By John Blake, CNN (CNN) — The Rev. Timothy McDonald gripped the pulpit with both hands, locked eyes with the shouting worshippers, and decided to speak the unspeakable. The bespectacled Baptist minister was not confessing to a scandalous love affair or the theft of church funds.
Rev. Phil Wages says that it’s not the government’s responsibility to care for the sick, but the church’s. OK then, Wages, your church is failing in this arena, so what now? Wouldn’t encouraging your church community to take a political stand be one way for your church to help care for the sick?
But no, Wages says that he sees no biblical precedent where Jesus went to Herod or Pilate to tell them to take care of the poor. He fails to realize that Herod and Pilate were working in a more or less autocratic system of government. Isn’t the United States supposed to be a rulership of the people, by the people, and for the people? Thus isn’t it the responsibility of American citizens to fashion a government to serve their needs?
The article goes on to address the real issue, which is that pastors “do not want to alienate fans by taking political stands.” Bob Coy says “I’m not an activist guy. I don’t tell the government what to do. I am a church guy. I teach the Bible.” What is teaching the bible if not teaching a lesson in revolutionary politics? How can pastors ask us to be like Jesus while refusing to take political stands? Wasn’t the entire life of Jesus a political stand?
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, understandably questions the role of a bigger government, fine. But what then is the solution? It IS the job of the church to find solutions. People are sick and too poor to get medical attention, but these pastors just point to how many hours their communities spend volunteering for food pantries. Good stuff, no doubt, but solutions to the healthcare problem should be discussed openly in church. If well over half of the country claims to be Christian, why is healthcare still a problem? It’s because too few religious leaders are initiating the necessary conversations.
Theologian Ron Sider gets it right when he states that “If you are not sharing God’s concern for the poor, it raises huge questions about whether you are a Christian at all… . As God’s spokespersons, you ought to be talking about God’s concern for the poor as much as God. In the richest nation in world history, it’s contradictory to have millions without health insurance.” These pastors are too secure behind their pulpits and are too scared to act in a radically just manner. As Brazilian Roman Catholic Bishop Dom Helder Camara said, “When I feed the poor they call me a saint. When I ask why so many people are poor they call me a communist.” It seems like many of these pastors are more concerned with public perception than with justice.
Rev. Timothy McDonald points out that “Jesus provided universal health care. The Gospels are filled with accounts of Jesus healing marginalized people.” Whether Obamacare is the answer isn’t the issue, but that churches aren’t even talking about healtchare for the poor. Cowering church leaders need to grow the fuck up and piss people off (for righteous reasons).