An Alternative for our Toxic Times
Updated: Apr 4, 2021
I hesitate to bring politics into this post, but it is part of my back-story.
The Trump years were tumultuous for me -- not because of anything Trump did exactly. At the moment, I can't think of a single Trump policy that affected my life significantly. It was tumultuous because of the people that I thought I knew. The overwhelming, unqualified support for him from among my brothers and sisters in Christ shook me. This stream of support -- juxtaposed with the pain I saw his words cause here in Brooklyn -- left me baffled.
If I was alone in this dissonance, it would not be a big deal, but the numbers are dramatic. The Black Church voted for Hillary at rates exceeding 90% depending on which poll you check out. The White Evangelical church dramatically favored The Donald.
In 2020, it wasn't much different.
What is wrong here? When two parts of the body of Christ are engaged with intense political/religious fervor in opposite directions, there is something else at work here besides faith. One explanation is that politics has begun to swallow up all other identities and has become a matter of existential survival. It seemed that both sides felt that if "those people" win, life as we know it might end. We saw ourselves either in George Floyd / Breonna Taylor / Ahmaud Arbery or in the 19 folks who died in BLM events. To some extent, we felt that our political opponent had a knee on our neck, or at least that is the way it felt.
It doesn't take a Social Scientist to figure out that the racial disparity in church-going voters points to the fact that people are driven by something other than their faith. At the very least, it seems clear to me that Black Christians and White Christians don't understand each other very well, and during the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, the intensity of this misunderstanding hit a fever pitch.
Enter Restorative Faith.
A couple of friends of mine noticed a dozen or so folks on social media who were calling for peace and understanding, a faith that restores and unites rather than destroys. They planned some events, formed a Facebook group, and Restorative Faith was born. It isn't about restoring America to any particular time in the past. It is about restoring our hearts to the heart of God, loving God with every part of us and loving our neighbor as ourselves.
Most of us are from the Conservative Anabaptist tradition, so that is the lens we are using, but it was never meant to be exclusive. What attracted me was that they offered a lens outside of the political paradigm that so many of us were trapped in. The group helped me believe that maybe the Bible offers a way out of this political vortex. I was reminded that the Anabaptists have a pretty well-developed construct for this thinking that dates back quite a few years. It's just that some of us modern Anabaptists had slid a bit. The position is not that God is indifferent to the issues of politics, but rather He is above it, shaping it, shattering it when necessary like the stone that shattered the image in Nebuchadnezzar's dream. The nations are like "dust on the scale" to him as Isaiah states yet he "gently leads those that are with young" and in another place "carries them in his bosom."
The Spirit of the Restorative Faith Collective reminds me of the Spirit in the Apostles in Acts 6. The church was barely born when they encountered their first racial/ethnic dispute. The Greek widows felt like they were being treated unfairly. The 12 Apostles who were all Jewish recognized they had a problem. They didn't just accuse the Greek widows of being petty. They asked for help. They recognized that this issue would take some time and discernment, so they pulled together a multi-ethnic group who were full of wisdom and the Holy Spirit to come up with solutions. What if the church today took complaints of minorities seriously? What if we really listened? And the Apostles not only listened but they gave some of their power to people of the aggrieved ethnicity. They delegated authority to bring solutions. They implemented an organizational or dare I say "systemic" change to the church. In this new structure, they asked other people of the same ethnicity as those who were aggrieved to be part of the solution.
In a nutshell, this is what we are trying to do with Restorative Faith. We are saying the race-oriented pain we see in the church matters. Let's bring together some Spirit-filled folks from various ethnicities to speak into this pain.
We hope to launch a website soon. For now, we just have a Facebook group that you can join here. We call it a "Collective" because one of the purposes is to elevate various voices. We agree to a general statement of faith, but our particular perspective on issues might be slightly different. Also, our perspectives might change as we listen to each other, and that is a good thing. I know mine have.
The bottom line: We want the church to act like the church again and not be sucked into political tribes that are causing much pain in the body of Christ. Of course, this group is not the only group calling for an alternative to the political and racial polarization in the church. Miles McPherson, the And Campaign, and many more are making a similar call to rise above the fray.
I hope you can join the movement.