So when do
we use the word? When do we actually say it? When
do we, as clergy, take up the ministry of Ezekiel, and warn our
people of that which is coming (Ezekiel 33:1–9)?
So far we have
refused to say the word. So far we have not been so bold as
to take up Ezekiel’s ministry. Perhaps we are afraid that
even if we sounded the alarm our people wouldn’t listen nor would
they understand (Isaiah 6). And so, because of
our silence, our people are assaulted by fears and suspicions drifting
into sleep, moving step by inevitable step into the abyss traveled
by all other empires before ours (Revelation 18).
The signs are
clearly all around us. The mission and purpose of the United
States is now that of a permanent war economy patrolling the globe
and exterminating the infidels (1 Samuel 8). The office of the president,
with the acquiescence of the Congress, is fast becoming the office
of a supreme leader who can change law through “signing statements”
and extinguish law through an assumption of war powers.
We have become a nation that practices torture. We have become
a nation that targets and kills civilians. We have become
a nation that disappears people. We imprison people without
trial. We monitor what we say, who we say it to, when
we say it, where we say it. All of this in the name
of freedom and all of this disguised as justice. All of this
covered with the silence and blessing of the clergy who will not
blow the trumpet.
The signs are
clearly all around us. We have students spying on their professors.
We have government agencies spying on us. We have our computer
transactions monitored. We have our children accosted
by military recruiters at school, through the mail, through the
media, at the mall. Meanwhile the price of war rises into
the multiple billions even as spending cuts slice through the poor
and the working class. But, from the pulpit, we dare
not speak its name: this name that has become the reality of our
Church there is an irreconcilable divergence emerging (1 John 2:18–19).
At its extremes we see the birth of Patriot Pastors in Ohio even
as liberal churches become targets for IRS investigations.
We see Justice Sundays and the growth of theocratic nationalism
even as more are jailed because of their faith-based resistance
to the further production of war. From the pulpits of the
nation the Sermon on the Mount, Christian identification with the
poor, the declaration to love our enemies are all replaced with
strategies of church growth or manipulations to infiltrate political
parties. Congregations insist that clergy dare not speak
its name. Congregations insist that clergy stay embedded in
their role as chaplain and golf partner. They insist that
clergy provide comfort and offer therapeutic guidance.
And clergy, with paycheck in hand, and a desire for career advancement
in heart, oblige their congregations with false words of “peace,
peace” (Jeremiah 8).
But when does
it get said? When do we clergy preach I Samuel 8, Isaiah 6,
Jeremiah 8, Ezekiel 33, 1 John 2, Revelation 18? When
do we prepare our people for the next act of terrorism and the next
seizure of power? When do we clergy declare that allegiance
to a military security state committed to permanent war is idolatry?
When do we cease our support for the regime that sends troops
out to oppress, dominate and die while it chants the empty
slogan “support our troops?”
When, in other
words, will clergy name the disease that is our present reality?
When do we speak of it from the pulpit? What are we waiting
for? What other signs do we need? Are we waiting for
the inevitable arrests of dissidents? Are we waiting for the
next invasion, and then the next? Are we waiting for further heresy
trials, further church harassment, further cultural friction?
Are we waiting until the waters of the coming economic flood finally
bubble up under our own chins? When do we dare
blow the trumpet and warn our people? When do we dare cast
aside the comforts of popularity, prosperity, and privilege so that
we finally speak its name? And having spoken it from the pulpit,
from the Bible study, from out of each pastoral visit we make, having
spoken the Word then perhaps we can lead our people in doing that
which only the Church can do: casting out the demon while
repenting for the sin of this republic now turned empire. Just like
Jesus encountering the man in the tombs, we must begin this exorcism
by naming its name: some might call it militarism but I think it
is better understood as fascism (Mark 5).
Rev. Rich Lang [send
him mail] is pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Seattle,