For the second time in a week, one of the Pastors at Bethel has said that we should "reconcile" after this election. While we absolutely agree that we will not get anywhere if we refuse to speak to one another, and that allowing all of this to come between family, friends, and neighbors is not in any way productive, we think we need to be very specific about what we are "reconciling" about. It depends whether reconciliation means dialogue and continued moral deliberation (Bishop Hanson) by all sides, or acceptance of things as they stand. Do we reconcile ourselves to a policy that justifies torture, do we reconcile ourselves to a policy that goes to war without just cause and kills literally over 100,000 people, do we reconcile ourselves to a policy that further empowers the wealthy and weakens the poor and middle class? Do we reconcile ourselves to continued damage to the planet that God told us to be stewards of, and do we go backwards in the fields of science and medicine, despite the fact that God gave many of us gifts to help make this a better world?
You mention that someone needs to suffer for reconciliation to take place. One other fact is that for true reconciliation, both sides involved need to be willing to come to the middle, and unfortunately this last election has only emboldened the religious right and the administration to feel that they may impose even more of their ideas on the rest of the nation and world. (Not our opinion, but their words and actions shown in video on television since the election.)
We also believe that the Christian church is suffering. We didn't use the traditional wedding vows when we got married. We promised, among other things, "to serve God and others" and this is how we approach our jobs at the University. We have been teaching here for over 12 years now, and are starting to see an alarming trend in our students. Tim has the verse, "may the Lord bless you and keep you . . . " up in his office. Jamie has "Bach gave us God's word, Beethoven gave us God's fire, Mozart gave us God's laughter, God gave us music so that we could pray without words. " Early in our careers, when students would come in to talk to us, they would sometimes notice these sayings up on our walls and would say, "you're a Christian? I thought all Professors were atheists." Then they would go on to say "well, that explains why you teach and treat students the way that you do." These were always great opportunities to witness by example, which is much more effective with students than telling them what to believe. Over the last few years unfortunately these opportunities have disappeared. In there place, when students see these christian items posted in our offices they assume we are a part of the religious right and that we support all of those beliefs and policies, and worse, they want little to do with christianity because they see it tied to these policies. Bethel often worries about losing the interest of it's young people, we worry even more about the young people who, between the religious right and the recent scandals of the Catholic church, have no desire to come in.
There have been many times in the history of the world where people have not always been reconciled with one another. Where family members and neighbors were in some cases bitterly divided, but if we wouldn't have had those times we would still have slavery, segregation, and genocide. Martin Luther certainly did not reconcile with what he correctly determined was a corrupt church that had left the path God has set for all people. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony had a decades long battle to secure a women's right to vote. Gandi spoke out against the injustices of British rule in India. Martin Luther King Jr. frequently ended up in jail because he was not willing to reconcile with the racist discriminatory policies so prevalent in the south. Sometimes you have to stand and fight for what you truly believe in, even if it is uncomfortable. We believe this is one of those times. We need to stand up and be counted. The religious right have corrupted what it means to be a Christian and they need to be called on it. Much of Christianity has been silent for too long.
There is a movement out called Church Folks for a Better America that is trying to reclaim what it means to truly be Christian. We believe that we need to reclaim what it means to be a Christian, but that this particular effort is too political in nature, at least for now. We would like to suggest that our city-wide church with a world-wide ministry start a declaration that would be signed by churches all over the nation, or maybe even the world, using the internet.