He hath shown thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God. (Micah 6:8)
All Christians are called upon to be activists for the Gospel of grace. We can be activists in a number of ways, such as being prayer warriors, engage in marches for civil rights, write letters to the editor regarding assorted Christian and civic issues, and so on.
A couple of months ago, an author who is engaged in writing a book on activism asked me to write a brief essay on why I became an activist, and a Christian activist at that. This is what I wrote for inclusion in his book:
As a Christian, I have increasingly had revulsion regarding most of the organized Church that has been in the vanguard of providing justification for the denial of civil and sacramental rights to so many minority groups. It has played the caboose to the train of civil rights and civil liberties in regard to such minority groups as women and Afro-Americans.
Now that it is no longer politically correct or financially profitable to discriminate against these two groups, and now that the specter of Communism is no longer good sermon material, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are now in the cross hairs of much, if not most, of the organized Church. And the clerical and evangelistic proponents of such discrimination are frequently quite handsomely rewarded materially and/or psychologically for their hateful rhetoric directed against people who they feel are “safe” targets to persecute.
The Church, Christ’s Church, the ecclesia, ‘the called out ones,’ are to obey the only Commandments Jesus gave us: to love God by trusting Him over and above seen circumstances; to love others and not to judge them. That’s it! The only Gospel to be found in Christianity is the Gospel of grace, “the good news,” the fact that through Jesus God has bestowed upon us His unmerited favor!
The proponents of the false gospel of legalism, perfectionism, and exclusion, which is certainly not “good news,” and certainly doesn’t represent the commandment Jesus gave us to love others, is diametrically opposed to the Gospel, and its proponents have, unfortunately, virtually taken over most of the organized Church. Most of the organized Church has aligned itself with the most reactionary forces in secular society, which is also diametrically opposed to the Christian mandate that we love others by also fighting for justice for all of God’s children.
Therefore, my passion is two fold: 1. To help reclaim Christianity from those who have substituted their own prejudices and mind-sets for the Gospel, and have sought to impose those prejudices and mind-sets on others; 2. Fight for full and equal civil and sacramental rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.
There is absolutely no Godly, biblical, or constitutional reason why lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people should not enjoy every single civil and sacramental right that accrues to every other citizen! The specious arguments presented by all too many clergy and their followers don’t stand up to biblical, logical, empirical, or constitutional scrutiny; those arguments betray the very Gospel that Christians are called upon to preach and to live!
All Christians are called upon to live, not in ‘time’ but to live in ‘eternity!’ We are to be agents of God’s love in this sin-cursed world, and if we’re not such agents we are betraying both the Gospel and Jesus Himself!
The failure of many, if not most, professing Christians in being such agents; the hateful rhetoric against LGBT people by many clergy and evangelists; the failure of most clergy to condemn hateful rhetoric against LGBT people; the enmeshment of much of the organized Church with reactionary secular forces that have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo from which they are frequently quite handsomely rewarded; the bureaucratization of most of the organized Church that is all too often obsessed with hierarchy, patriarchy, incestuous socialization, and building beautification, over and above addressing such burning issues as war and poverty; the failure of most of the organized Church to be in the vanguard of seeking full and equal civil rights and civil liberties for LGBT people; the suffering of so many LGBT people and their families at the hands of both religious and political forces, have spurred me to expend as much energy as possible in confronting these perversions of the Gospel.
In my endeavor to fight for these principles, I have a blog entitled, “A Christian Voice For Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, And Transgender Rights,” located at www.christianlgbtrights.org; I have long had a weekly newspaper column entitled, ‘Christianity and Society,’ that appears in the ‘Sacramento Valley Mirror.’
So many professing Christians seem to misunderstand Jesus’ call to His disciples to love others. Many think that they show love by keeping a peaceful attitude in all circumstances and not ever confronting those who hurt others, even those who hurt others in God’s name.
