Hard Truths: Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah

Here we are, the week before the midterm elections. Normally (and sadly), midterm elections (even the general election for the year) don’t generate so much interest, but this year most of us, whatever side we are on, feel like it is necessary for our voices to be heard amidst the clamor of political ads. I want to remind us of the importance of talking about politics as progressive people of faith – that there is a beautiful middle ground between conservative Christianity and progressive atheism that is generally known as progressive Christianity (or in my head, just Christianity). That is to say that those with conservative beliefs do not have a monopoly on morality; progressive Christians are also moral people. To me that’s a no-brainer, and yet in our current societal context it feels like it needs saying.

As we continue toward the upcoming elections and beyond, I once again bring to your attention the Disciples Center for Public Witness’ “Elections 2018: Resources for Churches” and the UCC’s “Our Faith, Our Vote, Our Voice” “Guidelines for Congregations on Political Action” that give guidance as to what types of activities are and are not permissible under IRS guidelines. (Again, insert obligatory disclaimer that I am an ordained minister and theological librarian, not a tax lawyer or IRS expert, and while I recommend these resources as coming from authoritative sources, I or Think! Pray! Act! am not responsible for any issues that arise from using these resources.)

Also, a confession about not voting: I remember when I was just a couple years out of college and the Bush-Gore presidential election rolled around. I didn’t vote. I was one of the people who thought my vote didn’t matter in the broader scheme of things. Since then I have learned quite a bit about both the personal and communal benefits of voting and now vote in every election – even the teeny tiny ones if there’s something on the ballot. And you should, too, to do a usually very simple thing to build and reveal God’s realm. If you don’t vote, you leave the responsibility of deciding how we will live our shared lives and allocate our shared resources to those who may be as ethical as you or don’t care as much about your interests as you do.

Think

We have another week in which we read multiple books of the Bible: Zephaniah, Haggai, and Zechariah. Rice Achtemeier notes that British preacher W.E. Bowen in 1939 softened Zephaniah’s judgement via pointing to Christians’ salvation in Christ, even as “there was taking root across the English channel in Nazi Germany a thorough-going perversion of the biblical faith” that “was finally done away only by being swept from the face of the earth.” (p. 58-59) This brings to mind Alan Bean’s recent column, “Silence in the Face of Evil,” in which Bean notes a disturbing similarity of complicit silence in 1930s German Christians and 2010s American Christians.

Bean encourages current day Christians to learn from mistakes in the past, to stand strongly for God’s justice in the face of very real threats to that justice, even when it’s hard to find the right words or beliefs to express why we’re doing it – for progressive Christians to not lose ourselves in the paralysis of analysis. As he says, “When a president questions the citizenship of his African-American predecessor and calls for an immigration ban on all Muslims and a border wall to keep out the Mexicans while refusing to denounce latter day Nazis, we have a problem. But our problem isn’t the president. Our problem is a Church that either falls silent in the face of evil or breaks forth in jubilant praise.”

The biblical prophets courageously spoke hard truths that God had given them to powerful leaders in the situations in their own time. What hard, God-given truths would you speak to the political leaders of our time?

Pray

This week we’re in Part I, Chapter 12, “Money,” of The Lifelong Activist. Oh, money! It’s one of those things that good-mannered people supposedly don’t discuss and that spiritual people don’t think about – and yet held in real tension with that lack of discussion is the fact that in our world money is necessary in some way for most of us to live. At the same time that 1 Timothy 6:10 reminds us “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith…,” by which I interpret those who love money and things more than God and people will have problems, having money itself isn’t an issue as long as we use it well and as a tool, rather than letting it be our God. The Christian Wallet by Slaughter and Perry Smith is a great book to help Christians sort out our beliefs about money.

I’ve gone through a few different phases with money. When I was younger I was absolutely clueless about managing money – we didn’t really talk a whole lot about the nuts and bolts of managing money at home. During college my parents graciously contributed what they could to my education so I didn’t have to think all that much about the details until after college, when things like rent and student loans (I had a few) hit. That was a super-painful wake-up call! I thought it was more enlightened to not think too much about money, but there’s really nothing noble about flailing to pay one’s bills. It took me a decade or so to learn how to manage my money well – which makes an excellent case for kids learning how to manage money while they’re living at home.

What are your beliefs and feelings about money? What do you think about God and money?  Join the discussion here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/peopleofthebooks/

Act

Have you completed MCU’s calls to action yet? Here they are again if you need them:

1. Check your voter registration here: https://s1.sos.mo.gov/elections/voterlookup/ and VOTE on NOVEMBER 6!

2. Join the Amendment 1 and Prop B campaigns to knock on doors (canvass) and call people to get out to vote. Email Dietra Baker at [email protected] for more information. MCU will be doing phone banking next Saturday, October 27 (https://www.facebook.com/events/293373261496909/) and the Saturday after that, November 3 (https://www.facebook.com/events/2447976798548373/) at the MCU office. Come on by and call with us to get out the vote!

3. Attend the Break the Pipeline Orientation on Tuesday, November 27, 6:30pm at the MCU Office. More info here: https://www.facebook.com/events/180245889534904/

4. Attend the MCU Annual Membership Assembly on Thursday, January 31, 2019 at 5:30pm. More info here: https://www.facebook.com/events/169844147259502/

5. Join MCU’s e-mail list by e-mailing [email protected] (or your local FBCO organization; find yours on the map below)

6. Follow MCU (or your local FBCO)  here: https://www.facebook.com/MCUStLouis/ and Twitter here: https://twitter.com/MCUStLouis

Thanks for being a part of living democracy! We don’t have to do this alone – and when we organize, we can create long-lasting people-powered community change!

Check out the Find Your FBCO Map to find your local faith-based community organizing affiliate and connect with the people who are working together to live out their dreams of a more just world! What’s going on in your living of the Gospel? Let us know in the comments, in our e-mail discussion group, or on social media.

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