Editorial: The Desolation of the American Church - Come Out of Babylon

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Published:
November 9, 2016

On Tuesday, November 8, 2016, the United States of America selected as its next president a man who repeatedly, deliberately and unapologetically denigrated minority groups of every stripe, vilified immigrants, insulted women, mocked those with disabilities, and defamed all of his political rivals. A man who routinely cheated his workers out of payment and who joked about sexually assaulting people. A man who was unfaithful to all of his marital partners and who throughout his campaigns encouraged acts of violence (celebrating the violence when it erupted). A man who lied at every turn and who threatened any who exposed his lies.

That his general election rival made significant missteps (which she acknowledged and for which she apologized on multiple occasions) cannot diminish the utter moral bankruptcy of America’s president-elect.

We should be very clear about some things.

First, white supremacy is making its last stand in America. Exit polling demonstrates that among white voters over the age of 50, Donald Trump enjoyed wide margins of support. Trump did it in no small part by appealing to white voters’ demographic phobias. CNN commentator Van Jones called it a white lash against a changing country. White Americans are an irreversibly shrinking portion of the U. S. population, and this election portends the beginning of the end of white power. If people of color had been the only voters on Tuesday, Donald Trump would have lost all fifty states. Every. Single. One.

Second, the Christian Church in the United States, which overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump, shares his moral bankruptcy. Tuesday saw the destitution of the American Church. White Evangelicals, in particular, formed the backbone of Trump’s support according to exit polls. With Trump as their chosen leader, Evangelical appeals to “family values” or posturing as moral leaders is thoroughly vacuous. Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape Survey has documented the dropping off of religious adherence and the rise of those who profess no faith at all. By doubling down on the exclusionary and anti-scientific ethos that so many cite as the reason they have abandoned faith, the Church effectively signed its own death certificate though it may remain on life support for some time to come.

Third, the Seventh-day Adventist Church since its earliest days has cultivated the concept of a remnant -- a select people who “come out of her” (the corrupt and corrupting religio-political system symbolized by Babylon), who follow the Lamb wherever he goes, and who are faithful to the commands of God. The opportunity to be that remnant people has finally presented itself in the clearest terms.

Donald Trump’s campaign called into question the value of many groups of people, telling them they don’t belong. Today, those people rightly feel hurt and afraid. The Adventist Church in North America has an opportunity now to speak words of affirmation, inclusion, and love, but it might have to come out of Babylon.  

Donald Trump’s campaign disempowered people of color. The Adventist Church, the most racially diverse religious group in North America, has the opportunity to stand alongside the disempowered today, but it might have to come out of Babylon.

Donald Trump’s campaign encouraged violence against protesters and against foreign nations. The Adventist Church in North America can reclaim the legacy of Desmond Doss who refused to hold a weapon amid unspeakable violence; it can promote peacemaking in a world that wants to fight, but it might have to come out of Babylon.

Donald Trump’s campaign vowed to dismantle the legislation that brought healthcare coverage to millions who did not have it and to slash funding for nonprofits that promote reproductive rights and care for women. The Adventist Church in North America, which owns and operates some of the preeminent not for profit healthcare facilities in the world, can champion the causes of reproductive rights and access to health care, but it might have to come out of Babylon.

The Christian Church in North America has forfeited its moral voice by rejecting the values of the Kin-dom of Heaven. Those who believe that God calls a fragmentary people to come apart from the self-immolating Babylonian shambles, now is your time.

Demonstrate love, inclusion, solidarity. Now is your time.
Care for the widow, the orphan, the stranger among you. Now is your time.
Give voice to the voiceless, do justice, love mercy. Now is your time.

This morning I took my three-year-old son with me to the Planned Parenthood facility just blocks from my house. Unsure of what to do or say, I walked up to the counter and introduced myself as someone from the neighborhood who wanted to say thanks to the workers there. The receptionist teared up, thanked me, and asked me to wait for some staff members to come talk to me. I waited for a few minutes until two employees came out. I told them I live nearby and I appreciate them. We shared hugs and tears as they told me how they hear so often from people who oppose them and how seldom they hear appreciation. They told me how hard it has been for their entire staff to come to work this morning.

If we have affirmation and appreciation to give, now is the time.

I’ve made plans to visit an Islamic Center near my house during prayer time this afternoon. I made a card that I plan to deliver with some flowers. The note says simply, “I value you and respect you. You are a welcome part of this community. Love, your Christian neighbor.”

If we have the opportunity to extend healing and hope, now is the time.

I’ve often found the notion of a remnant people to be unnecessarily exclusivistic and self-congratulatory, but there is something deeply compelling about a people who stand apart, in faithful opposition to empire, in order to follow the enduring command to love one’s neighbor as oneself.

Love still trumps hate.

 

Jared Wright is Managing Editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.

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