From One White House to the Other
A group of Baptist pastors and ministers from across the country were invited to the White House for a nonpartisan briefing concerning public-policy and justice issues. I received the invitation from Dr. Robert Parham, Executive Director of the Baptist Center for Ethics in Nashville,Tennessee. I was honored to be a part of this group of leaders from across Baptist life. The overall theme of the meeting was to explore avenues where the faith community intersects with government in promoting the common good.
This was a nonpartisan opportunity to hear the issues of our time from those who are informed and work with the issues up close and personal. We heard about issues regarding human trafficking, environment, finances, education, housing and immigration. The goal was to inform and engage faith communities in the task of promoting the common good. We were allowed to ask questions and make comments.
In hearing reports about the different issues and from the different agencies at the White House briefing was like being informed about the health and welfare of a loved one. You knew there were concerns but you didn’t know how serious the illness was. The challenges and issues presented were enough to raise my concern and pulse.
The issues facing us are far too important and complex to be explained in soundbites and solved by partisan politics. The faith community is needed— both our hands and our voices. We can offer hands of compassion and the sure call for justice. I am not suggesting we opt out of the political process, but we must learn to transcend partisan politics that divides the country and often our churches.
Having this information is in some ways troubling. There are no easy answers to the many complex issues that we face. It is a reminder, at least to me, that we Christians do have a responsibility to act compassionately and to speak courageously when it comes to matters of justice. Those are the two callings of any Christian. To be compassionate and to practice justice. Jesus summed it up by calling us to love God and love our neighbor.
Of course following the Christian call to compassion and justice is never as easy as it sounds. Finding a Christian position on any issue is not as obvious as some claim. It requires prayer, interpretation of scripture, thought and humility. Even then, there will still be differences.
Any voice that claims to speak from a faith perspective must guard against the tendency to be co-opted by the promise of political clout or power. This position will compromise the message of compassion and justice. We must learn to practice humility and respect when discussing the issues. Our Christian voice should not be used to advance a position of power but instead provide a witness of love. We must always remember that our ultimate concern and loyalty does not belong to any political party but to the kingdom Jesus came to declare. It is our task to advance the message and mission of that cause.