There is a state of emergency in our nation, but our crisis has nothing to do with the border. We have, rather, a crisis of democracy.
I’ve given some thought over the past two years to the question of our church and our role in our nation, and I have some things to say about that. But that thinking has always presumed that our church lives in a democracy, and of course, the church lives under every kind of government. And the country we live in, the United States of America, is struggling to remain a republic. There is no government anywhere that is a perfect reflection of God’s kingdom, and indeed it would be an idolatry to desire that our government should be an instantiation of God’s kingdom. God’s reign is God’s own, and it is perfect and eternal. None of that can be said of any nation’s government.
But democracy works on a belief that reflects one of the most important tenets of our faith: that no matter who you are, no matter how lowly in the eyes of the world, no matter how ordinary you are, you matter. Democracy seems to me to be the work of ordinary people, in all their flaws, governing themselves. And it was for ordinary people, “like you and like I”, as the song goes, that “Christ came for to die.” The powerful and the weak, the rich and the poor, the famous and the forgotten—for each person, Christ died, Christ rose, and for each ordinary person Christ will come again. Our nation has always been at its best when it has expanded its embrace of ordinary people, and given to more ordinary people the rights, privileges, and duties of democracy: the 13th, 14th, 15th, 19th, and 24th Amendments to the Constitution show the way forward in a democracy.
Today’s announcement that President will declare a state of emergency in order to secure funding for a border wall is only a way forward to tyranny. It is a lie—although lying implies some sort of belief in or awareness of facts and truth, which does not seem in evidence in our current President--to say that there is a crisis at our border. It is a power grab and seizing money for a border wall will not be the end of it.
The chief political task of church is always to be the church, to remember that our first allegiance is to the cross and the kingdom of God. And the first law in this realm is to love the Lord and to love your neighbor. It is to believe that the face of your neighbor is the face of Christ. It is to love the ordinary person for whom Christ died, for whom he was raised, for whom Christ will return. The second step is to proclaim this news in favorable and unfavorable times. Sometimes this is ordinary. Sometimes it is revolutionary.
So hear this: there is a national emergency here, but it is the emergence of an oligarchy, the suppression of voter rights, and above all, the devastating effects of a changing climate.
The church’s response is simple. Love God, love our neighbor, and speak the truth as best we can.
See you Sunday.