Dear friends, we cannot be silent. Under the circumstances and conditions of this present plutocracy where imperialist white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy works to disinherit the majority, and the minority works to strengthen its socioeconomic domination, our silence makes us complicit in the most insidious evil. It is our task as religious leaders to comfort the discomforted and discomfort the comfortable. Not only must we speak truth to power, it is incumbent upon us to take prophetic action in solidarity with those who find themselves suffering as pawns of political games played by malfeasant oligarchs. True solidarity with the oppressed means fighting at their side to transform the objective reality which has made them these “beings for another” (Freire 2000). We may have to leave our pulpits ready to engage a life of public witness and faith that calls for a new self-understanding, one that sees theology and the theologian who produces it as an integrated whole. We may no longer pontificate moral virtues we are unwilling to engage and we must hold our elected officials to the standards we so aptly teach to our parishioners.
Our nation is in desperate need of courageous leadership. Leadership that takes seriously their own social location as a formative home from which to develop a public faith (Bond 2013). Whatever class or socioeconomic reality a leader arises from, we must engage critical self-critique so that our analysis of the world around us is informed by an awareness of our privileges and marginalization in conversation with the highest aims of the sacred text. Theologies develop in response to questions arising out of specific intellectual, political, and religious situations; therefore, our God talk must be in this era must be subversive, transgressive, and rooted in the best of our prophetic traditions. Theologies are always about power. Our new discourse must challenge the hegemony of power – the distribution and economy of this power in Heaven and on earth (Cone 2018).
We must speak freely of and work feverishly toward, a world of radical love in a climate of radical xenophobia fueled by fear mongers who traffic in hate speech. For me, as a Christian religious leader, radical love is at the heart of Christian theology because we believe in God who, through the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ has dissolved the boundaries between death and life, time and eternity, and the human and the divine (Cheng 2011). The naming of the world which is an act of creation and re-creation, is not possible if it is not infused with love (Freire 2000). It is our task to name the world anew; that is the prophetic call of leadership. We are charged to paint for the world a picture of a preferable future. If we are to be at all relevant in the world that seeks to build walls, then we must return to love as the central hallmark of our various faiths. If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving (Baldwin 1993). If God and our God talk fails to do this, the world will get rid of us and the God we have made. We must speak directly to leaders who lie about national crisis, which in reality are humanitarian crisis, and call them to repentance. Holding accountable the wicked who dare to turn righteousness into scandal is a revolutionary act of love.
Religious leaders must demand of ourselves to be helpers in new and life-giving ways. Authentic help means that all who are involved help each other mutually, growing together in common effort to understand the reality they seek to transform (hooks 1994). I urge you dear friends to entreat your community as a cite (read as a place of citation) of transformation. Let the sacred text and the collective experience of the people merge in order to transform you into the leader they need for forward movement. The hour of the sage on the stage is over. We are no longer filling empty heads with pietistic words, rather we are engaging communities of critical thinkers in resistance discourse with the goal of changing the world. Something new is being required of us. My prayer for you is that you find your courage to speak in new tongues.
Feel Free to Comment Below!
Peace Is Possible,
Rt. Rev. Edward Donalson III, DMin | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor
SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY
Baldwin, James. 1993. The Fire Next Time. New York: Vintage International .
Bond, Adam L. 2013. The Imposing Preacher: Samual DeWitt Proctor & Black Public Faith . Minneapolis: Frotress Press .
Cheng, Patrick S. 2011. An Introduction to Queer Theology: Radical Love. New York : Seabury Books.
Cone, James H. 2018. Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody. Maryknoll: Orbis.
Freire, Paulo. 2000. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Bloomsbury.
hooks, bell. 1994. Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York: Routledge.