Last night I was made aware of a press conference that the "Salem Faith Leaders" were holding this morning to oppose HB 2002 and SJR 33. I went to the press conference and found a group of exclusively male pastors who have declared themselves the "Salem Faith Leaders." All I could think about was, "Ain't I a Faith Leader?" With apologies to Sojourner Truth, I certainly know I am a faith leader regardless of the opinion of a small group of mostly white men who hold to a narrow interpretation of "biblical" truth. But I got to wondering if other people in society know that these are only a few of the faith leaders here in Salem, let alone in Oregon, the nation, or the world?
I decided it was important to go stand among those in attendance at the press conference to bear witness to the fact that not all faith leaders interpret scripture or practice their faith in the way this group does. I donned my collar and silently stood and listened to the recitation of "Thou shalt not kill," and "Children should obey parents in all things." I listened as these men declared that "the abortion issue is settled" and that this new bill is merely a "Trojan Horse" designed to strip parents of their rights and to destroy the nuclear family. I listened as they admonished their attendees to remove their children from any "government run program," (aka public school) even as they were admonishing these same people to call their legislators and demand their religious beliefs be imposed on the rest of us.
I couldn't help but think about the rest of the commandments that Moses brought to his people who were lost and wandering in the desert. The one that came first was, "You shall have no other gods besides me." I wondered if "Freedom" has become a God to some? The worship of the American flag, the AR-15, the "freedom" to open or conceal carry without a permit or background check; all of this feels like the breaking of the commandment that says, “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them."
And then I was thinking about the "Don't steal," "Don't commit adultery," "Don't defame and lie," "Don't want your neighbor's stuff;" each something that the former president was convicted of this week. I wondered if these men are part of the 7000+ "Pastors for Trump" who have aligned themselves with Mike Flynn and Roger Stone? We know that many of them were instrumental in bringing the "ReAwaken America Tour" to the Keizer Stadium last spring. We know many support the "Mom's for Liberty" and "Salem Keizer We Stand Together" agendas to ban books. We know many support regressive policies that deny systemic racism while seeking to impose a Christian Nationalist worldview on our community as a whole. I wondered, "What is this faith that they are leading from?"
As I stood there in my collar and rainbow pin, offering a silent witness to a different faith perspective, all I could think about was the mantra that we sing each week - "What does the Lord require of us? Justice. Kindness. Walk humbly with our God." I was thinking about how Jesus lived from a faith perspective that restored people to wholeness, one that gave people the freedom to be themselves while calling them to be good citizens of this world and the next. I was thinking about the ways we witness form our faith as members of this church and the wider UCC. And I was thinking about how proud I am to represent you as I lead from my faith.
May God's Justice roll down like water and may we bear witness to our faith which is rooted in Love.