Copyright ©2018 - Carlyle Fielding Stewart, III, All Rights Reserved.
Jan 2018 23

“A Word to My Fellow Christians On The Present Crises.”

Posted in America, Articles, Compassion, Democracy, Freedom, Leadership

To Fellow Christians Regarding The Present Crises:

To fellow members of the Christian faith and others opposing the blending of religion and politics during these volatile and dangerous times in our Republic, I am compelled to take issue with the position that religion and politics be kept separate.

The demand to keep religion out of politics is now the clarion call of some people who prefer to be silent rather than resist what appears to be a gradual and insidious dismantling of government of the people, for the people and by the people.

Many people today advocate complete abstinence from any political discussion about what is politically happening in America and how it is threatening the very existence of our Constitutional Democratic Republic for the simple reason that the “two don’t mix.”

Some of the same people point to the life of Jesus as a non-political or apolitical example of  the need for Christians to stay out of politics but summarily forget that his death on the cross was a form of political execution resulting from his prophetic “Kingdom of God Theology of Engagement” which often clashed with the “Kingdom of Man Politics of Deprivation” of his times.

Still others of the Christian faith declare human rights, and the constitutional principles upon which we stand as individuals and a nation to be nothing more than artifacts of the past; archaic time bound words whose weights, sparks and measures no longer strike the fires of our imaginations or give light to our very souls so that the embers of liberty and justice for all no longer burn in our hearts with unbridled zeal and passion.

It is precisely these fires that have seared so brightly in us that we have taken up the torch lights of freedom which have cast their glow so resplendently upon the darkened paths of our nation’s history and all the world that we dare not snuff them out as some have so urgently urged and demanded.

My dear friends will I remind you that the hallowed words of our spiritual and political forbears in their Exodus and Enlightenment Traditions and of the Prophets and even the earthly ministry of Jesus along with the Magna Carta, the Constitution of the Iroquois Nations and the Three Great Documents of Freedom to name a few, which have paced us to the present point, which are more than mere words confined to nostalgic remembrances of our revolutionary beginnings as a nation but are nuclei of our current enterprise of democracy, embodying the highest virtues essential to the survival of our great republic, and still are not now for many Christians, so vapid, tepid and insipid that we would void them of any credence, power or meaning in the present crises.

Are we now making a mockery of our great traditions of freedom by annulling and casting them into the bonfires of insanity?

Should we still not only reference them, but believe and act and stand on them as guidelines and guide rails for a hopeful and realizable future for our nation?

Our Constitution is not just piece of paper. It is a living organic document for which many have fought, bled and died; the Holy Grail of our collective striving as a nation.

“Leave religion out of politics” they now say? Shall we also adjourn the counsels of rationality and spirituality and let the grief and misery of a so-called lecherous poor and an ungrateful middle class abound resoundingly as the so called Masters of the Universe, the Titans of Technology and Industry, some of the Gilded class and their political poltroons move our nation from sure foundations to the precipices of disaster, and from sudden death to ruin by denuding, devaluing and dismantling our current system of governance?

Our religious and practical faith have always held out the promise of redemptive possibilities amid our human disabilities; moving confidently toward the future knowing that wrongs can be righted and that truth forever on the scaffold and wrong forever on the throne will neither dash nor dim the power of God from keeping watch over his own, but by faith the scaffold of truth will sway ever towards hope, prosperity and justice for all, thus sanctifying and solidifying the higher purposes for which we exist.

“Leave religion out of politics and just quietly pray,”they say, as the hydra of white supremacy again rises; as women, blacks, the sick, the infirm, the aged and disabled, the Dreamers (DACA), Latinos, immigrants, members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer communities, poor and other whites, youths, the elderly, Muslims-the expendables and throwaways- and many others are devalued, denigrated, persecuted and wrongfully deported.

Religion cannot be left out of politics because politics has never fully excavated itself from religion. The foundation of religion thrives on social and political realities that subtly or blatantly infiltrate the mind and culture of devoted followers where they refuse to recognize the god given human rights of marginalized and oppressed groups because” God told them so.” Is such disdain for others politically or religiously inspired? They are inextricably tied and can never be fully separated.

For some the calls to make America great again mask a clandestine urge to make America hate again.

