Moral Contradictions

Thursday, March 30, 2006

America needs more prophets.

Or so would the late and very wise Phil Strickland would probably say. He headed the Baptist General Convention of Texas Christian Life Commission and had a speech titled "Where Have All the Prophets Gone?" (scroll down) published post-humously in the February 2006 edition of the Baptist Studies Bulletin.

I read the speech last night before I went to bed and I wish I waited until morning. I wanted to wake my wife up and share what I read as it proved to be a document that I never ever want to lose or forget.

For compassion to move to action requires an alliance of love, power, and justice. As Paul Tillich said: “In both interpersonal and political relationships, love, power and justice are inseparable. Without love, power becomes tyrannical and justice is only a name for the rule of strong. Without power, love is reduced to sentimentality and justice to an impotent ideal. Without justice, love is a perverse dance of domination and submission.”

Always, the prophet must be imaginative. One does not prophesy about what is but about what ought to be. Which usually makes prophecy sound absurd to the common ear.

Let me give you an example. A pastor mentioned to me that he did not like the beginning of our Christian Life Commission flyer, that it could cause controversy in his church. Here are the words, aptly authored by Joe Haag, so I’ll brag about his work:

“To follow Christ means that we allow his life to gain leverage against our lives. Against our lust for power, he endures the cross. Against our pride and arrogance, he washes the disciples’ feet. Against our upward mobility, he preaches good news to the poor. Against our self absorption, he has compassion on the multitudes. Against our tight circles of family and friends, he reaches out to strangers. Against our safe noninvolvement, he confronts the powers. Against our violence and hatred, he demands that we love our enemies. Against our self righteousness, he welcomes sinners. Against our bigotry, he tells us about a Good Samaritan. Against our frenzy, he invites us to trust God. Against all the lies which enslave us, he tells the truth which sets us free. How can we be transformed into the image of Christ? One answer is that as we surrender our lives to God’s purposes, God changes us.”

That pastor did not like the words “our pride and arrogance” or “against our self absorption.” He said, “I’m not going to say either one of those about America.” Which means, what, that he accepts the Lordship of America? Who will be left to speak a word for the Lordship of Christ?

Wow. Those are tough, yet very true words, for all Christians to hear. I was deeply humbled when I read that paragraph, as it reminded me that we're not called to a "Christian-Lite" life, but rather to carry the cross with Jesus.


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