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Where is the Church?

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I was going to write an article with that title, I really was. I am good at complaining about the inertia of today's American brand of Christianity. But that article didn't get written because as soon as I typed the question, I knew the answer. Everyone knows where the Church is--or the synagogue, the temple or the mosque. They are on street corners, or on large well-landscaped lots on city blocks. They stand in lonely, picturesque relief against the surrounding scenery. We know where the churches are.

And every Sunday those churches open their doors and admit a crowd of people, more or less, and they all go through their rituals of worship and then "church" is over and they go home. The leave the church where it was when they got there. They don't take the church home, but they know it will be there next Sunday.

This empty parade to and from our houses is very hard to disturb: ask the clergy about that. Here we hark back to the movie "Courageous" that caught my attention last week. One of the characters told his new converts that they would find sooner or later that it takes guts to be a Christian. The rest of the film illustrated that; the best example was a young man who had to refuse a promotion because it involved dishonesty and it would have been affront to his faith and his family, as he saw it.

Think back to the last time you took a stand as a Christian. Well, if you are like me, you have to take a moment. I tend to hang out with like-minded people, which seems like a logical thing to do. The times I had to stand up to someone I disagree with was usually at work. It hasn't always been that easy, though; I am an Episcopalian and we went through terrible doctrinal conflicts in the Seventies and again a few years ago. Both struggles resulted in schism: one over the ordination of women, and the most recent (which isn't over yet) has been over the ordination of LGBT Episcopalians.

Not surprisingly, the base of the revolt has been in the South, where racism and homophobia are hardly even condemned. Children are carefully taught racism from their mommies and daddies at an early age, and the dominant denomination of the region, the Baptist Church, is openly segregated. White Baptist ministers have been active in the Ku Klux Klan since its inception; they have blood on their hands. They participated in the murder of African Americans and the destruction of their property. This is the "church" that gives us Franklin Graham.

And when the Klan and their families show up at church--where do they get their nerve?--their preachers bring them up to speed on homophobia. Their Episcopalian friends are busy soliciting African Anglican bishops to act as absentee officiants to their breakaway sub-denomination. And as if that were not bad enough, Episcopalian bishops in the South are aiding and abetting this homophobia, leading the revolt against spiritual equality with the same ardor that they used to preach against the fitness of women to be ordained when they were bigoted, homophobic priests.\

So I wish you luck if you find yourself in a situation in which it is your Christian duty to stand up and say, "I couldn't disagree with you more; what you are saying is ungodly and un-Christian." It may seem dramatic, but actually in many cases you will not even be taken seriously. You may be laughed at. People may not believe you mean, or even understand, what you just said.

This is where courage, guts or what the Church calls Fortitude comes in. It is one of the Seven Virtues (Faith, Hope, Charity, Chastity, Prudence and Temperance are the others). And if you think this is news, I assure you that C. S. Lewis wrote about the Virtues in his seminal book Mere Christianity. He mentioned that you can't begin practicing any of the Virtues without running into the need for Fortitude pretty early on.

Think what would happen if just ten percent of church-going American Christians stood up and demanded that Republicans get over their racism. Think what would happen if just ten per cent of priests and ministers demanded marriage equality under the Constitution. Think what would happen if congregations demanded that their Congresspeople get over the fact that the President is African American and told them that their election depends on doing the people's business with a black man. The impact would be catastrophic on Washington.

It would also be a transforming moment for America. We would get a budget. We would tackle immigration reform. We would have judges and other public officials in their offices, doing what needs to be done in courts and appointed posts. Laws that protect minorities would be enforced.

Last week a citizen of Ferguson, Missouri remarked that "It ain't no black against white; it's the people against the police." As long as it is open season on black men in America we have not yet realized that we all have a common cause. It isn't the people against the police--it is the people (that's you and me, by the way) against the multinational corporations that buy and sell Congress. There is no oversight over militarized police forces because corporate America says so.

If you don't understand that Mitt Romney doesn't have enough money, you don't understand why our tax money is being handed over by the fistful to tax breaks for corporations. And if you don't understand that, you are probably not a multimillionaire. If you think that we need public schools, the Communicable Disease Center in Atlanta or that you have a right to vote, you are not living in the American reality-based community. And if you do not wake up very soon, you will not be able to do anything about the corporate tax breaks, the war against women's rights or the erosion of the public service sector of our communities.

Good people will abandon the police force and be replaced with mercenaries and hired shills who will explain everything. I have been saying these thing for a long time now. An election is coming up in November. If you don't get over racism and homophobia and vote in your own best interests, you will see America degenerate into fascism and it will be too late for anything except revolution.

We don't need a "revolution" of gun-toting preppers against an African-American president. We need the American people to stand up in a righteous demand that this country be governed by our Constitution instead of by back-room deals made by rich white men who don't have the foggiest notion that they don't need an elevator to take their wife's "couple of Cadillacs" to the second floor. The Republicans put their corporate man on the ballot in the last Presidential election, and they will do it again. And yet many Americans voted for him because, after all, he was a white man.

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