by John K. Stoner (January 13, 2017)
Earlier this week, 50 Christian pastors, activists, authors and scholars from across the theological and political spectrum called upon congregations and other assemblies "to make public commitments in their communities."
The first commitment is to "protect and support the worth and rights of all people, including marginalized persons who are targeted, discriminated against or singled out by hate crimes or state-sponsored/sanctioned violence."
To see a list of the 50 making this Call and to read their full statement, click here or here or here or here. To read a media report of the Call, see here.
I have been asked to write about this Call—probably because it grew from the seed which I planted back on Thanksgiving weekend.
What can I say? What should I say?
Probably this: There is nothing new here, and nothing original with me. The idea could have come from you, and I believe it was already in you before it was in me, at least if you are older than I am.
We are born with a strong instinct to love our parents, siblings, neighbors and everyone. Love is not the only instinct we have, but it is a tremendously strong one, and the lack of it in the world says more about our cultures than it says about ourselves.
I suppose we’re wired to love our parents because we’re wired to love the source and sustenance of our life.
And the call to protect all people is a call to protect life itself. It is an invitation to choose a path which treasures the life we have received and which we would like to see sustained.
There is a curious saying attributed to Jesus: “Your faith has saved you.” That is different from “God has saved you.” Why did Jesus voice this difference?
I think it was because he wanted to say, “You have believed that the universe tilts toward life, and you acted accordingly.”
Jesus affirmed the faith or belief that all the processes of the universe, cumulatively, have tilted toward the production of life. Scientists call it evolution; historians, philosophers, spiritual leaders and “primitive” peoples have all affirmed this tilt toward life in some manner.
And I think we all act on this basis at least some of the time. We take a small risk, or even a large one, to do something which seems unusual or unpopular because we think, or have faith, it can produce a better result.
The Call to Protect All People asks us to say that we do not choose to marginalize or dominate or hurt or kill some people.
In conclusion, an interesting example of this from the Christian tradition. In the first century CE Saul was a man determined to defend his people from all threats. The writer of The Acts says in chapter 9 that Saul was traveling toward Damascus to arrest perceived enemies of his people, followers of Jesus. On the road to Damascus he was struck by a brilliant light and knocked from his horse, blinded. Three days later in Damascus, a follower of Jesus’ way named Ananias, entered the room where Saul resided, still blind.
Ananias greeted Saul, his declared enemy, with surprising words. He said, “Brother Saul.” And then, the story goes, scales fell from Saul’s eyes.
Ananias included Saul among the people he was committed to protect.
It will make a difference if a lot of us decide to act in that way.
We will need the discernment, support and encouragement of others to do it. So our conversations in congregations, assemblies and groups are important. Let’s proceed now with that conversation.