For more than a year, we have been bombarded with campaign ads, vitriol and divisive rhetoric. This election has brought out the worst in us, leading to protests, defamation, even violence.
The church has not been immune. We have been called on to support one political agenda or the other, even at the detriment of our well-protected tax-exempt status.
In Kentucky, the governor encouraged pastors to break the law by endorsing a particular political party agenda. Congregational leaders and members participate in mud-slinging and name-calling. They fight among themselves, sometimes within the sacred halls and parking lots of our church campuses.
The church is a historically sinful system. The 500th anniversary of the Reformation reminds us that we have often failed to live as God calls us — one body in Christ with a mission of love. Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenburg Castle Church to spur discussion and debate. He wanted the church to examine its practices and repent of its impropriety.
Throughout our 2,000-plus years of Christian history, beginning with the very first churches, there has been conflict and division, and many calls for repentance and reconciliation. My own Presbyterian denomination has gone through numerous break-ups and mergers, and we are not unique in this.
However, what we are seeing today is different than church separations based on theological and ecclesial disagreements. What we are seeing is a church caught up in a national crisis of epidemic proportions. We are a nation torn by fear, hatred, racism, distrust and outlandish vulgarity. It is time for the church to stop participating and start healing.
Our people are hurting — Christians and non-Christians alike. Jesus was a healer, and if we are to be his body we need to be about the ministry of healing and reconciliation. Could it be that this is the American church’s new mission? We are at a crossroads. Will the church continue to join the mass hysteria? Or will religious leaders be a beacon of hope shining in this present darkness?
I challenge all congregations in the commonwealth to choose the latter — practice the love and forgiveness of Christ that we proclaim. Hold healing services, prayer vigils, community conversations, calls for peace, etc. — anything to foster a culture of love, hope, peace and charity.
Our state and our country need us to practice what we preach.
The Rev. Peggy C. Hinds is executive director of the Kentucky Council of Churches.