By Jan Edmiston, DMin ’01 and 222nd General Assembly Co-moderator with T. Denise Anderson.
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8
November 3, 2016—A favorite tweet from the recent DisGrace Conference a couple weeks ago was this:
The issue is not the de-Christianization of America, but the de-Europeanization of American Christianity.
The first European church was in Philippi and the apostle Paul wrote a letter to the Philippian Church from prison, most likely. Even from prison, he could be an optimistic guy, and at the end of Chapter 4, Paul wrote words that are among his most popular.
I sometimes hear these words repeated when things get tense and uncomfortable as in . . .
“Let’s not think about unpleasant things. Remember that Paul wrote, ‘whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.‘”
Let’s not talk about white college students dressed in blackface for Halloween. Let’s not talk about the injustice of breaking a treaty at Standing Rock, ND for the sake of profits. Let’s not talk about racial prejudice in our congregation. Let’s not talk about Uncle Pete’s drinking problem.
Let’s talk instead about honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent, praise-worthy things. It’s in the Bible.
There are countless glorious things in God’s creation. This is true.
But what’s also in the Bible is God’s call to speak up for the widow and orphan, the hungry and naked, the enslaved and oppressed. In fact, if we cannot bring ourselves to address the ugly realities of our world, we become part of the ugliness that perpetuates systemic injustice.
When preachers and prophets make us uncomfortable in church, some call it “meddling.” Some discount it as being “political.”
We forget that Jesus was arrested for sedition. He was political. He made powerful people uncomfortable.
Especially for those of us in the dominant culture (white, straight, healthy, employed, cisgender people) we often walk away when things get uncomfortable. We don’t want to talk about how the world works for us in ways it doesn’t work for others.
Heads up: We are called us to talk about it and more. Let’s not use Paul’s words to the first European Christians as an excuse to ignore real life injustice. Real life is sometimes ugly, unfair, and brutal.
We are called to notice and step up. We are called – sometimes – to be in uncomfortable conversations. We are called – sometimes – to take on uncomfortable truths.
Jan Edmiston, GA Co-Moderator with T. Denise Anderson, is the associate executive presbyter for ministry in the Presbytery of Chicago, where she has served since 2011. Prior to that she served congregations in northern Virginia and New York. She completed her MDiv at Andover Newton Theological School and her DMin in Christian Spirituality at CTS in 2001. She has graciously agreed to let us repost some of her blog entries (including guest bloggers) from A Church for Starving Artists.