Ready, Set…RECEIVE!

Essay by Lauren Van Ham on 7 June 2018 3 Comments

The June sun was shining, but the whipping wind had us under hats and hoods, huddled close to hear the Naturalist’s instructions, “These flowers just poked out of snow last week.  Up here, Summer turns to Fall by mid-August.  Tundra takes hundreds of years to grow and one sloppily-placed hiking boot can destroy it all.” Then, he pointed across the Alpine carpet, to a collection of immense boulders and we began - adults, grandparents, and children (I was one of those) - hopping rock to rock.  A few paused, using their telephoto lenses to capture the blooms mere centimeters wide; the athletic made it into a game of how quickly they could “gazelle” from one rock to the next; and others moved with deference to the altitude, reaching for each inhale of thin air.  Other species – marmots, elk, birds – might have been looking on quizzically, but we did all we could to not touch our feet to the strong, fragile life below.

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No argument: the Christian church was complacent about standing up to Hitler and the holocaust. But ... in the United States, it also failed to stand up to Vietnam. It has tolerated racism, slavery, lynching, torture, and the death penalty. It is substantially failing to stand up to climate change. And now, it is failing to stand up to Trump's immorality, enrichment of the wealthy, military buildup, and trashing of the environment. What should our expectations be? I'm not convinced that saying "thank you" to God is adequate.


Dear Kenneth,

You certainly raise some valid concerns and offer a critique of much of the Church over the years – and today. There were, of course, all sorts of Church leaders who defied and denounced Hitler, and the same is true for racism, segregation, and the Vietnam conflict. That said, it is the case that there has been a tendency for churches to go along with the status quo and not rock boats that need rocking. While there are prophetic exceptions who have bravely spoken truth to power – they do seem to be in the minority – or at least, the media doesn’t put them in the limelight very frequently.

You may respond to what I’m saying thus far with, “Yes, of course and you are minimizing things greatly.” To which I would respond with a reminder that it only seems like the Church in the US is full of moral quietude. The fact is that most denominations do take stands on various matters of the day. The largest denomination in the US is the Roman Catholic Church – roughly ½ of all Christians in the U.S. – and that denomination has a long track-record for social engagement and speaking truth to power. Similarly, most all of the major mainline denominations (United Methodist, ELCA, PCUSA, UCC, Episcopal, etc.) have strong history – and present – of work toward social change and transformation, and advocacy for social justice and the environment. If one’s primary exposure to American Christianity is televangelists, mega-churches, and evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity one might conclude otherwise. For whatever reason, intellectual laziness and simplistic thinking most likely, the media tends to conflate all forms of Christianity with the conservative variety and give those types of church leaders the most voice and visibility. But rest assured, the loyal opposition is alive and well!

Let us consider the fine work of Jim Wallis and the Sojourner’s community over the past several decades.

Let us consider the bold Moral Mondays movement led by Rev. William Barber III. This movement is now in its 5th year.

Let us consider the recent “Reclaiming Jesus” event in Washington, D.C. that was held by many church leaders who are opposed to the policies of the Trump administration and how certain sectors of the Church are blessing those deplorable actions.

And let us consider the over 340,000 participants on The Christian Left Facebook page as well as the over 233,000 followers of the Kissing Fish Facebook page – realizing that these are but a small number of the many forums for progressive Christians who are seeking to put their faith into action and allow Jesus (as opposed to Caesar) to be lord/savior/Christ of their political lives as part of their discipleship.

Again, your critique is a good and needed one. The growing number of people who are leaving Christianity - or who were never part of it – yearn to see authentic Christianity showing up in a world that so badly needs Christians to truly be Christian and the Church to be The Church.

I will close with these words pulled and collaged from the Talmud, “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly now. Love mercy now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”

Yours in Pax Christi - not Pax Romana/Americana,

~ Rev. Roger Wolsey




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