I was scanning my Facebook news feed when I read articles about murders in Iraq.
It seems Islamic extremists in Syria are using beheadings and crucifixions to intimidate opponents. Photos and videos look eerily like scenes from illustrated Bibles.
I read about right-wing hate speeches on the steps of the Massachusetts State House in Boston, stirred by opposition to immigrants but proceeding on to everyone else they hate.
I read about gay bashing in the military. Anti-Semitism in Europe. Domestic violence in Baltimore. And on and on.
I have two responses. First, I applaud those who post such things on Facebook. Cat pictures are fine, but if this ugliness is going on in our world, we need to know about it.
Second, has humanity entered some new depth of degradation? Or do we just know more?
Warfare is never pretty. Hatred and intolerance are nothing new, even in a land supposedly founded on tolerance and respect. “Man’s inhumanity to man” is a recurring theme in every age.
I suspect we just know more. Our hunger for information extends into every corner and therefore into every genocide that we once missed seeing, every missile attack, every scream of rage. I suspect the world has been falling apart for a long time. Now we see it on our TV screens and computer monitors.
That means we can’t hide in our comfortable places and “make the world go away,” as Eddy Arnold once sang.
The depths are always before us. So what do we do? I think we privileged Christians need to get our act together and stop fretting. We need to be light in the darkness, not nattering about liturgy. Raising voices of hope and reconciliation, not taunting other Christians for being different from us.
We need to stand for justice, tolerance, respect, human dignity, kindness — and if that puts us at odds with some noisy, smug and dangerous people, so be it.
We need to grow our churches, not for reasons of institutional survival, but because God needs boots on the ground and hands at work. Our boots. Our hands.
We need to see that faith is a call to action, not a promise of personal perfection. That action must include political action — not be limited to it, but definitely include it. I don’t mean something as easy as endorsing a candidate for public office. I mean community development, grass-roots organizing. Conservative Christians already know this. Time for progressives to enter the fray on something other than sex.
We need to preach and teach about wealth and power. And if the wealthy and powerful don’t appreciate hearing a Christian perspective on wealth and power, too bad. Jesus devoted an estimated two-thirds of his teachings to wealth and power. His message was crystal clear: be generous, be grateful, give it away.
One final call, though I don’t expect this to happen without significant changes in generation and leadership: I think Christians need to stop fighting each other and join forces against the powers of darkness. We have done all the franchise-building that we need to do.
Time for us to remember what we agree on and be a force for good, not for further division.
(Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the president of Morning Walk Media and publisher of Fresh Day online magazine. His website is www.morningwalkmedia.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @tomehrich.)
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