The church must reclaim its prophetic roots
Christians cannot be passive in the face of social injustice. | Chak Hee Lo/ THE CHIMES [file]
The prophetic fervor and the righteous indignation Jesus exemplified in his life is one which all Christians can unequivocally attempt to emulate. The church must not be passive about the most pressing moral issues of our time. American churches are slowly losing their numbers, and we must go back to our radical and prophetic roots in order to save our churches.
A return to the radical
Public intellectual Cornel West writes in “Democracy Matters” on the importance of cultivating “prophetic Christianity” compared to “Constantinian Christianity.” According to West, “Much of American Christianity is a form of Constantinian Christianity” — a religion stripped “of the prophetic fervor of Jesus and the apocalyptic fire of that other Jew-turned-Christian named Paul.”
To be a radical is to go to the roots, or the origins of a problem. The church cannot battle social injustice if we do not possess the righteous indignation and prophetic fervor best exemplified by the life of Jesus Christ and adopted by Christians such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. To tend to issues of injustice is to not relegate the church into an institution trying to create an earthly kingdom instead of focusing a kingdom in heaven. The church as an institution will always betray the prophetic fervor of the Christian doctrine because of our fallen nature.
Journalist Chris Hedges writes in an article how “decaying institutions, including the church, when consumed by fear, swiftly push those endowed with this moral courage and radicalism from their ranks, rendering themselves obsolete.” Churches will fail when they fail to open their doors to the broken and the oppressed. This may seem common sense to most Christians, but history proves otherwise. One only needs to look at how numerous churches refused to support their brothers and sisters as they marched for their rights during the Civil Rights Movement. On the other hand, the Confessing Church refused to acquiesce to the demands of the Nazi regime. James H. Cones writes in “The Cross and the Lynching Tree” how Bonhoeffer — founder of the aforementioned church — was influenced by his brief visit to churches in Harlem and the American South and his observation of systematic racism.
A voice against injustice
Churches should no longer be passive actors in the face of injustice. If the church can no longer function as a space for broken people to express their love for God and their neighbors, then we have no use for the church. James Baldwin, playwright and novelist, often said he “left the pulpit to preach the gospel.” As a son of a preacher, Baldwin spoke from his observations and his experience as a gay black man.
The church must rekindle its prophetic roots. A church that embraces love will open its arms to the LGBT community and be unafraid of using its voice to speak up against injustice such as mass incarceration and institutionalized racism.
The church does not need frivolous fancy buildings or entertainment centers and instead should focus on being accepting and actively caring for those in need to attract people. The church must rely on the Gospel and the power of the Christian doctrine to appeal to the people.