Friends, the sad reality is upon us. The handwriting is on the wall and it is not a forgery. There are many who desire to take this nation back to a time to which our nation still has a hard time honestly looking back, and as some politicians publicly disparage and denounce their own government, put party over country, and generate true lies about where America is headed under their perilous and precarious watch, as true charity for the poor and middle class dry rots in the storehouses of greed and affluenza, and the “religiously political” and the “politically religious” gorge themselves on the bread of betrayal and larger portions of “meat that ye know not of,” doused with “condiments” of resentment, doubt and even despair, will the lot of us imbibe and succumb to the elixirs of hatred and now become the new perilous hosts of “lost souls disease” driving the entire nation into a “slough of despond” while smoldering in the infernos of self-pity and self-destruction pleasing only our enemies who joyously beckon our perishing that they might finally evict American democracy forever from this earth and exert absolute power over us?

What has this our nation come to? Are we permanently turning and collapsing in on ourselves with no hope of ever turning grief into gravy or our swords into plowshares? Why are we wasting so much of our greatest people potential? Why are we tossing to the winds our great heritages of faith and freedom; traditions for which other countries and people so desperately yearn and so indigently and enviously starve and strive? Why have the ghosts of Golgotha returned with such vengeance the past year? Why do hatred, malice, division and confusion now flourish with new found legitimacies, penalties and energies?

A house divided cannot stand!

My fellow Christians and others, must I remind you that elements of the Christian faith have already inspired our pursuits of liberty with good reason, purpose and intention?

The Founding Fathers knew the value of religious beliefs but did not desire any one religion to be representative of government. While I believe in the separation of Church and State, I do not believe in a separation which paralyzes and prevents citizen participation in government or prohibits Christians from protecting, preserving, supporting, challenging, strengthening, reforming and renewing government when necessary for the good of “We the People.”

May I also warn you that the Christian religion has been summoned to justify American slavery and attack people who are different and other and has periodically upended freedom’s progressive march across the stage of American history which can be viewed primarily in the blood battles for human rights on the pages of that history for America’s darker, indigenous and other peoples?

Do the current counsels to keep silent excise our moral and spiritual duties as members of a faith community? Have not the words, “Thus says the Lord,” and “We hold these truths to be self-evident,”exhorted us to set the oppressed free; to take an active part in building our government, by preserving its principles and sustaining representative democracy for all Americans?

Is this admonition to turn our religion away from the current crises part of a larger ploy  to demean, dismiss and bully the common man and woman into a sycophantic, unquestioning submission, ensuring a kind of “selective amnesia” of America’s fundamental purposes and promises, thus urging believers to abandon the higher, nobler ideals and vision upon which we have been founded as a nation and for which we still should now and always so arduously strive?

Friends, in our life as a nation it is still by faith that we walk. Faith has given us power, impetus and the moral courage to stand for what is right. We breathe faith. We live by faith. We could not have come this far as a nation without some form of faith and belief in a higher power. Have not black, indigenous, white folks and other folks which have provided the mother’s milk of this nations faith stood tall and proud and wide and long with blood stained faces and tearful eyes amid the myriad demands and dissensions of faith’s inquisitional examinations and makeshift qualifications?

Would you have us then believe that the current crisis is merely temporal; a passing storm ironically and surreptitiously wrought of a deep seated need to keep the nation from complete racial perishing and to preserve America by exclusively re-establishing the efficacy and supremacy of the white power and identity of its past?

Friends, the issue now then is not how we might separate the Christian religion from American politics; how we might put our lights under the bushel and refuse to no longer shine as a city on a hill, but how we might employ our faith to pursue and establish a greater vision for America; how we might prayerfully and actively use our faith as a positive force for emancipation from all forms of tyranny; a faith which examines, and calls into account and supports, what is good and right and just for all; a faith that presses forth in perseverance and witness even at times against its own boundaries to ensure that every living soul is treated respectfully and that all human potential is harnessed, transformed and actualized in ways which will make the nation more responsible, more resourceful; stronger, more charitable, more equitable, wiser, more intelligent, more inclusive and compassionate and more ecumenical with liberty and justice for all.

