Witness

Three Approaches for Churches Who Disagree with the Government

The Executive Orders of President Trump have unleashed global protest. It’s likely that this won’t be the last time.

It is reasonable for any citizen to desire safety and, specifically, safe borders. Christians hold a variety of nuanced political stances. However, many Churches, Denominations and Para-Church organizations have a long-standing support of those fleeing for their safety.

NPR was quick to point out the rub in their recent story Trump Refugee Ban Clashes With Faith-Based Groups’ Religious Missions:

For Jewish and Christian groups, the commitment to help refugees reflects their understanding of God’s commandments. Throughout the Hebrew Bible — the Old Testament to Christians — the Israelites are reminded that they were themselves aliens once, in the land of Egypt.

The book of Leviticus, for example, dictates: “The alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself.”

Such guidance continues in the New Testament: The book of Matthew quotes Jesus as telling his followers, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing.”

The tension is apparent, even to the secular media.

'I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing.' Jesus Click To Tweet

The question remains, how will the local church respond? There are three options.

Ignore

One option is for the local church to avoid the conversation. Churches are busy places often bogged down in the weekly flurry of weekend worship and existing ministries.

Some churches may choose to ignore the Refugee crisis and other issues because they are politically divisive. Taking a specific stance on any issue can feel dangerous to a church. If relationships are thin and individuals have not been discipled in methods of civil disagreement, it seems easier to avoid tense discussions.

Local church leaders may also see it as beyond the scope of the needs of their communities. Many churches are already devoted to serving important needs, like supporting the local family or serving the homeless. Some, perhaps those who focus their teaching on “practical application for daily life”, may feel like political issues are outside of their mission.

It is easy to sympathize with the local church leader who is afraid to get involved. However, ignoring a problem won’t make it go away.

Some who focus on 'practical application' may feel like politics are outside of their mission. Click To Tweet

Complain

The second way churches can respond when they disagree with the government is to complain about it.

Today, social media makes it so simple to share news reports and op-eds. When people feel overwhelmed by political discussion, their first response is often to share their thoughts on Facebook.

Social Media is an unavoidable part of modern culture. A church that avoids social media is avoiding the source where most of their congregants interact with ideas.

Sharing on social media can be an important place to start a conversation. It can also be a method for avoiding conversation. Stating your opinion online, without an opportunity to personally discuss, interact, and most importantly, respond, is counter to the local, relational makeup of the Church. Moreover, it is tantamount to complaining.

Stating opinions online, without an opportunity for discussion is tantamount to complaining. Click To Tweet

Organize

For a Church to meaningfully disagree with the government or their broader culture, it is essential that they organize to support those in need.

Churches have a long, rich history of organizing to care for those who cannot care for themselves. A few examples include:

  • The first layer of organization ever created in the Church was the appointment of deacons. Their job was to make sure the most vulnerable people in their community, widows, received the food and care they needed.
  • In a culture where infanticide was common, the early church was known for digging through garbage dumps in the early hours of the morning, in search of abandoned baby girls.
  • In the wreckage of the former Roman empire, Celtic missionaries planted gardens, which grew into villages, where fresh food, education and worship were available.
  • The Underground Railroad and early abolitionism grew out of the efforts of the Quakers.
  • Likewise, the Abwehr, which smuggled Jews out or World War II Europe, grew out of the efforts of Confessing Church leaders like Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
  • The Civil Rights movement is inextricably linked to the leadership and organization of African American Churches who lent their meeting spaces, and whose clergy, most notably Martin Luther King, Jr., often bore the burden and risk of organizing resistance.

Local churches do much more than provide manpower or meeting space for those who chose to disagree with government. They bring a rich history of moral authority, reaching back through the early church to Jesus, John the Baptist and the prophets before them.

Churches have a responsibility to demonstrate to their community a Christ-like form of resistance that provides dignity to the suffering while speaking truth to power.

More than manpower or meeting space, churches provide a history of moral authority. Click To Tweet

Which Approach is Right for Your Church?

In the coming weeks and months, local churches in America are going to have a chance to respond to their government and the needs of the suffering. The good news is that the Church has a rich history of providing an alternative approach to resistance that is organized, dignified, and, as history shows, is effective.

Which is right for your Church?

Upset about politics? Your church can ignore, complain or organize. Choose. Click To Tweet
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