We certainly don’t show love when we are silent in the face of others’ oppression. Christians are not expected to be peaceful in this world. Jesus says to us, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let your heart not be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)
This world does not give us peace and, as Christians, it’s not supposed to give us peace. We are in “enemy territory” and we are to fight the demonic forces in this world as soldiers sent “behind the lines” to stand for the principles of love, respect, decency, mercy, compassion, and justice for all of God’s children.
Clearly, this world is not based on these values! Quite the contrary! Most of this world lives in the materialist realm where money is usually god, selfishness and self-absorption rules the day, success is measured in terms of the acquisition of wealth, and God is looked upon (if He is looked upon at all) as Someone we tip our hats to on Sunday mornings and then go about the “real business” of living the other six days of the week.
As warriors for Christ in enemy territory, we are called upon to fight injustice wherever and whenever we can. We are not called upon to remain silent in the face of injustice, and we’re not called upon to adopt a milquetoast persona to appeal to others’ definitions of the criteria that, to them, defines a “Christian.”
We are called upon to listen to God’s voice in our hearts to stand for righteousness and fight for others’ dignity and civil and sacramental rights as befit all of God’s children. And this task isn’t designed for wimps!
Let’s face it: which of God’s heroes in the Bible were happy or peaceful people? I can’t think of anyone. Just read the eleventh Chapter of the Book of Hebrews, the major chapter that extols the kind of person who really belongs to God, His heroes of faith. They suffered affliction; they saw themselves as strangers and pilgrims on this earth; they had “ trial of cruel mockings and scourgings moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and in caves of the earth.” (Hebrews 11:36-38)
Do these people sound like typical churchgoers to you? Do you think they looked for peace and happiness in this world? Do they sound like typical clergy and evangelists of the organized Church to you?
It profoundly hurts the cause of Christ, and the image of Christianity, when most of the organized Church aligns itself with the things of this world, the mammon of this world, and the accoutrements of “success” as defined by this world; when it all too frequently aligns itself with the most reactionary forces within secular society and is among the vanguard of oppressing assorted minority groups, such as women, Afro-Americans, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. Moreover, when most of the organized Church, either through rhetoric or action and/or silence and inaction, seeks to deprive others of full and equal civil and sacramental rights, that is an indictment of both the organized Church and the culpable professing Christians that makes nothing short of a mockery of Jesus’ call to His disciples to trust Him over and above seen circumstances, and to exhibit love toward others. And, it certainly doesn’t show love to either attack others or remain silent when others are attacked and demonized as “the other” who is not worthy of the civil and sacramental rights that we enjoy.
When Jesus’ followers decided to align themselves with Constantine in the Fourth Century, thereby officially aligning Christianity with the State, with secular society, making Christianity the State religion, they made a tragic decision that haunts us to this very day. Jesus’ followers were never meant to align themselves with the State! Quite the contrary! We are called to be God’s representatives, speaking God’s admonitions and injunctions to love others, even our “enemies,” and to seek to conform this world, to the degree possible, to God’s standards, and not to seek to conform Christ’s Church to the world’s standards.
All Christians are called upon to be “heroes of faith,” and, if we’re not, we’re really none of His. As the writer of the Book of Hebrews tells us: “ without faith it is impossible to please him .” (Hebrews 11:6) And we demonstrate our faith by trusting God and what He says over and above the mind-sets and prejudices that the world seeks to shove down our throats, and that all too many “religious leaders” are all too willing to swallow and force their blind followers to swallow as well.
All Christians worthy of the name are “in” but not “of” the world; seek to conform this world to Godly principles and fight to the death, if necessary, the precipitous decline of so many professing Christians, and so much of the organized Church itself, into the jaws of Moloch, a false god to whom children are sacrificed, or to the very devil himself!
Professor Emeritus of Sociology at California State University, Chico, Rev. Dr. Jerry S. Maneker served as an ordained priest in the Congregational Catholic Church, a division of the Independent Catholic Churches International (ICCI). For many years he published a weekly column in the Sacramento Valley Mirror titled “Christianity and Society” where he dealt with a variety of social issues from a biblical and sociological perspective. He also published a blog called A Christian Voice for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Rights and the website Radical Christianity.