This post is my contribution to the Eighth Letter Project, which invites participants to compose letters to the North American Church in the spirit of John’s seven letters of Revelation. A selection of these letters will be presented at the Eighth Letter Conference October 1-2, 2010, in Toronto. There will also be a synchroblog (hosted by writer Rachel Held Evans ) for Christian writers to post their letters online September 12-18). For more details, visit the project website or follow @eighthletter on Twitter.
Letter to the American Church
"Just going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in your garage makes you a car." G.K. Chesterton
Beloveds, I consider you my precious family, and like any healthy family, we need to tell the truth to each other in love. What has happened to us? Why are we all going our separate ways, fraying the bonds that unite us and make us strong and capable of great Kingdom works together in Christ's name? Very simply, why are so many of us hoarding our gifts and turning a blind eye to endless number of brothers and sisters who are suffering in the valley right now?
I know in our country individualism is a valued and closely-held component of who we believe we are as a people. We cling to our rights to be oursleves and follow our own paths. I hear self-described Christian people say they want to keep what's theirs, and do as they choose to do. They build up on earth in fear, storing away for themselves while so many hurt.
But rights, like privileges, can be abused. We can't use our freedoms as excuses to exercise selfishness. We can't confuse individuality with self-centeredness, self-indulgence, materialism, vanity, ethnocentrism or divorce from our Christ-commanded responsibilites to others.
James (5:1-5) warns:
Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upons you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty, You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.
We are the wealthiest country in the world, with bountiful resources both natural and human. Let's make sure that there is safe, honorable work for everyone who seeks it, that a person who labors is treated with respect regardless of their their identity, that a worker is paid a livable wage including access to the essentials for a decent standard of living in this world: education, health and dental care, retirement protections, disability protections, affordable and adequate housing, childcare, trasportation, clean air and water, clean, safe and nutritious food, that the products we manufacture trade and purchase are not obtained through the suffering and oppression of others, that there would be organized community and church family support guaranteed for all without question or qualification in times of life's crises.
This is my hope for us all. Amen.