What’s at stake is the very soul of our nation. What’s at stake is our living democracy. What’s at stake is our humanity, integrity, character and destiny, and our promise and purpose as a nation. What’s at stake is our sovereign power to determine what America will ultimately become.

We must not abandon our faith by leaving our nation’s politics only to the politicians and their political ventriloquists or confine our religious beliefs and practices to those who deem themselves the only “religiously self- righteous”and “self-righteously religious”among us!

The present crises did not begin by politicians alone but were influenced by various watershed political and religious events, hearkening back to the days of slavery with various freedom and justice movements periodically challenging America’s status quo. The Latin word for status quo meaning “The mess we are in.”

To abandon our faith is to allow the forces of tyranny to overrun our nation. To abstain and refrain from activating our faith is to take sides in silence and intensifies the fault lines of “us against them which will eventually destroy us.

Have not the present fault lines and rancor of the “us against them” which have nearly torn our nation asunder not now widened our present crises? What we have today is ravenous greed against true human need; leaders railing against existing time-honored American institutions such as the FBI and other agencies; against Mexicans, women and blacks and Africans from foreign countries; it is the ultra rich against the middle class, poor and dirt poor; feudalists, plutocrats and neo-conservative, radicalized Republicans against moderate and progressive Democrats, the regressionists against the progressives; and conservative Christians against Jews and Muslims and people of Arab and Middle Eastern descent and the reverse; it is men against women, non-union workers against union workers, health care insurance providers against those without health care and those seeking to obtain affordable health care; it is climate destruction and-earth-decimation-for- profit-supporters against climate and earth destruction resisters; private-religion-based- science negating-education against public science affirming education; it is heterosexuals against homosexuals and bisexual and transgender people; it is white people against black and other people and black people and others against white people; it is white supremacists against multi-racialists and racial integrationists; religionists against atheists and agnostics; southerners against northerners and northerners against southerners; easterners against westerners; middle westerners and middle easterners against those on the margins; “it is hip-hop against be-bop; the bus stop against the train stop”(used here to depict the frivolity and absurdity of these divisions); it is infrastructure against the super-structure; the outhouse against the big house and on and on and on and on.

What we need are not more messages from hell but more hope from heaven. What we need are ties that bind and not walls which separate and come crashing down to crush the innocent.

Where will it all end? We cannot and must not stop working for unity in this country. Our Christian faith should serve as a catalyst for bringing people together, transcending traditional racial, cultural, class, gender, economic and religious boundaries and honing mutual respect for everyone including those we deem “different or other,” and not used as a tool or weapon to drive and splinter us further apart from each other.

Although the quest for freedom and democracy for blacks had long existed before their introduction to Christianity, in slavery many Christian pastors in the Exodus tradition joined the abolitionist movement and became some of the most strident proponents of black freedom. Rev. Henry Highland Garnet’s “Let your motto be resistance” is a famous expression of that era along with Frederick Douglass exhortations to “agitate, agitate, agitate,” and the work of other clergymen such as Reverend Reverdy Cassius Ransom and Bishop Henry McNeil Turner of the African Methodist Episcopal church, all of whom urged men and women of every ilk and hue to fight for full self determination and freedom whatever the costs.

We must not forget the Quakers, the Methodists, Virginia Baptists, Presbyterian Synods in New York and Philadelphia in 1787 with “George Bourne, a fiery anti-slavery preacher, insisting on slavery’s cessation,” There was Ida. B. Wells whose tireless anti-lynching activism put her faith on the line. The honor roll of faithful Christians with minds and hearts heroically dedicated to complete abolition of bondsmen and bonds women in our nation’s history is replete with many who put their faith to political action by putting their very lives on the line.

Moreover, nearly one hundred years later, the Christian religion and the black church had enormous prophetic influence in the resurgent quest for black freedom igniting the Civil Rights Movement under the leadership of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and Christian ministers and supporters of other faith traditions.

King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail was a poignant response to the gradualism urged by numerous Christian pastors and leaders who believed that King should abandon the movement altogether in favor of more quietistic and pacifist approaches to the age old problem of racial discrimination. As history shows, King did not put his faith on the back burner but pressed on through the crises because “the fierce urgency of now” would not allow the people to postpone any longer their exigent demands for freedom.

