taking the words of Jesus seriously

Taking a page from the Hebrew Bible, a diverse group of theological experts recently gathered in Boston wearing sackcloth and ashes to dramatize their grief and sorrow over the corruption of U.S. Christianity.

“Many Evangelical Christians have embraced the politics of exclusion and hatred, such that the Good News of Jesus has become cover for a social and economic order that can only be understood as bad news for many,” said Rev. Dr. Peter Heltzel, a Red Letter Christian and Associate Professor of Theology at New York Theological Seminary. “Responding to Jesus’ courageous call to love ‘the least of these,’ we pray for the conversion of the converted.”

At the 2017 annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, more than 300 Christian theologians signed on to the Boston Declaration to denounce the abuse of the Christian faith by religious conservatives and extremists. The statement was officially launched with a press conference at Boston’s historic Old South Church, where a group of theologians put on sackcloth and ashes to demonstrate the crisis of American Evangelicalism.

Rev. Dr. Pamela R. Lightsey, a military veteran and an Associate Dean at Boston University School of Theology, served as one of the key organizers of the Boston Declaration. She stated: “Today, too many Christians are placing politics over the foundational teachings of Jesus. They make excuses for racial hatred and sexual abuse, and some have even said that it would be better to vote for a pedophile than a Democrat. This is the opposite of Jesus’ teaching of love and mercy.”

Crafted after the 1934 Barmen Declaration, which called out the German church’s complicity with Nazism, the Boston Declaration asserts “that following Jesus today means fighting poverty, economic exploitation, racism, sexism, and all forms of oppression from the deepest wells of our faith.”

The opening statement of the Boston Declaration reads:

As followers of Jesus, the Jewish prophet for justice whose life reminds us to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31), we hear the cries of women and men speaking out about sexual abuse at the hands of leaders in power, and we are outraged. We are outraged by the current trends in Evangelicalism and other expressions of Christianity driven by white supremacy, often enacted through white privilege and the normalizing of oppression. Confessing racism as the United States’ original and ongoing sin, we commit ourselves to following Jesus on the road of costly discipleship to seek shalom justice for the least, the lost, and the left out. (Read the full text here.)

Add your voice to this prophetic appeal. Join Shane Claiborne and other Red Letter Christians in signing the Boston Declaration.

About The Author


Elaina is the former Interim Executive Director and Editor of RLC. A passionate community organizer and a former editor for Sojourners magazine, Elaina loves listening to people’s stories and engaging communities for social change. She holds a master's in theological studies from Wesley Theological Seminary and a master's degree in international peace and conflict resolution from American University. Elaina serves as the executive director of a religious pro-choice organization. She resides in Ohio with her dogs and is an avid singer, traveler, and camper.

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