I ran across this quote while sifting through my files of quotes and quips in my computer.  For me, it is especially pertinent for Reformation which will be recognized in Lutheran and Protestant churches world-wide this weekend.   When we look deeply at the life and teachings of Jesus in context, we see that he called for not only personal transformation but social transformation as well.  This quote reflects that assertion.    Rev Vernon Johns, Martin Luther King Jr’s predecessor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama spoke these words to a  large group of his Baptist colleagues in 1960 much to their consternation:

“I have turned from a Christian expression that, for all practical purposes, ignores the life of Jesus.  If the death of Jesus as a sacrifice for sin is the sole heart of Christianity then all God had to do was drop him down on Friday, let them kill him, and yank him up again on Easter Sunday.  His life is what mattered – the way he lived – the way he loved – the compassion he had for the last and the least – the social justice he called for in the face of an oppressive political, economic and religious domination system that gave leverage to the rich and powerful of both secular and religious institutions.  Jesus spoke against religion when it elevated regulation over love.  All of that and more is what got the leaders of his own church and the colonial authorities from Rome so enraged that they killed him.  I want to encounter the Jesus before the cross.  There is no authentic religion after the cross if we don’t take the Jesus before the cross seriously.” 

I am of the opinion that the church, in almost all of its ecclesiastical expressions, has either remained overwhelmingly mute in the face of the great social ills of our time, or it has sided with power using religion to legitimize abuses of power, wealth and maintenance of the status quo.   If the church is to be relevant in the 21st century, it must become an agent for social change that promotes human rights, empowers the poor and vulnerable and advocates for a more fair world.


2 thoughts on “

  1. Rod Schofield

    This is a powerful statement that encompasses what we so believe is important in terms of our own faith understanding. Thanks for posting this, Joe.


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