As an Evangelical/Pentecostal pastor (some would say I am post-Evangelical/post-Pentecostal, but I would beg to differ), I believe there are some things about raising our voices for causes we can learn from the activities of Christianity. These are powerful lessons for our current political and social causes. Evangelical Christianity has been one of history’s boldest voices for the Gospel of Jesus since its inception in the 19th and 20 century, and yet, today it carries a negative connotation for many people in “Western culture.”
The louder Evangelicalism became through the 1980s, the more political clout it carried, the more empowered its core, and simultaneously ostracized those who were its political “other.” The Moral Majority raised their voices, and gathered a base of power and money in the south and center of America, even while urban areas and the Northeast and the West moved opposite to the cultural conservatism of this Christian base. Consequently, the Christian Conservative Right raised their voices and isolated those who disagreed with them. After 30+ years, we look back and see the increase of power eventually became an empowering isolation of the Progressive Left. The power struggle appears to be reversing itself. The Tea Party is mocked, the Christian Right has been splintered by progressive Christianity. People are raising their voices in opposition to positions they once may have held, and the momentum of cultural and legal changes favors the progressive rather than the once powerful and noisy conservative.
Raising our voices for our cause carries the danger of isolating the “other,” and in doing so eventually isolating our own causes in arguments perceived as petty by those caught in the crossfire of polarized positions. Yesterday’s popular soundbites are today’s jokes. We will continue to raise our voices, and make temporary progress, only to have it reversed sometime down the road as has happened in the past.
In the topic of “Raise Your Voice”, Marriage Equality and LGBTQ issues, healthcare, and immigration will likely take up a largest portions of this discussion. These issues are the major issues of our day. Yet, just like the movement of conservative Evangelicalism is mocked in many circles today, these movements are near the tipping point of overstepping their power. This is true to both the right and to the left. The future holds arguments against today’s soundbites of liberty and “rights”, of protection and economy, which will leave the movements looking petty and shallow to a good portion of the population caught in the crossfire of the polarizing positions. This is simply the going to be the result of raising our voices without listening to the positions of the other. Our popular arguments for today do not perceive the counter arguments coming tomorrow from more nuanced thinkers. And, in the Hegelian tension, it is likely that today’s theses will be offset by counterpoints of antithesis and will be overthrown.
This is where the Franciscan motif of actions speaking louder than words empowers us to create something more lasting. I hope to raise my voice by doing, and let my actions be seen by those around me. In doing so, I hope to overcome my detractors, not by shouting them down, but by winning them over with benevolent concern proven by my action.
Whatever your Gospel may be, remember the Franciscan adage, “Preach the Gospel by all means, and if necessary, use words.” Now, Francis may not have said those words, but he did live them, and it is not a stretch to put them in his mouth.
Blog Action Day is still a few days away, but I post this to raise my voice with others about one of the things which concerns me most. Interested in finding out more about my thoughts you can discover my views on creating lasting revolution in Burning Religion.