The theologian and pastor, Karl Barth, is said to have counseled preachers to prepare for their work by having the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other: preaching is what happens, he said, in making the connections where the Word of God meets the challenges and joys of a particular place and time.
Wondering if he ever really said this and having the internet at my disposal, I found this:
Der Pfarrer und die Gläubigen sollten sich nicht einbilden, dass sie eine religiöse Gesellschaft sind, die sich um bestimmte Themen herum dreht, sondern sie leben in der Welt. Wir brauchen doch - nach meiner alten Formulierung - die Bibel und die Zeitung. ["The Pastor and the Faithful should not deceive themselves into thinking that they are a religious society, which has to do with certain themes; they live in the world. We still need - according to my old formulation - the Bible and the Newspaper."]So, with that as preface, I want to point you to two links. First, from The New York Times, the last piece in a series called "The Great Divide" - "Inequality is Not Inevitable." And then this from The New Republic, by Jonathan Cohn - "How the Poor Are Really Doing."
It is hard for me to read these verses about the judgment of the nations (and it is nations notice, not individuals) without daring to ask the question, "how are we doing?" And the answer is, not so well. The demagogues can wave their flags, but people of faith - both on the right and on the left - need to see with eyes that see what is really happening in our nation. The Church is called to more than charity. If a whole village is without water, we must dare to ask how we might provide a well and then to go further and ask what are the obstacles in our way? If we are incarcerating more people than anyone else in the world, we have to do more than visit those in prison; we need to ask questions about the system that put them there. If children are crossing over the border in Texas looking for new life, we need to demand that our politicians work on a solution that expresses our stated values of "welcoming the stranger."
I am blessed to be part of the Social Justice Commission in the Diocese of Western Massachusetts. Part of our work is to help Episcopalians (and others who want to listen in!) to find their voices in the public arena. Too many of us have been mistakenly taught a (false) piety that disconnects faith and action. We do charity pretty well in the Church, but we are called to do justice. So I commend this document to you, "Not Only With Our Lips, But In Our Lives."
I've been sneaky today, and turned a blog post into three "homework assignments." But this stuff really matters. And I easily could have added a dozen more! We should not deceive ourselves. We are not "a religious society" as Barth puts it - he isn't saying we aren't a religious culture, he's saying the Church cannot segment itself off as it we were a gated community. We live in the world. And we are called to do so as "light" and as "yeast" and as "salt."