There was an interesting piece on NPR yesterday (via BBC radio) about the crisis in Kenya. The BBC had a bishop from a Pentecostal church in Kenya as their guest and various other guests and callers were questing him as to the role of religious leaders in recent events.
What I found interesting about this was that the other Kenyans addressing the bishop were basically asking why the religious leaders (Christian and Muslim) weren't proclaiming truth and justice but were instead calling for dialogue. The bishop said that they were being pragmatic and seeking long term solutions. It seemed like a very reasonable response. What was less clear was whether it was properly a Christian response. Is it the role of the Church to seek pragmatic, long-term solutions? Or is it the role of the Church to proclaim truth and justice?
I am obviously very far removed from the situation in Kenya. I don't know what any of these people are facing. It sounds as if the religious leaders would be putting themselves in a very precarious position if they openly proclaimed truth and justice. They lack freedom of speech. I cannot judge them.
What I can do is try to apply the lessons I observed to my own situation. It was breathtaking to hear the voice of the people crying out to a representative of the Church, asking him to proclaim truth and justice. The American mainline protestant denominations are very big on seeking social justice these days. The question remains as to what the Church's role should be in seeking justice. What I saw yesterday is that it is not our place to enter into political compromises and negotiation. Our place is to proclaim truth and justice in word and deed.
I was reminded of a story Jim Wallis tells about Martin Luther King Jr. King had just returned from receiving the Nobel Peace Prize and was meeting with Lyndon Johnson. Johnson told King that he didn't have the political capital to push for voting rights legislation. He told King to wait. King responded that he could not wait. He went to the streets and proclaimed truth and justice. The Voting Rights Act was passed the next year.