Shared Faith, Different Visions

Screenshot 2016-01-11 08.06.05Just down the street from the church I serve, Franklin Graham, my brother in Christ, will be holding a prayer rally in front of the old Capitol building.  According to Brother Graham’s website, the purpose of the rally is to challenge Christians to share and live their faith at home, in public, and at the ballot box.  I join Brother Franklin in the fervent hope that Christians in American will do just that.

At the same time my brother is appealing for Christian unity through prayer and action, however, he is fanning the flames of homophobia and Islamophobia.  As I read his tweets in social media, it is clear to me that he and I differ as to how Christians should live out their faith, both in private and in the public square.

I won’t being attending the rally.  Three busloads of immigration reform activists are coming to our church on the same day.  Our congregation will provide hospitality, including, meals, showers, a warm place to sleep.  We think partnering with the Florida Immigration Coalition is a good way to live out the gospel.

But I will pray.  Here’s what I’m praying for.

I pray for Christians in American to reach out to neighbors – especially to neighbors who do not share their race, religion, or culture.  I pray this because I believe that Christians are to love God with heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love neighbors as themselves.

I pray for elected leaders to seek justice for what the Bible calls “the least of these” – the people on the margins of society — the hungry, the naked, the thirsty and the imprisoned.  That means reforming our penal system, restoring civil rights to ex-prisoners, and amending immigration policy so that families are not torn apart and children who know no other home than America can share the American dream.

I pray that my fellow Christians will follow Jesus Christ, our mirror to the human and our window to the divine, by crossing boundaries and welcoming the stranger, the outcast, and the dispossessed.  It seems to me that’s one of the best ways to share what we Christians call “The Gospel,” that is, the “good news” of Jesus Christ.

I pray that all Americans of all faith traditions will not fall victim to fear and hate, but instead will seek to understand the variety and complexity that is part of every faith tradition, including Christianity.  Before we decry the speck in the eye of the one who differs from us, we need to remove the log from our own eye.

According to his Facebook page, Brother Graham believes that “The problem we have in this country is sin.”  As a Christian and a Calvinist, I couldn’t agree more.  From my theological perspective, “sin” means, among other things, falling short of God’s best hopes for us.

The way I see it, Brother Graham and I have much in common.  We differ, however, in our vision of what Christians are called to be and do.

That Christians in America are falling short is clear.  I have faith that God will sort out our divers prayers and answer those that conform to God’s best hopes for this fallen world – this world God loves.

About Brant Copeland

I was born in Brownsville, Texas, grew up in San Antonio and in Lake Charles, Louisiana. I'm the pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Tallahassee, Florida.
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10 Responses to Shared Faith, Different Visions

  1. John Gladney says:

    Thank you

    >

  2. Audrey Rivers says:

    Thank you, Brant, for this and for the hospitality to immigration reform activists provided by you and people of the congregation.

  3. Kathee Winstead says:

    As always, well said!

  4. Ann westall says:

    Again..thank you.

  5. Ros Gladney Long says:

    Thank you, Brant Copeland. You spoke to me, & for me in your eloquent words.

  6. A loving message, to the point and much needed. I am passing this on, with heartfelt gratitude and love. Thank you, Brant.

  7. Heather McVoy says:

    Thank you, Brant. Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

  8. Steve Thomas says:

    Thank you, Brant.

  9. Reading some of your blog posts, the pattern seems clear. Obscenities from the right — called out. Obscenities from the left — passed over in silence. Christians who stand up against anti-Christian behavior who are Republicans — criticized. Christians who stand up against impolite behavior who are Democrats — lionized.

    I think, if your congregation consists mostly of Republicans, this approach may provide a useful challenge. If most your congregation are Democrats, you merely flatter their self-esteem and preconceived biases.

    Have at Donald Trump all you like — his unfitness for office is clear from either side of the political (or spiritual) spectrum. You might focus the same lens on his opponent, though.

    • Thank you for commenting. Discerning between “preconceived biases” and deeply held values is not always easy. By its very nature, this blog is selective and idiosyncratic. I make no effort to be even-handed or to give equal time to opposing views. Regarding Hilary Clinton, I’d say she stands firmly in the Methodist social justice tradition. Clearly, I am biased. Thanks again for commenting.

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