There is much more we can do. We can call and/or write to our lawmakers demanding action and gun law reform that prohibits weapons of war from being own by civilians, as well as other strict measures and protocols that other countries have adopted with great success.
Also in the news we read of local, state, and federal legislation being enacted that oppresses multiple categories of minorities: LGBT civil rights are being eroded; women’s rights are being eroded; freedom of assembly is being eroded; voting rights are being suppressed.
In such times, people have often turned to the church for support and comfort. Comfort is all well and good, but unless the underlying cause of the distress is addressed, then of what good will the comfort ultimately be?
The Jesus of the Gospels calls us to follow in his example and stand up for the oppressed. The God of the bible can be described by the word “pathos.” Rabbi Abraham Heschel describes the divine pathos as “compellingly absolute selflessness with supreme concern for the poor and exploited.” We find this theme throughout Scripture: The Jews against Pharaoh; young Amos who stood in the busiest intersection of Bethel and denounced the government for cheating the poor and exploited; and using the life and voice of Jesus to serve those in need, especially by being a voice for the voiceless.
To be concerned about salvation in a biblical sense means to be concerned about not only what is sometimes called the “state of the soul,” but also whether or not the persons concerned have soles on their shoes.
It is on these solid foundations of social justice in the example of Jesus that The Progressive Episcopal Church was founded. We do not exist to offer empty platitudes. We focus not on a crucified Jesus, but on a living Jesus who calls us to follow his example of challenging the status quo, of challenging unjust laws that oppress and subjugate our fellow human beings and deny them their dignity. The Progressive Episcopal Church is built on the foundations of social justice and social activism built by such martyrs as Bishop Oscar Romero and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
To feed the hungry is to worship God. To stand up for the rights of our LGBT brothers and sisters is to worship God. Anything we do to stand up and speak up for the dignity and worth of those who are oppressed is to worship God. “As ye did for the least of these, ye did unto me.”
Jesus directly challenged the political corruption, sadistic violence, and economic exploitation of his time, and calls us to do the same. This is what he meant when he said “Follow me.” If we as the church do not follow Jesus, then we fail in our purpose, the purpose for which Jesus called his church into existence.
Our ordination vows as clergy call us to “seek and serve Christ in all persons.” We do this by speaking for those who have no voice or whose voice is not being heard, and challenging the institutions that would deny the worth and rights of LGBT, minorities, women, and anyone else; and to denounce laws that deny basic human rights, and that promote violence, oppression, subjugation, and genocide. During Word War II, churches throughout Europe were very politically active in the fight for human justice in the face of Nazi laws and policies. It is what Jesus calls us to do as his church.
This is the foundation on which The Progressive Episcopal Church was established and built. If all we do is offer our thoughts and prayers, then we are not doing to work God and Jesus call us to. To act justly is to participate in creating a just society; to love tenderly is to actively engage in responsible action; to walk humbly with God is to respect the dignity of all people. This is what it truly means to focus on Jesus.
What does the Lord require of us, but to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God?