“Things are more like they are today than they’ve ever been. “
Yogi Berra at his best, stating the obvious but in a way that told an unseen truth.
Yes, Yogi could “say that twice today and mean it”.1
Things are more like they are today than they have ever been. And for many, that is news that raises grave concern.
The recent violence and terrorism in Charlottesville, Virginia is just the freshest reminder—for some, perhaps, a wake-up call—telling us that all is not well in our world, our nation, our communities. I am dismayed by our elected leadership whenever there is moral equivocation, finger-pointing or simple naming of problems without meaningful efforts to address and solve those problems. I am even more dismayed, though, by the failure of so many churches, pastors, and public figures in the world of faith who fail to seize the moment to declare the moral vices and virtues and to proclaim the examples of Jesus. After all, didn’t Jesus come and walk in a world where the government was corrupt, led by a narcissistic and inept emperor, and where violent oppression was the order of the day? Could we find a better time—all of us, the followers of Jesus—to lead by example?
Jesus was, of course, loving toward those who were oppressed. He poured Himself out for them, healing, teaching, strengthening them so that, even if their importance to the world was not restored, they were made certain of their importance to Him.
And Jesus met the complacency and the complicity of the religious leadership head on, challenging the Temple leaders, the Pharisees, the Priests, the Scribes to rise to the occasion and to see the poor and oppressed as their constituency. Jesus used every tool at His disposal in His efforts to persuade them to set aside their own thirst for power and appetite for wealth and, instead, to meet the needs of widows, orphans, lepers and all who were living lives of hopelessness. In the end, when these leaders, like so many of our brothers (and a few sisters) in today’s evangelistic wing, turned away from love and toward power, Jesus called them out in such clear and threatening terms that they conspired with the oppressors to have Him murdered.
But, most of all, Jesus was unafraid to name evil for what it was. Jesus was radical, bold and brave in the face of certain death — never ceasing to speak truth to power and to shine
We are called to be that movement. We are called to carry out His mission. We are called to love the oppressed—to love them enough to demand justice (even to go to jail for justice as a recent viewing of an old folk song concert on television reminded me). We are called to help those who cannot help themselves and
We are called, also, to remind the Pharisees of this day—the religious right, the evangelistic wing, the sycophants of the governmental and industrial powers—that they have turned from love and toward power and, in many cases, obscene wealth. And, if they will not turn back, we are called to reveal to the world that they are charlatans, unfit and unwilling to serve in the critical roles of pastors,
Finally, we are called to stand up to our bullying,
And we must, of course, be honest, admitting our own flaws and failings, confessing our own prejudices and greed, repenting of our own abuse of any privilege that has been afforded us without having been earned. For, after all, as Percy tells us, “Most folks would rather hear a colorful lie over the truth any day.”2
1,2 Quotes from my favorite movie, The Spitfire Grill.