The movement not only pressed hard for black freedom, justice and equality on all fronts, but also helped ignite and re-ignite the emergence of other groups seeking full liberty and dignity including “the women’s rights and Gay right’s movements, the anti-war and anti-nuclear movements, the ecology movement, the Gray Panthers, the Free Speech Movement, migrant workers,” indigenous and First Nation’s movements and other movements advocating non-violent social change.

The anti-war movement, which helped create the anti-nuclear movement of which the Berrigan Brothers and other Catholics were avid spokespersons, speaks boldly to the heroic examples of Christians refusing to stand still and remain silent against the potential specter of nuclear annihilation of all life on earth.

“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”

But the “us against them” fault lines which had been present before slavery had continued to grow with these movements in America as more racial, ethnic and gender groups demanding freedom from oppression and segregation emerged.

But Christian pastors such as the Reverend James Reeb who was martyred and numerous others such as Reverend Ralph David Abernathy, Reverend James Bevel, Reverend Andrew Young, Reverend Wyatt T. Walker, Reverend Jessie Douglas Sr, Reverend Hosea Williams, Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, Reverend Jessie Jackson, Reverend C.T. Vivian, and the Reverend James Lawson to name some great activist-clergy, the Reverend Al Sharpton, the Reverend William Barber to name a few today and many other Christian women such as Septima Clark,  Rosa Parks, Dorothy Height, Mahalia Jackson, Fannie Lou Hamer, Prathia Hall, Ella Baker, Diane Nash and others worked for black freedom and the cause of Civil Rights in America and many without prejudice have worked tirelessly for freedom for all Americans ever since.

At stake here is the continuing denigration, exclusion, deportation and annexation of the “others” from full integration and participation in American society, which is why the movement began in the first place.

As America witnessed a decisive shift from the more prophetic forms of religiously inspired social change in the tradition of the biblical prophets and the black church during the Civil Rights Era to a more big business profit preservationist model of Prosperity Gospel politics and conservative Christianity with conservative Republicanism today, the lines of racial, class, gender, cultural, religious and political distinctions, have become in some parts of America even more obnoxiously pronounced and radicalized.

We have come a long way as a nation but in some sectors of our country we now seem to be taking three steps backwards for every step forward. But many people are still confidently pressing on in faith and freedom that America will live up to its promises for all.

The crises amount to the continuing struggle for power in America, and are most prominently displayed and reconfigured by existing hierarchies and disparities of power. It is the age old clash between the power of love versus the love of power.

Having been increasingly drawn to the prophets of biblical times who called the people back to God, and other Abrahamic and ancient religions who have uttered warnings from God to the nations regarding their ill treatment of the poor, their worship of corrupting power in deference to the new religious apostasy and filial tyranny, and the absence of justice and compassion in administering some affairs of government and state on the national and local levels, have we now come to this place where truth, freedom and the proper exercise of religion and politics are still worthwhile endeavors if used in the greater interests of all in our nation?

The efforts to create a new plutocracy to replace our Constitutional Democratic Republic is what’s at stake where “might always makes right”; where government of the few, for the few, and by the few overrule the many and where the “hell with you” become the new creeds and watchwords of a new Kleptocracy, and the power to abolish and perish democracy from all earth will be given wholesale license to do so because of our silence.

“Leave religion out of politics?” Why should we? That those might starve the current government of any requited forms of revenue; that we might continue various forms of derision and oppression of people who are different or other; so that those who have all the money and power will make all the rules for those who have little or no money and power; that the Gilded class and powerful bankers- the money makers, movers and shakers take complete control of America?

This claim to leave religion out of politics misses the point entirely and is specious and spurious at best; it simply advocates standing down from our responsibilities as shareholders in our democracy, in building our nation and saving our current form of government. It neuters both our religious and political power and urges abandoning our responsibility as citizens of this great nation which is the worst form of abject abdication.

What then will replace America democracy? American Autocracy? American Aristocracy? American Plutocracy? American Mobocracy and American Ochlocracy? Will something other than the label “American” become the prefix to a new authoritarianism which strips away all our freedoms and rights?

