Perhaps the political campaign season, which now seems like it “ever was, is now and ever shall be,” just has me a little oversensitive to labels but I finally kind of lost it one evening last week! I am fed up with how we categorize needlessly, inappropriately and falsely with our casual and dismissive labeling – especially when I’m on the receiving end of the labeling process!!!
Fresh from a Lutheran CORE meeting in Indianapolis where, among other things, we discussed who we are as the true center of the church, I was watching the media coverage of the newly minted vice-presidential candidate of the Republican Party. I heard some “prime time sage” say: “Well, she will satisfy the agenda of the right-wing evangelical Christians anyway.”
Listening to what those issues of the “right-wing evangelical Christians” were that Sarah Palin touches, I realized they were talking substantially about me!
They weren’t talking just about our brothers and sisters who hold a more fundamental and literal reading of God’s Word than I do. They were talking about Christians, which as a group includes individuals on the political right and on the left and everyone in between, who have the audacity – to borrow a favorite word from another political party – to care about issues of life, about public morality, about the definition of marriage, about homosexual unions and their effect on our society if recognized as marriage, about the Word of God, indeed those Christians who have the colossal nerve to proclaim Jesus Christ openly and publicly in our so-called pluralistic, inclusive society. And, it’s a society that is actually becoming increasingly Christo-phobic.
They were talking about me and I was incensed!
In fairness to the TV and political intelligentsia, I quickly realized that this is how members of our own church have been encouraged and lobbied to look at us as well – as the fringe, the extremists, what one ELCA bishop called “those who would divide us.”
Then I was even more incensed! Since when did holding to foundational, well worn and tried truths, known, held and loved over centuries, lived faithfully by the body of Christ, drawn from the authentic revelation of God in Christ Jesus and communicated in his Word, since when did doing those things become extremist and “right-wing”?
Friends, this is the importance of recapturing our stolen identity, which is the very the center of the church and its life, and of restoring the balance of truth, which anchored and guided the community of Jesus followers for all these years and provided the strength and security of knowing they were about his work and not just their own.
This is the important task of helping the church and beyond to rediscover the simplicity and clarity of the Gospel that authentically records our salvation for eternity and brings order to our existence here in time.
What always has not only impressed me but also called me to accountability are the integrity and charity, the humility and the boldness with which WordAlone and Lutheran CORE and their other progeny have faced the forces of revisionism. This is Gospel humility and charity, and is a living out of Jesus’ words, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” (Matt. 16:25)
This is not about me or us; it is about the Lord’s work and mission given to us. We will not “win” if we just defeat injustice or untruth by political machinations or by discovering creative ways to dismiss others on the opposite side of the issues.
Jesus knew “labeling” too. Earlier in Matthew’s Gospel after he delivered a hometown sermon, his hearers said of Jesus:
"Isn't this the carpenter's son? Isn't his mother's name Mary, and aren't his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren't all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?" And they took offense at him. (Matt. 13:55-57a)
Let us pray for each other that we might be clothed in the Gospel as we face the slings and arrows of the fight; that we might be God’s instruments to restore that Gospel to the center of the church. Let us pray for our presiding bishop, the other bishops and those who would take our church from its roots.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.