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… I don’t think the fact that we were not on the Zimmerman jury or that we are not members of the NC Legislature completely exonerates us from culpability in their atrocious actions…
Like most people I know, I was stunned by the not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial. Stunned, but not completely surprised. After all, the Rodney King beating was caught on videotape, and that didn’t prevent a not guilty verdict in that case.
There is a part of me that is reluctant to take this subject on as my blog for this week. That is partly because the subject is depressing, and so much has already been said about it, and the racism “mountain” apparently wasn’t notified that when we Christians speak, mountains are meant to move. It’s here. It has always been here. And it seems like it will always be here. It’s discouraging; and I am discouraged, in this moment, about the whole Trayvon ordeal and about what the NC Legislature is doing to this state and about how long it is taking for marriage equality to be the law of the land and for people to accept that it is right and move on.
Politics is a dirty word in some Christian circles…
Politics is a dirty word in some Christian circles and I think knowing that also makes this a difficult subject for me to address in this forum. But here’s the thing - I honestly believe it is my duty, as a Christian and as a Pastor, to speak about political matters. I understand that it is not my job to tell you what to think about political issues. I believe it is my duty to encourage you to think about them. I understand that it is not my job to tell you how to vote. I believe it is my duty to encourage you to vote.
The word “politics” is derived from a Greek word meaning “of, for, or relating to citizens.” Political systems establish the relationships between individual citizens, groups of citizens, and between citizens and government. Jesus was keenly focused on these relationships in his day. It was clearly his desire that unjust, oppressive systems be dismantled; that every person’s basic human needs be met without regard to socio-economic status; that neither privileged classes of citizens nor governments operate in the world as oppressors of disadvantaged or disfavored populations; and that no one presume to judge another’s standing before God. Many scriptural quotations of Jesus support this. In this limited space, I will “hang my hat” on this one:
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’
Jesus’ message and teachings were not limited to personal salvation. He clearly despised oppressive, exclusionary religious and political systems. The “Kingdom of God” of which Jesus so often spoke, and which it was his mission to initiate on Earth, is not a geographic location; it is a societal state. It is the state of God’s will being done on Earth as it is in Heaven. And what is God’s will? That we love God with all that we are, and love our neighbors as ourselves. This is a spiritual mandate with far-reaching political implications. We, as disciples of Jesus, cannot afford to overlook or ignore that.
And so I encourage you, and myself - when we are able to move on from our initial reactions to living in a country where the Trayvon/Zimmerman outcome could happen, let us please, get serious about availing ourselves of whatever non-violent means we can find to impact the socio-political environment that made that outcome not just possible, but predictable. We need real, true disciples of Jesus to run for political office. And we desperately need real, true disciples of Jesus to pay attention to the current trend - especially here in my beloved NC - of backward movement being forced on us by our legislature. Because real, true disciples of Jesus will understand their mission to be the advancement of his; and their votes will reflect that. As ours should. We need to educate ourselves about who’s who in our legislatures and how they are voting. And, for God’s sake, we need to vote in every election, on every level, for candidates whose governance will most closely approximate the Kingdom or Reign of God. Because, personally, I don’t think the fact that we were not on the Zimmerman jury or that we are not members of the NC Legislature completely exonerates us from culpability in their atrocious actions, if we have any opportunity to contribute to positive change and don’t bother to take it. Being informed voters and participants in our political processes is such an opportunity.