Today, a group of progressive Christian clergy and scholars released a declaration taking on racism, militarism, homophobia, and just about every other ill ailing the church today. I haven’t read through it carefully enough to have a strong opinion yet but I plan to give careful study. At first glance, there is a lot I like. For now, consider this a news event. The press release follows.
PRESS RELEASE – THE BOSTON DECLARATION
THE BOSTON DECLARATION
A Prophetic Appeal to Christians of the United States
PRESS RELEASE November 20, 2017
CONTACT: Rev. Dr. Pamela Lightsey, Spokesperson, 773-641-4992
Rev. Dr. Peter Heltzel, Spokesperson, 646-279-6690
Rev. Dr. Susan Thistlethwaite, Spokesperson, 773-343-5951
Ann Craig, Media Consultant, 917-280-2968
Theologians Challenge the Corruption of US Christianity
Faith leaders put on sackcloth and ashes, to dramatize their grief over Christians who make excuses for racial hatred and sexual abuse rather than fighting oppression.
Christian theologians will put on sackcloth and ashes to dramatically grieve over the corruption of US Christianity and to call the country into a time of reflection and action to end oppression. Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts, at the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature, the group of leaders will launch the BOSTON DECLARATION at the Old South Church at 12:30 pm on Monday, November 20, 2017.
Over 100 theologians, bishops, and leaders in Christian seminaries and denominations are signatories the BOSTON DECLARATION to protest the demise of core values when favored politicians are exposed as racists and sexual predators.
The statement is modeled on the Barmen Declaration of 1934 when Christian theologians like Karl Barth, Martin Niemöller, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer spoke out against the German subjugation of all churches under Adolf Hitler.
“Today, too many Christians are placing party politics over the foundational teachings of Jesus. They make excuses for racial hatred and sexual abuse, and some have even said that it would be better to vote for a pedophile than a Democrat,” said the Rev. Dr. Pamela R. Lightsey, Boston University School of Theology. “This is the basest kind of tribalism that feeds hatred. It is the opposite of love, the opposite of Jesus’ teaching of love and mercy.”
“Far too many Evangelical Christians have embraced the politics of exclusion, exploitation, and hatred, such that the Good News of Jesus has become a cover for a social and economic order that can only be understood as bad news for far too many. Responding to Jesus’ courageous call to love “the least of these” (Matt 25), we need put our prayers into action with revolutionary love. We pray for the conversion of the converted,” said the Rev. Dr. Peter Goodwin Heltzel, New York Theological Seminary.Declaration excerpts:
As followers of Jesus … we are outraged by the current trends in Evangelicalism and other expressions of Christianity driven by white supremacy, often enacted through white privilege and the normalizing of oppression.
Following Jesus today means choosing life, joining the Spirit-led struggle to fight the death-dealing powers of sin wherever they erupt. Whenever one of God’s children is being oppressed, we will fight with them for liberation with the power of the Holy and Life-Giving Spirit. And yet, we live in a moment when death and evil seem to reign supreme in the United States… we believe followers of the Jesus Way are called to renounce, denounce, and resist these death-dealing powers which organize and oppress our world, not to embrace or promulgate them.
Acknowledging our own failures and embracing an appropriate sense of humility should not, however, silence us. While we do not have ready-made answers for all the problems we face, we know something about the pathway we must follow if we are to find those answers, and this is the pathway of Jesus.
As followers of Jesus, it is vital that we take action when our government seeks to continuously harm life made in God’s image by cutting social safety-nets and forcing the poorest and most powerless among us to spiral into an abyss of desperation.
We reject the false ideology of empire building and the myth of racial laziness and substance abuse that harms the people of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the US territories.
We reject the patriarchal and misogynistic legacies that subject women to continual violence, violation, and exclusion. We stand strongly against sexual abuse and harassment in the highest offices of power.
We reject economic policies that are grounded in an illusion of extreme individualism and favor the accumulation of wealth for a few to the detriment of the many.
We reject Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry.
We stand in solidarity against antisemitism and the use of any language and actions that threaten the lives of our Jewish sisters and brothers.
We reject homophobia and transphobia and all violence against the LGBTQ community.
…. May we embrace a future where the legacies of white supremacy are dismantled. We refuse to dehumanize any individual, reducing their identity to singular markers and possibilities. May we work towards a radical openness for every individual as we fight together for a better today and tomorrow.
May we build not to kill but to enliven. Let us garner all of our economic power to fight desperately for one another’s health, for full stomachs, for equal access to buildings and teachers where we might discover the fullness of our gifts and skills. May our power not be oriented towards empire but towards building a better tomorrow together.
The American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature is the largest annual gathering of religious scholars and leaders in the US. The signers of the BOSTON DECLARATION will strategize throughout the United States to interrogate both Democratic and Republican 2018 candidates on their commitment to the concerns addressed in the pronouncement.