and their worship of the Christ child, some who claim to be Christian would use the cross and the Bible in the midst of perpetrating violence and breaking the law in His Name!
Blessed be the Prince of Peace and all who pursue the way of peace.
Pastor Henry Zorn