September 19, 2016

Prayer and Politics

            The apostolic writer urges “that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).  As I read this text this morning, I realized how often I tend to despair about those in public office rather than intercede for them.
            When I was a visiting student in Cambridge during my doctoral years, I regularly attended Anglican services where the tradition is to pray not only for ecclesial leaders, but also for the monarch, the prime minister, and local political leaders.  This practice impressed me, for it kept the church from being insular, unrelated to the larger social landscape.
             Flying back into Kansas City last evening, I met a courageous moral leader, the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II.  He is an imposing presence, and I immediately recognized him.  You may remember his powerful speech at the Democratic Convention this summer or know of his “Moral Mondays” work in North Carolina.  He is a significant prophetic voice in our time, calling us to renew our concern for the well being of our neighbors.  Tonight he will be a part of a traveling “Revival,” which will be held at St. James Methodist Church.

            Reverend Barber is unwilling for the church to be silent about critical issues of social justice.  It is not enough for him to use his pulpit to proclaim God’s mandate to care for the oppressed, he has taken his message to the state house and well beyond.  A self-professed conservative because he believes he must do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God, he nevertheless promotes a progressive political agenda that would revive the heart of our democracy.

            Accompanying Barber in “The Revival: Time for a Moral Revolution of Values” are other well known public theologians: Rev. Dr. James a Forbes, Rev. Dr. Traci Blackmon, and Sister Simone Campbell.  The goal of this movement is to redefine morality in American politics by pushing a broad social justice agenda.  The key issues are: the economic liberation of all people; access to quality education for every child; healthcare access for all; criminal justice reform; and ensuring historically marginalized communities have equal protection under the law.  Gathering in places of worship in across our land, this “Revival” is stirring people of faith to prayer and action.

            I will be attending tonight and am eager to learn of the impact of this movement, which calls upon elected officials and candidates for office to advance a moral public policy agenda that responds to the urgent needs of vulnerable communities.  This will require a fusion of prayer and political activity; one without the other is incomplete.

            Molly T. Marshall

                        Central prepares creative leaders for diverse ministry contexts.

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