Featured in Sunday, January 31, 2021 Journal Gazette
By Rev. Annie Epling
Like you, I watched with horror as events unfolded on Jan. 6. Never in a million years did I think I would see an angry mob scaling the walls of the United States Capitol, not to mention a man strolling through it with a Confederate flag, police officers being beaten trying to protect the building, and a noose ready for the vice president’s head just outside.
I hope I never see these things again.
But there is something else I saw that deeply troubled me; it was a sign proclaiming “Jesus Saves.” I have been asked more than once lately, “Pastor, what has happened to Christians?” When a man holding a “Jesus Saves” sign stands next to a man wearing a Camp Auschwitz sweatshirt, it’s hard not to ask that question.
What has happened to Christians?
There’s no reconciling a “Jesus Saves” sign with a Camp Auschwitz sweatshirt. Does the man in the sweatshirt not know that Jesus was a Jew? Does he not read his Bible and hear the words Jesus proclaims? I scratch my head and wonder where the church has gone wrong. What a black eye this is for my faith, the faith I love and have spent a lifetime proclaiming. What has happened to Christians?
This isn’t the first time I have disagreed with the opinions of other Christians. Why, anyone who has spent time in a church knows Christians disagree about all sorts of things! I am an ordained minister of the word and sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA), and we have had our fair share of disagreements.
The northern and southern parts of the Presbyterian Church split in 1861 over slavery, and when we reunited in 1983 there were some churches which chose not to reunite because they didn’t believe in the ordination of women. In more recent years, Presbyterians and many other Protestant denominations have wrestled with the full inclusion of LGBTQIA persons.
I make no bones about where I stand on such issues. I’m for inclusion because I believe Jesus was for inclusion. I also recognize that there are people who disagree with me because we read the Bible differently.
But this current trend of Christianity being wrapped in the flag and soaked in white supremacy is not at all biblical. There is nothing Christian about it. It is a sin, a sin of which Christians must repent.
Furthermore, this is not a time to keep silent. I know there are those who say the church should mind its own business, but the world is its business. John Calvin, forefather of Presbyterianism, believed wholeheartedly that because Christ ushered in God’s kingdom here on earth, we are called to live in the world, and that means we sometimes support it, sometimes challenge it, sometimes critique it and sometimes resist it : all in the name of Jesus Christ.
And we do that because while our faith is personal, it is never private. We are a part of society. We cannot separate our Sunday morning selves from our Monday through Saturday selves. What we believe about God may be personal, but how we live as God’s children is anything but private. Taking this a step further, we are called to engage the world and to help make the world a better place because God loves the world and cares about what happens to it.
Jesus proclaimed the two greatest commandments are to love the lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself.
One cannot love his or her neighbor and God while wearing a Camp Auschwitz sweatshirt, beating a police officer, carrying a Confederate flag or making a noose for someone’s head. It’s impossible.
If Jesus had been in Washington, D.C., that day, he would have protected the police, dismantled the noose, and taken the sweatshirt and flag, because this is how Jesus saves. What has happened to Christians? I do not know. But I pray that more Christians will speak out when they see these injustices happening and work toward a society where we never see such things again.