taking the words of Jesus seriously

 

Many people are frightened and appalled every day with the appointments and behavior of President -elect Donald Trump. And many Red Letter Christians are asking: What can I do?

 

The politics going on now are indeed beyond our control — but we can control what we do with our own faith and with our own actions.

 

I have been lifted up by a very familiar Gospel text that seems to be rising up in many diverse and unconnected places around the county. Maybe we call this the “Spirit.”

 

In Matthew 25, Jesus says, “… I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ … Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

 

In this text, Jesus is literally saying to us: How you treat the most vulnerable is how you treat me. He is saying I will know how much you love me by how you respond — or don’t respond to them. This Gospel passage, which was my own conversion text, is coming up again and again right at the time when so many people are feeling vulnerable and so many others don’t know what to do. This is our answer.

 

Stand up and defend those most at risk at this crucial moment in America’s political history. Matthew 25 is answering our question. Matthew 25 is rising up in the face of a new political regime that is making many people feel so afraid.

 

A new pledge is emerging throughout the country with local organizers and congregations. It’s the outcome of a retreat last week that brought together a broad spectrum of pastors, heads of churches, grassroots activists, and the leaders of national faith-based organizations and networks who prayed and discerned together about the election results, reaching consensus to act in solidarity with those most at risk in the new administration. It’s called the Matthew 25 Pledge. It’s just one sentence and simply says: I pledge to protect and defend vulnerable people in the name of Jesus.

 

So simple and yet so powerful — at such a dangerous moment when so many are feeling afraid. Why? Because they were specifically targeted in the presidential campaign of the candidate who will become president on Jan. 20. And already, there have been an alarming number of people who have verbally attacked them and their children.

 

And no matter how Christians might have voted, it is absolutely clear that Christians are always called to serve Jesus by sheltering those most in need. This could be a unifying commitment between people of faith on different sides of the aisle — to protect the most vulnerable together.

 

Clearly, many people in America are feeling quite vulnerable right now — racial and religious minorities, women, and LGBTQ people — and especially those who sit at the intersections of marginalized groups. Sojourners and all other Red Letter Christians are committed to protecting the lives and rights of all those who feel threatened.

 

And here is a starting point, offered by that broad group of diverse national and local faith leaders and activists. Here’s what you can do now to prevent attacks on people the Trump administration has already targeted.

 

1. Support undocumented immigrants threatened with mass deportation.

Arresting and deporting hard-working and law-abiding people who have lived in America for decades would break up families and potentially put people’s lives in danger. The most at risk are young “Dreamers,” who were brought here as children and who turned in their names and contact information to the administration in response to executive orders that allowed them to work.

 

Already, prayerful networks of support are being set up in faith communities to offer love, welcome, assistance, and ultimately, resistance to block and obstruct such mass deportations. If massive arrests of the people Jesus calls “the stranger” are ordered, immigration police will be forced to arrest many of those immigrants in our churches, seminaries, schools, and homes. Faith communities already have the capacity to impose a clear domestic cost on any efforts aimed at massive deportation of those who have become our neighbors and fellow churchgoers.

 

2. Stand with African Americans and other people of color threatened by racial policing.

Black pastors and parents are especially concerned about how their young people will be treated under an administration that has fueled racial bigotry and continued to stoke those fears by his cabinet appointments. The new president promotes “law and order” and “stop and frisk” in an uncritical code language that racial minorities understand. But if there is little or no accountability from the federal government after Jan. 20 to excessive force against our citizens of color, and especially young people, local clergy will hold their police departments accountable.

 

For Christians, when one part of the body suffers, as it says in 1 Corinthians, the whole body should feel that pain and respond. So racially diverse local clergy from ecumenical and interfaith associations will join together and go to their sheriffs in every community to help support healthy community policing. But they will also promise to watch, monitor, and resist any racial policing by standing against such practices and standing with those who they are aimed at, promising to hold law enforcement accountable to racial equity and healing in our communities.

 

3. Defend the lives and religious liberty of Muslims, threatened with “banning,” monitoring, and even registration.

U.S. citizens and immigrants who practice their Islamic faith in this country — our friends and neighbors — are our brothers and sisters as fellow human beings and children of God. Many Christians, Jews, and others who believe in religious liberty are promising that if Muslims living in America, whether citizens or immigrants, are ever asked to register based on their religious identity, we will proudly line up before them to declare ourselves to be Muslims, too. We will also never accept a religious test for entry into the United States. Now more than ever, as we’re watching the horror unfold in Aleppo, our Christian faith should compel us to act — to advocate for welcoming refugees of all faiths into our country instead of turning them away. Religious tests, in addition to being morally repugnant, would threaten our nation’s democratic principles and the constitutional rights of every American. The violation of the religious freedom of our Muslim brothers and sisters will be not be accepted by any people of faith.

 

This is the beginning. This is where to start now. But rest assured that if and when other groups of people are targeted by government decisions or by hateful cultural responses, we who sign the Matthew 25 Pledge will also seek to surround and protect them.

 

Rather than just watching, grieving, and feeling sorry for what is happening to the most marginalized, who are named in the 25th chapter of Matthew, we can pledge to join together in circles of support in the name of Jesus. In unjust times, justice often starts in the small places and personal decisions that challenge the big places and structural injustice.

 

The Matthew 25 Pledge is ready for you to sign — as individuals, congregations, organizations, denominations, and community groups. In response you will receive resources in the lead up to the inauguration to help you pray, join in with local efforts, organize your congregations and community groups, and get ready to act. We deliberately begin this time of prayer during Advent so that we can prepare our hearts, minds, and communities for what is to come at Christmas — the Christ child who would change the world and bring “good news” to the poor. And in January, before the inauguration of a new president, the organizations and networks behind the Matthew 25 Pledge will publicly launch its open-source library of resources, toolkits, plans of action, and local networks to activate.

 

So you can make a decision to do something now, to go back to the words of Jesus, and take the Matthew 25 Pledge to act. As Brittany Packnett said in Sojourners’ latest issue: “The Christ I serve did not sit idly by in times like these—for in eras like this one, inaction is a sin.”

 

So let us act.

 

About The Author

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http://www.sojo.net

Jim Wallis is president and founder of Sojourners in Washington, DC. a non-profit faith-based organization, network, and movement whose mission statement calls for “putting faith into action for social justice.” He is editor-in-chief of Sojourners magazine and web site which has a combined print and electronic media readership of more than a quarter million people with several million unique visitors to the website, sojo.net, each year. Wallis is a bestselling author, public theologian, national preacher, social activist, and international commentator on ethics and public life. His latest book, America's Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America, released in January. Wallis has written ten previous books, including The (Un)Common Good and the New York Times bestsellers God’s Politics and The Great Awakening. He is a frequent speaker in the United States and abroad, has written for major newspapers, does regular columns for Huffington Post and TIME.com, and appears frequently on ABC, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and NPR; on shows from Jon Stewart’s Daily Show to the O’Reilly Factor and Sunday shows like This Week and Meet the Press. Wallis also teaches at Georgetown University and has taught at Harvard University. He served on President Obama’s first White House Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and as the chair of the Global Agenda Council on Values of the World Economic Forum.

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