Thursday, July 05, 2018

When faith becomes a platitude

At the end of May I wrote this post in the wake of yet another school shooting in America. I could have written it as a response to the ever increasing knife attacks in London. The only difference is that in the US "prayers and thoughts' get wheeled out as if that's sufficient. That's what bothers me.

I'm angry. Angry and frustrated. I'm angry and frustrated because yet another school shooting has occurred in America and more lives have been lost. But that alone is not all that is winding me up today. It's also the response.

President Trump offers his prayers, a good and proper thing to do, but he can do more. He has the power and authority to create a climate for change. To tell people that it must stop, that more guns are surely not the solution. To tell them that even if they have a constitutional right to bear arms then they need to give up that right for the sake of the nation and in the name of sanity.

Now I know that there are those who profess a faith and subscribe to the pro-gun lobby. I also know that there are those who will tell me that I'm not an American, I don't live in America and it's none of my business. Okay, I understand that, but I'm going to speak anyway because there's more a stake here than national political and identity.

Our faith is being undermined when powerful people invoke prayer without action as a sufficient response. Prayer is not a political tool. Jesus said some interesting things about faith that lacks action. For example, in Matthew 25 we read several parables that follow similar themes. There are the wise and foolish virgins (5 are prepared, 5 are not), the 'talents' or bags of gold and the sheep and goats-a parable about judgement. It is in this last parable that Jesus speaks about the righteous who act 'For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I needed clothes and you clothed me...' If you know the passage, you know that their action wasn't predicated on who was hungry or thirsty, they simply responded with action to the things they saw. The unrighteous see the same things but do nothing.

So why this passage? Well in the first place I'm not about to use it to condemn or judge people. That's not the point. The point is simple. Faith demands action. It simply cannot stand by. It cannot be a platitude.

The gospel remains a powerful message, not only about how we relate to God but also about our responsibility in the world. It has something to say about poverty, about homelessness, about guns and violence, about economics and exploitation, about refugees.

Yes, I'm still angry that powerful people dispense faith without using their power to make a difference.

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