Clarity, not Charity, is What's Needed from the Church
Far too often the Church allows itself to participate in the agenda of Empire. We certainly see this when it comes to issues of economic justice. The Church preaches and practices charity, opening itself up to serving food for the hungry, offering shelter beds for the homeless, and providing much-needed funding for the concrete material needs of the poor. Charity is a wonderful thing, but without justice, all it does is enable the Empire to further maintain unjust economic systems that lavishly benefit a few while enslaving and humbling the majority. Charity helps the Empire keep control.
We also see this dynamic, of the Church participating in the Empire's agenda, when it comes to the current policy of permanent war. The Empire does not want the people to see evidence of the consequences of this war. No photos are allowed of caskets coming home, of funerals, of weeping, distraught parents, siblings, lovers, and friends. Indeed, very little analysis of dissent is ever featured in media. The Church participates in this silence through its feeble and irrelevant prayers for peace. Prayer helps the Empire impose control.
Instead of praying for peace, I call upon all congregations to begin reading the names of those who have died in this war. Week after week, as part of our liturgies, the Church should honor and remember the dead, lifting them before the people as present in memory, eternally present before God. I call upon the Church to name those slaughtered, remembering that for every American name, we could add at least 200 Iraqi names. I call upon the Church to keep present before the congregation the cost of war, and keep present before God our collective guilt and shame.
Further, I call upon the Church to move prayers into action. Our preaching should be clear that this war is unjust and immoral, hideous and corrupt. As part of that clarity I call upon Pastors to counsel youth against joining the military services, even as we publicly promote civil disobedience against this war. The disobedience of which I speak ranges from public assemblies of dissent, to promotion of tax resistance, to public encouragement of soldiers willing to stand down their orders. The latter, of course, implies a community of financial and spiritual support of those who would dare stand up against the Empire's agenda.
The Church is a moral check and balance on the power of the State. Just as the prophets of old confronted the King, so too must the Church have the courage to say "no more." Without this role model of clarity and courage, our society withers into tyranny, and our people descend into the sorrows of slavery. Without this role model of clarity and courage, the Church has lost its faith.
Rev. Rich Lang is Pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Ballard, where they make present the names of the dead. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.