I suspect that most all of us now are familiar with the infamous statistic that over 80 percent of evangelical Christians voted for Trump and most of them even today continue to support him. It is very difficult to understand and come to terms with the fact that the Christian voting bloc is in large part responsible for electing a narcissistic president who gives us no shred of hope that he cares one iota for the common good. And unless more congregations committed to the common good emerge it is quite possible that Christians will be more of a hindrance than a help in seeing God’s kingdom come and Gods will be done on earth as it is heaven. Unless the church is committed to both works of mercy and works of restorative, social justice, then the church is not being the church.
The Apostle Paul, who wrote a big chunk of what came to be called the Christian (New) Testament, believed the church is called by God to give the world a foretaste and preview of the kingdom of God/God’s new creation, and in essence be the first installment of that kingdom — a kingdom that is better described as God’s kin-dom, because it is so radically different than the kingdoms of this world. Paul and other early Christ followers envisioned a world organized not around the policies and practices of comparison and competition, but rather, a just world of equality and mutuality where all are included and no one is tossed aside. A world where exceptionalism does not exist.
Paul described the Spirit of Christ who indwells the church and to whom the church belongs both as a “deposit” (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:14) and “first fruits” (Rom. 8:23) of what is to come. Paul wanted the church to be a microcosm of God’s macrocosmic dream and will for the whole world. Paul believed that a local church, a local gathering of Christ followers could live out in a particular place in a particular community what God wants and wills for the world globally and universally.
In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul emphasizes that every member of the community is gifted and while the various gifts serve various functions all the gifts are for the purpose of the common good: “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (12:7). Paul even goes on to argue in that passage in 12:14-26 that those who seem to be of lesser value in the functioning of the body, God deems of utmost importance, even bestowing on them more honor. God turns our value system upside down. This is why Jesus gave special preference to the poor, the downtrodden, the sick, the mentally and physically challenged, and those excluded and put down by those in power.
Luke apparently shared a similar vision of the church. In the account of Pentecost in Acts 2 the Spirit of Christ fills the gathered group of Christ followers enabling them to communicate the good news in the various languages of the known world. Everyone hears the good news in their native tongue. Luke interprets this event as the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s dream for the world, when the Spirit is poured out on all flesh, all humankind. In that day the Spirit empowers everyone — young and old, men and women, people of all nationalities — everyone drinks of the Spirit who shapes them into a counter-cultural community.
Luke says of the first church: “All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need (Acts 2:44-45). This community even pooled their resources so that no need went unmet. Herein is a glimpse of what God wants for the world.
If we are honest we must admit that the church at large has not done very well in embracing this vision and giving the world a taste of God’s new creation. And this is nothing new. I suspect that Paul and Luke wondered at times whether the communities being formed in Christ could ever arise to such a vision. For the most part we have letters to read from Paul because the churches he formed and worked with seemed to be plagued by one problem after another. There are powerful forces at work from both within and without the church to thwart this vision of a compassionate and just world.
And yet still, it is the church, or faith communities like the church that can best offer hope to the world that we might become a more merciful, compassionate, loving, and justice seeking people.
There is a great need today for more churches to be committed to the common good. There is perhaps just as great a need for common good Christians to articulate a dynamic, robust, holistic pro-life position.
I recently spoke to a wonderful group of women in our Frankfort, Ky., community who constitute the leadership of a political and social action group called “Together Frankfort.” They are all very conscious of the many Christians who supported and continue to support President Trump. Knowing of my past involvement and present familiarity with evangelical Christianity they asked me to help them make sense of this and wanted to know if any sort of dialogue was possible.
I told them that I believe that many of the Christians who voted for Trump, especially evangelicals, did so for one reason, namely, the elusive hope that Roe vs. Wade would be overturned and abortion made illegal. These Christians claim to be pro-life, but in reality they are not pro-life at all. What they do not realize is that simply being anti-abortion does not make one pro-life, certainly not in the authentically Christian sense.
I told them that I am pro-life, but I am not anti-abortion in the sense of making it illegal. I am for positive, healthy, reasonable measures aimed at reducing the number of abortions. I also said that making abortion illegal is not a pro-life position. There is nothing life affirming about seeing young women revert back to practices that could damage them for life. There is nothing pro-life about bringing children into situations where they will be neglected, mistreated, and abused. There is nothing pro-life about government making decisions for a woman that will impact the well-being of her and her family, and in some situations risk death for the mother. There are issues and questions here that are far more complex than a simple “for” or “against” the legality of abortion.
Who better to articulate and promote a robust, holistic pro-life position than an Easter people filled with the compassion of Jesus and committed to the common good of all people?
Unless more congregations and Christians can commit to the common good and a truly authentic pro-life agenda it’s hard to imagine Christianity being the positive force for mercy and justice that the early Christ followers believed it could be.