What's Worth Yelling About?(Reclaiming the prophetic voice in our day)
Updated: Dec 15, 2020
Quite a bit has confused me recently.
I have been confused at the voice of some Christian leaders over the last four years. No other time in my life have I seen evangelical leaders tenaciously defend such a thoroughly immoral and unethical man. And don't even get me started talking about the fever-pitch activism against masks. I don't understand how masks are a moral issue at all, so why is it the rallying cry of so many who claim to share my faith?
Before you label me a Cultural Marxist, read some of my other posts and try to here me out. I really am just trying to follow Christ, and I am learning that political alignment is mostly harmful to my faith.
So how should we interact with moral issues in the public square?
First, we need to understand our vantage point.
MLKJr. puts it in perspective for me.
“The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.” - MLK Jr.
It seems MLK's worry has become all too true.
Where do we turn for an example of the voice we need? I like the Old Testament prophets, but let's jump straight to Christ. When did he get loud? When did he get quiet? Who liked him? Who hated him? Which sins did he keep bringing up in public? Which sins did he address in private?
One of the clearest patterns I see is that Jesus had a class-based bias from day one. In his opening address He said that He came to preach good news to the poor. He spoke repeatedly of fiery judgement for the self-absorbed rich. The Rich Fool, the Rich Man and Lazarus, and the Sheep and the Goats are just three such examples. So harsh were his words that those listening questioned if it was possible at all for a rich person to be saved. Fortunately, for me (a rich man) Jesus said that rich people can be saved, but it would take a miracle. His half-brother James certainly got the point. In his short epistle, James explicitly points out that we are wired to give preferential treatment to the rich, but that is not the way of Jesus. "Aren't the rich the ones that abuse you?" he askes.
Jesus focus on greed and covetousness -- a condition present in some poor people as well by the way -- stands in stark contrast with his lack of emphasis on such Evangelical staples such as religious freedom, limited government, strong policing, free enterprise, gender roles, homosexuality, and abortion. Again, I am not saying that these issues are irrelevant. I am saying that Jesus did not seem to consider them the "weightier" issues.
Another thing Jesus talked a lot about was giving up your rights. "Turn the other cheek" is so commonly remembered it has become an idiom in our vernacular. He never led a march protesting the unfair treatment inflicted by the Romans. Instead, He offered people an internal strength and eternal kingdom so powerful that it eventually did take over Rome in A.D. 313, but it was not a political movement. A kingdom of freed hearts is a better way to describe it. The way to liberation, Jesus said, was first through an individual existential crisis he simply described as death. Having died, his disciples then became fearless agents of change in every area of life. He repeatedly said to take personal responsibility for your own stuff prior to any effort at implementing broader change in others.
What else did Jesus talk about? Hypocrisy, worry, judgment for sin, healing, forgiveness . . . What am I missing? Drop your thoughts in the chat below.
Clearly Jesus main objective was to please His Father and expand the Kingdom of God through connecting individual people on the lower end of the socio-economic scale and those who were poor in spirit with the riches found in His Father. He didn't talk about politics that much, so if you prefer not to talk about political or social issues, I can see your logic.
If you do, however, like me, feel that there is a prophetic voice to be reclaimed, and Jesus scathing words to the political/religious elite of his day is an example you want to follow, let me suggest some starting points. I have summarized a Top 12 list of numbers worth yelling or weeping about -- maybe both. It is by no means an exhaustive list, but you have to start somewhere if you want clarity.
2-3 times. Maternal and infant mortality of African American mothers and babies is 2-3 times as high as the national average.(2)
6.7 Million "At year end 2015, over 6.7 million individuals1) were under some form of correctional control in the United States, including 2.2 million incarcerated in federal, state, or local prisons and jails. The U.S. is a world leader in its rate of incarceration, dwarfing the rate of nearly every other nation. Such broad statistics mask the racial disparity that pervades the U.S. criminal justice system, and for African Americans in particular. African Americans are more likely than White Americans to be arrested; once arrested, they are more likely to be convicted; and once convicted, and they are more likely to experience lengthy prison sentences. African-American adults are 5.9 times as likely to be incarcerated than whites and Hispanics are 3.1 times as likely. As of 2001, one of every three black boys born in that year could expect to go to prison in his lifetime, as could one of every six Latinos—compared to one of every seventeen white boys." (3)
35% higher suicide rate. In the last 20 years from 1998 to 2018 the suicide rate in the U.S. has risen by 35%. It is the second leading cause of death for 10-34-year-olds. Suicide rate among White Males is nearly three times that of any other gender/racial group with the exception of Native American. (4) There are twice as many suicides each year as there are homicides.
5 X. LGB youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth. In a national study, 40% of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt. LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection. (5)
3.5% drop in poverty rate. Since 2012 poverty rate dropped by about 3.5% until the pandemic hit. While more White people are poor than Black people, the percent in poverty among Black and Native American population is nearly double that of the White population. (6) The average wealth gap between Black and White households is 5 to 10 times depending on where you look.
13% of adults report not going to see a doctor in the last year because of cost (2016). This is down from 16% in 2013. The percent has stayed level and gone up slightly by 2019 even as the economy has grown. (7)
13.5 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15-44, the lowest since before abortion was legalized in 1973 a number dropping steadily since the early 1980's. (1)
9 cases of substantiated child maltreatment per 1,000 in 2017, dropped from 13 in 1990 (8)
3.16% of GDP spent on the military (2018) vs.8.6% in 1960. The U.S. stills spends more on its military than the next 7 largest military budgets combined which in turn is also more than all the rest of the world combined. (9)
5.3 per 100,000 crime rate in 2017 down from 9.3 in 1990. Murder/homicide rate has similarly dropped. (10)
631,051 refugees accepted by the U.S in 1994 down to a low of 262,023 in 2012 up to 341,711in 2019.
While these 12 numbers are important, there are many more that could be added. What are your thoughts?
8 Child Maltreatment - Child Trends
10 U.S. Murder/Homicide Rate 1990-2020 | MacroTrends