Recent events in North Carolina are putting our Baptist convictions to the test. In remembering the most, North Carolina’s lawmakers have forgotten the least. School children are hungry. Access to affordable healthcare will soon be even more difficult to procure. Rights for marriage and voting are shrinking, even disappearing altogether for some. So how should Baptists respond?
As a seminary student, the old Baptist maxim “never allow your comfort to trump your conscience,” seemed an easy one to follow. As ministers, we soon learn that comfort is persuasive – tomorrow’s paycheck and a tame deacon’s meeting have the ability to temper our convictions. Thank God for Smyth and Helwys. But even more, thank God for all of my mentors who listened to them – mentors who always allow conscience to trump comfort.
Yesterday, I was privileged to join thousands of North Carolinians, clergy and lay folk alike, who are concerned about the wellbeing of our state’s most vulnerable citizens. Our group gathered to say, “Enough! We care about ALL of North Carolina’s citizens.”
Comfort was tested. Umbrellas dripped; shoes were waterlogged; the grass was mushy and soggy; gray skies loomed above. There was even a tornado warning! None of that mattered. The conviction of our prayers and songs (despite some discomfort) rang clear: If North Carolina is to be a place that lives up to its motto (To Be Rather than to Seem), we must be a state of compassion. And rain or shine, the group will be back on Halifax Mall each week to make this prayer a reality.
For most of us, our discomfort only stretched so far. Sure, we have sore feet from standing, wet, muddy clothes and a good story to tell this morning. But we didn’t get arrested.
Back to those mentors I mentioned. Five of my closest seminary mentors were among the nearly 400 hundred people arrested over the last six weeks. These men and women remind me that we cannot just preach the gospel, but we must also experience it. We are not called to be safe. Instead, we are called to abide by our conscience.
Last week, the actions of my friends inspired me to pay attention. This week, they inspired me to get my feet wet (literally!) What will they do next week? And what will they inspire you to do? May God give us the strength and the courage to find out!