I am donning my PK (preacher’s kid) hat as I write this post. Hopefully in doing so I won’t remove all relevance for those of you who had normal, well-adjusted upbringings at the hands of parents with normal jobs.
I kid. Kind of.
There was a remarkable thread on Twitter this weekend where Jack Jenkins compiled a list of faith groups and leaders who have publicly condemned the current administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents. You can read the whole thing here, but I’ve copied a couple of personal highlights. I think the final count was in the upper 30’s. I’ve gone with the ‘remarkable’ descriptor because of the vast diversity of Christian organizations named. I was not terribly surprised to see the names of mainline Protestant organizations I’m familiar with: Presbyterians, Methodists, Episcopalians, as well as the two nearest and dearest to my heart, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America of which I’m currently a member, and the Christian Church Disciples of Christ, which I was raised in. I was more surprised to see the likes of Franklin Graham, the Southern Baptist Church, and the Nazarenes.
It got me to wondering: Since so many denominational leaders were speaking out against family separation, would it be mentioned in local churches on Sunday morning?
Who the hell would ask such a question? A cynical, cantankerous, crabby ass preacher’s kid. That’s who.
In my lifetime, my dad served five different congregations. All Christian Church Disciples of Christ, which I’m placing solidly in the mainline Protestant category, and, as mentioned above, whose General Minister and President signed on with other religious leaders calling on Trump to end family separation. My dad’s retired now, but I can’t help but wonder what the reaction would have been if this were 1988 and he had so much as mentioned the word immigration from the pulpit of the First Christian Church in Larned, Kansas. I imagine he could easily have been fired, or at the very least, he’d have gotten quite a talking to from the board. I also question whether church leaders on the regional and national level would’ve had his back if he had been fired or reprimanded for delving into ‘politics*’ from the pulpit. Even had they signed petitions and letters, even if they 100% agreed with what he said, it seems possible they’d have told him to pipe down and settle for the path of least resistance.
Maybe, or perhaps even probably, my parents will read this and tell me I’ve gotten it all wrong. I’m not necessarily saying this is the way it was, but I can tell you it’s the way it felt to me. I do trend towards feelings of oppression, like any good drama queen.
Of course, those were different times. There was no social media. A pastor couldn’t scroll through twitter and facebook to get a feel how his or her parishioners were feeling about current events. Or log onto the denomination’s homepage and see a letter signed by ministers and other church leaders from all over the country. Conversely, lay people couldn’t follow Popes or bishops or General Ministers on social media. The phenomenon of local lay people even knowing who their denominational leaders are, let alone following them on Twitter, is a relatively new one.
Even though I can’t really know what would’ve happened 30 years ago (thus my ‘Meaningless Musings’ title), I’d still like to know: Was the current refugee crisis at our southern borders mentioned in your church on Sunday morning?**
I’ve tried gathering some data via facebook and twitter. While I did get some affirmative responses, they were primarily from sources I would’ve expected a yes. So, all I can do, based on what I’ve experienced, is surmise that in many churches, the topic simply did not come up.
I hope I’m wrong. I hope most people of faith had to dig in and wrestle with the issue this past Sunday morning. Because, if they didn’t, is there really any relevance to organized religion? Is there any relevance to denominational big wigs signing letters of opposition?
There was a time in my life, about a decade ago, when I was ready to walk away from church. There were a lot of factors, most were logistical (getting to and thru church with two small children seemed less desirable than a root canal) rather than philosophical or theological. But there was definitely a question of relevance for me, even then.
Ultimately, I couldn’t walk away. I’m in a church now where congregational leadership has few or no barriers to talking about issues that are relevant to me and heavy on my heart. And I have just barely enough optimism to think more churches addressed family separation last Sunday than would have if this had happened thirty years ago. It could be a function of the bubble I live in, but it does feel like churches of all stripes are being pushed (sometimes kicking and screaming) towards relevance to the times we are living in. I say this because of those surprise names in the Twitter thread. The Franklin Grahams and Southern Baptists and a bunch of other Evangelicals called out Trump. The newly elected head (or president or whatever he’s called) of the Southern Baptist Church ran on a platform contending human beings without penises might have something worthwhile to bring into the life of the church. Let me say it again, for the bazillionth time: What a time to be alive.
*Yes, I’m calling this politics. Even though it’s really an issue of humanity. We’re living in the Trumptocracy, after all.
**Yes, I’m calling them refugees and terming what’s happening a crisis. Artistic license. Or maybe a bleeding heart. Or something.