Surrounded by turmoil and violence in our nation, it is more important than ever for Christ’s church to be a visible, public church. Filled with God’s grace and Spirit, we are set free to courageously bring God’s love, healing, and justice to all around us.
In our Lutheran tradition, we describe ourselves this way: (I give thanks to Dr. Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, professor at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, for summarizing our historical Lutheran teaching in the following framework.)
- We are God’s beloved. This is the first and most important truth about who we are. God treasures us and all people, not based on our performance, status, ethnicity, mindset, or wealth, but out of God’s infinite and unconditional love for every person and all creation.
- We are broken. Despite God’s constant, caring presence, we fear that we are alone in the world and that our safety and success depend on our own frantic efforts. Feeling threatened, we adopt “survival skills” that quickly include competition, manipulation, and violence. Captured by fear and distrust, our hearts, families, and communities break apart.
- We are bearers of God’s love, bringing healing and justice to all around us and to creation itself. Released from our fears and survival strategies by God’s grace, we are set free to love God, our neighbor, and creation in daily, concrete ways.
As I look at all the turbulence around us, I feel called to make these specific faith commitments:
- I will strive to see and treat each person I meet as one of God’s beloved, including those whose words and actions are unfamiliar or even abhorrent to me. With the Spirit’s help, I will see that, at their core, they are one of God’s dear ones. I will ask and expect that other people see and treat me as one of God’s beloved as well.
- When my own fears lead me to mistreat and demean others, I expect those around me to confront me, name my particular brokenness, and help me return to God’s way of compassion and justice. When I see another person mistreating and demeaning others, I will confront them, name their particular brokenness, and help them return to God’s way.
- I will oppose violence in every instance and will work to transform our conflict into honest, healing dialogue. I accept and support political advocacy, marches, and non-violent civil disobedience as legitimate means towards seeking justice within our democracy. However, violence towards people and institutions, such as we saw last week in the armed assault against our nation’s Capitol building and congressional leaders, is never to be tolerated. Those doing the violence and those encouraging them, including President Trump, must be held accountable and removed from power.
- In cases of violence and abuse, I will particularly stand with those who are the most vulnerable and routinely mistreated. The Nazi clothing worn by mob members and the waving of Confederate flags within the Capitol were revolting, white-supremist actions against Jewish people, the indigenous, and people of color. At the same time that I, as a white man of privilege, confess and work to change my own habitual racism, I must confront all forms of white supremacy and religious attack, which are growing increasingly violent in our country.
- I commit myself to working as a responsible citizen, which, as Martin Luther taught, is part of our Christian calling. This includes being involved in local city, county and state projects, and also respecting and working with our legitimately elected national government. Based on the proven facts, our new administration was elected in a fair process. As Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah said at the Senate hearing to certify the electoral vote, there were 51 court hearings through the United States, presided over by judges who had been appointed by both Republican and Democrat presidents. These 51 court hearings examined the voting process and found no evidence that the votes cast and counted were invalid or miscounted in any way that would have altered the outcome. In all fifty states, the Governors and Secretaries of State, both Republican and Democrat, after multiple reviews and re-counts have stated that the reported voting totals are accurate. It is vital to the health of our democracy to recognize that our new president has been legitimately elected by voters. Those who continue to speak untruthful claims about the votes cast are attacking the foundation of our democracy. We citizens need to work together and address our concerns face-to-face in a respectful way.
Therefore, I will say again that it is now more important than ever for Christ’s church to be a visible, public church and for each one of us to live out our Christian calling. We are God’s beloved, honest about our brokenness, and freed by Christ to bring God’s love, healing, and justice to all around us. I trust that the Holy Spirit will stir us and empower us to do just that.
Bishop Rick Jaech