Over and over again the story we are being told is, “Be afraid! Be very afraid!”
And there is plenty of which to be afraid. We live in a world where mass shootings are more numerous than the days of the year. We have learned that you are not safe in shopping malls, movie theaters, office buildings, university and elementary classrooms. In our own city we have learned that even a Bible Study in a church does not guarantee safety.
In the face of those fears too often the church has remained silent. We have done so because we haven’t wanted to be impolite. We have done so because we haven’t wanted to offend anyone who might be sitting in the pews on Sunday morning. We have done so because we haven’t wanted to be tainted by the dirty world of politics.
So we have been silent, and our silence has allowed a dangerous idolatrous narrative to take root, one that is not worthy of our faith nor our nation. It has spread, and yet we have remained silent.
We have kept quiet because we believed it would pass. We have remained silent because surely no one will agree. We have kept silent because we live in a polite society and to call out this lunacy for what it is, well, it just isn’t mannerly! Maybe if just ignore our crazy uncle he will just go away!
The past week has given us a glimpse of where this narrative is leading. The president of a religious university, one whose motto is “training champions for Christ,” has urged students to get their concealed weapons permit. In his thinking, “If more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in and killed them.” A leading presidential candidate in a speech in our state has placed his security completely in his weapons. “You don’t stop the bad guys by taking away our guns, you stop the bad guys by using our guns.” Do not be confused. These are faith statements, ones completely disconnected from gospel of Jesus Christ!
But not to be outdone, the leading presidential candidate has taken his cue from the Third Reich, substituting Muslims for Jews. He has invented facts to undergird his fantasy that is completely detached from truth. His call for a databased of a certain religion, of barring them from even entering the country has brought derision from his own party who fear he has crossed over into crazy land!
These statements have been alarming, even terrifying. But what is of more concern is the increase in numbers of supporters. They are willing to ignore the narrative of our faith, the narrative of our country. It is happening because of the silence on our part! It is time for followers of the one who stopped violence even as he was being arrested, who went out of his way to welcome the stranger, the outcast—it is time for us to proclaim our story! It is time for true citizens of this nation who celebrate a home that welcomes “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” who celebrate freedom of religion for all to live into our high calling!
The great German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
One of my great joys is attending a Friday night football game. I get emotional during every pregame when the crowd stands together, joins our voices as the band leads us in singing the national anthem. We always end with that powerful reminder, “The land of the free and the home of the brave.”
It is time for us to move beyond just singing, but to proclaim that is who we are! That is our story! We will not trade our freedom for the illusion of security. We will not be afraid! We will not be silent!
It is time for us to live our story!
It is time for us to tell our story!