God Help Us To Be Faithful
I was born in the midst of the Civil Rights movement in the 60s. I was too young to remember it as it was happening. So, I learned about it mostly through seeing pictures of people like Dr. Martin Luther King linking arms and marching in peaceful demonstrations. Over the years, I learned that many of those who linked arms in those days were clergy people. And then I learned that many of those clergy people were from denominations in the Methodist tradition. When I went on a school field trip in the 6th grade, as we were walk-ing on the street corner near the Supreme Court and U.S. Capitol buildings, I looked across the street and saw The United Methodist Building. I was so proud to be a United Methodist; and to see that we had a physical presence on perhaps the most powerful street corner in the world. The United Methodist building in Washington DC is a powerful reminder of the place of faith in the public arena.
Later in life I read MLK’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail.” MLK’s letter was written in response to clergy who were saying, “Don’t force the issue. Change will come in its due time.” I was shocked to learn that it was a letter written to clergy. While I had thought and believed that the Church was always at the forefront of leading the moral/ethical way, I discovered the reality that instead of being the first to lead, the Church is often the last to follow. While the Church was indeed a leader in the Civil Rights Movement; the Church was also a leader in resistance to the Civil Rights Movement. It is a true and shameful part of our history as people of faith.
As Christians, we often find ourselves in tension between “the State” and “the Church.” We have heard about the separation of Church and State, and so we think that this means that as Christians, we ought to stay out of the public arena, not advocate for a social justice cause, not run for office, and not hold our elected officials accountable. The separation of Church and State protects the Church from the State. It is not intended to protect the State from the Church. As churches, we cannot advocate for particular political parties or can-didates. Yet, at the same time, as people of faith, it is our obligation to partici-pate in the public arena.
This year, as election day approaches; an encouragement to all of us to be sure that we are registered to vote (there is still time if you’re not), and then to vote in November. A further encouragement to all of us to participate in the public arena beyond just voting. Consider whether God is calling you to run for public office. Communicate with your elected officials. Let them know that you are paying attention to the decisions they are making. Stand up for justice when you see a wrong being committed. This is who we are as Christians. This is part of our calling as people of faith. God help us to be faithful.
Canal District Office:
Rev. Ed Peterson
800 E Market St.
Akron, OH 44305
Phone: (330) 252-0299
Fax: (330) 252-0297
Monday through Thursday
9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
© EAST OHIO CONFERENCE. All Rights Reserved.