I have been intrigued in recent days with the various ways in which organizations with religious backgrounds have been issuing a blizzard of statements about developments in the news, particularly actions taken by President Trump and his administration.
In effect, these groups have been looking at the news through their theological lenses and then using their prophetic voices to say what they think is right and wrong with what they see. Which, of course, is exactly what they should be doing.
Silence, after all, can be construed as agreement. Or, worse, indifference.
The range of these statements has been fascinating. For instance, Auburn Seminary in New York has issued this statement saying it "demands justice" for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe after Trump issued an executive order that gives new life to the possibility of the Dakota Access and the Keystone oil pipelines. And later the seminary issued a statement opposing the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, though so far I can't find that statement on the seminary's website. I first saw it by e-mail.
When it came to the issue of President Trump's order for a temporary ban on allowing refugees from seven different Muslim-majority countries to enter the U.S., this statement from the top executive of my denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), was one of many offering a dissenting opinion on the Trump action. For instance, this story from the United Methodist Church quotes various leaders opposed to the Trump order. A Texas pastor who is the son of Iraqi immigrants is quoted in the story saying that Trump’s order is “unnecessary, unethical and immoral.”
And here's a CNN story quoting other religious leaders who have spoken out against the ban. One religious leader who condemned treating refugees in the way the Trump order does is Pope Francis, though he didn't mention Trump by name in his remarks.
By contrast, this Baptist Press story on the immigration restriction order focused on the Christians being persecuted in those seven nations and asked Baptists to pray for them.
And on another matter, this Baptist Press story quotes "conservative Christian leaders" as saying they regret the decision by the Boy Scouts of America to allow transgender persons to become Scouts according to the gender with which they identify.
An official with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, reacting to a different matter, issued this statement recently praising the U.S. House of Representative for passing the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2017."
What I think is important to notice in all of this (and many more statements you can find all over the internet) is that faith communities do not speak with one voice. There are, in fact, sometimes sharp divisions of opinions among Christians on the same issue. Same for Jews, Muslims and others.
So the question of what people of faith think about this or that matter is far too broad a question. And please know that for every one of the statements to which I've linked you in this post, there are members of the faith community issuing the statement who disagree with it.
But, as I say, at least they're not being silent. Sometimes silence is a serious sin of omission.
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THE LONG HISTORY OF VETTING MUSLIMS
It's fascinating to take a look at the history of the way the United States (starting even before it was the U.S.) has been vetting Muslim immigrants, as this CNN report does. Some of the reaction of people and the government is based on old prejudices, some on new prejudices, a few on legitimate concerns about safety and security. But what many people don't know is that the first wave of Muslim "immigrants" to this country were slaves, who had no choice. Most of them underwent forced conversion to Christianity. Nice heritage, eh?