Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Helping the Church Find a Voice

Baptists always have opinions. We like to say that a group of three Baptists will have at least four opinions on almost any subject. Our commitment to local church autonomy and the priesthood of the believer seems to give us the freedom to express our opinions. I am grateful for our heritage, but sometimes it seems we find it difficult to find our voice. While we love to share our thoughts and viewpoints, seldom do we take a stand on justice issues in our communities. Often there seems to be a disconnect between our faith community and the world around us.

Jesus made it a point to speak on behalf of the poor and the most vulnerable in his world. His calls for justice and compassion sometimes put him at odds with the religious establishment. The economic downturn in the world economy has caused many people and congregations to take note of the needs of those who are losing their homes or their jobs. The truth is thousands of people were struggling to survive in our communities long before the current economic crisis. Maybe the crisis has helped us pause and take note of the needs of those around us.

I believe the church needs to find a fresh voice today. We need to become advocates on behalf of those who seem to have no voice. Estimates indicate 729,000 Missourians have no health insurance. At least 150,000 of these are children. Obviously, the vast majority of these are the lowest income groups in our state. A recent study indicates almost 10 Missourians die each week for want of health care coverage. Church food panties and other social agencies are struggling to find enough food to feed the hungry. Hospitals providing emergency room care for the uninsured are losing millions of dollars every year and driving up costs for everyone. We have a health care and human need crisis.

What would Jesus say and do in response to these needs? I believe he would feed the hungry and care for the sick. I believe he would speak for justice and compassion. I believe he would speak to those in power in both the religious and political arenas. Our state legislature has voted down what would be a very modest allocation to provide health care to the most vulnerable children in our state. With what would be only a token amount in our state budget we could have responded to children in need and taken a step toward providing quality, affordable health care for all Missourians. This is not a Republican or a Democratic issue—it is a moral issue and an issue the church should address.

If the church does not stand up for those in need, who will? If the church does not call for compassion and justice, who will? I have visited with my legislators, and I have written to them encouraging them to find a way to work together to care for those in need. Our state seal says “let the welfare of the people be the supreme law.” The health care needs in our state are just one of many issues the church should speak to today. I hope you will help your church find a voice to speak for justice in your community.

(This article was written for the BGCM e-message. You may sign-up for the e-message here.)

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