Once or twice a year we get to catch some time, maybe even a meal, and catch up. Yesterday was one of those days. Over our years in Christian ministry our paths have crossed in rural Oklahoma, suburban Oklahoma City, and of course we share the same college Alma Mater.
Talking shop, which for us turns on the pastoral vocation or denominational politics, we regretted we have seen too many instances where what a person says is more important than what one does. Today I am reminded of what happens when face the challenge of our own words.
My friend Alan called to tell me he submitted a resolution to the Alabama Baptist Convention during their Annual Meeting. Why not? He presented a successful resolution this summer at the Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptists Convention. On this occasion he simply wanted to get the ABC to go on record they would meet the needs of any person – including illegal immigrants. Or, put another way, they would not ask for a Green Card or Immigration documents before helping with the human needs of those they met. Should be simple right?
No. The resolution did not make it out of committee. Alan tells the story here.
What came to my mind is the way words work. The parable of the Samaritan we often refer to as Good calls into question ethnic barriers to serving others. Or, Matthew 25 pokes holes in selective service rendered in the Name of Jesus. But, threaten the status quo relationship with the Republican Party on the issue of Immigration in Alabama and those stories, parables, and real life encounters with Jesus take a back seat to expediency.
Alan asked, “Is this an irruption of the real?” I think so. When we announce we practice the way and manner of Jesus but then shutter that same way and manner when politically expedient the very words spoken in the Name of Jesus prove empty when material reality calls for the practice to be lived out. Not only is this an irruption of the real, it also demonstrates the empty core. When drilling down to a core from which to gain stability for making pronouncements about Jesus proves vacuous, any stand taken become nothing but rhetorical thin air. The very claims to follow Jesus find no substantive material reality when we fear political reprisal.
I replied, “Yes,” when Alan asked, “Isn’t this what you were trying to call attention to in your resolution to the SBC this past summer.”
You cannot blame us for trying.
I recently began reading St. Augustine’s Confessions again. I found this quote somewhat apropos,
And what saith any man when He speaks of Thee? Yet woe to them that keeps silence, seeing that even they who say most are as dumb.
Since we must speak of God, we must take great care when we do.