To help save and build America is part the covenant understanding of our core relationship with God. Contrary to some beliefs, the people’s Covenant with God in ancient times had far greater social, political and economic implications than some would have us believe. It extended far beyond one’s personal spiritual relationship with God and demanded that believers engage in the responsible and equitable use and distribution of resources among the people for their survival and well-being.

God commanded that the people be treated justly at all levels of life especially the least of these and the people therefore understood that upholding the terms of their covenant demanded that they too treat people with compassion and justice.

Therefore the moral imperatives of faith and practice of our religious and spiritual traditions exhort compassion and justice from the people and their leaders. God is always concerned with justice; how we treat the poor and how we treat each other in the give and take of daily life.

This my dear friends is the hallmark of America and the benchmark of the Christian and other faith traditions. Give all people a chance. Let us not turn away from the liberty inscriptions of that great Statue in New York harbor standing with arms wide open for those seeking freedom.

The God of Love and the God of Justice thus go hand in hand but we often speak of justice as though it were separate from God’s love.

Alan Paton reminds us that “Love without justice is a Christian impossibility, and can only be practiced by those who have divorced religion from life, who dismiss a concern for justice as ‘politics’ and who fear social change much more than they fear God.”

“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love,” said Martin Luther King Jr.

Therefore as active members of the Christian faith and other religious, non-religious and faith communities whose spiritual and faith claims in daily life involve a strident concern for justice, compassion, peace and equality for all citizens in this land and in the world, we cannot advocate a separation of religion from politics at this critical hour, for to do so would abdicate social and spiritual responsibility in compelling our nation to correct its current course as our representative democracy possibly portends a slow and perilous death at the hands of plutocrats and their political minions and those who put their own interests above their country’s interests and will stop at nothing until they subjugate all political power to their whim and will so that American democracy and our Constitutional Republic are completely dismantled, annihilated and dissolved.

At stake here are not simply the personal freedoms of the American people; liberty in its highest and most advanced forms, but the ponderous elimination and annexation of power away from the people and the subsequent fragmentation and dissolution of democracy in its present forms.

Friends, we cannot dally and dither in meaningless debates about keeping separate the twain of religion and politics in these times of crises. There is too much at stake. Too many of us have shed our precious blood for America. Too many have died for freedom and democracy. Too many still have borne the burden and have fought the good fight. There is too much to lose and still much to gain for once we lose it, we may never ever regain it.

“Let us put our true religion and its providential properties to good use for the greater providence of all Americans and the world.”

“Let it be for every single one of us-no exceptions-that the greater good and the greater peace and a greater nation are realized not just for the few but for the many which God and Democracy intended.”

Let it be for every living soul so that the divisions of “me against you” and “us against them” dissolve permanently as barriers to creating and sustaining common, livable ground and sustainable life and community for all.

When the “me becomes the you,” and the “you becomes the me,” and the “us becomes the them” and the “them becomes the us” then we all become the “we.”

We all become “We the people. We the people. We the people! May we the people behold, keep and never give up what we have in common.

May we never lose our country and never lose each other. May we never fail to realize what’s at stake. May we never abide the theft of our liberties and our basic human rights and the pursuit of life and happiness. It is not right. It is not just. It is not good for our souls and it is not good for America.

Let us keep using our religion and faith as instruments of moral courage, healing, redemption and saving our nation and loving each other rather than as tools of silence and indifference as others are demonized, persecuted and even killed because evil has been so deceitfully normalized that we are afraid to stand up, afraid to speak truth and afraid to rescue our brothers and sisters from perishing because we have so self righteously scorned them that we cannot see our common humanity or forge our common ground with them.

No ! It is not the time to keep religion and politics separate but time to coalesce them for the greater good of all which the God of liberty, justice and love commands.

Let us then march onward in faith and look upward and outward for help from each other and God so that we may confidently continue the work which has been entrusted to each of us in granting freedom for all and preserving and securing our Constitutional Democratic Republic and American Representative Democracy.

Remaining silent and looking the other way is not the answer to our current crises.

We need to get woke and stay woke and keep the course of working to save our country and not lose it; to build our country and not destroy it, and to not take it for granted for the present freedoms to which it holds fast.

Keep religion out of politics? No we will not. Not when life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are still at stake for us all.

 

 

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Copyright ©2018 - Carlyle Fielding Stewart, III, All Rights Reserved.