Dear friends in Christ,
Our country finds itself in a time of exceptional conflict and turmoil, a situation which leaders, both civic and religious, are called to address with wisdom, compassion and integrity. To clear peaceful protestors with tear gas and rubber bullets is a misuse of power and shows disregard for the liberties this country affords its people. Further, to take these violent actions against citizens for a photo opportunity in front of a church with a bible is not only outrageous, it is insensitive and deceptive. We need moral leadership that inspires unity and justice for all God’s children, now more than ever. President Trump’s actions yesterday were a mockery in direct defiance of God’s boundless love that the very Holy Bible he was holding embodies. We cannot allow this mockery into our hearts nor let it fuel hatred. Instead, we are called to do as Jesus did: focus on all those who need our help and our care and our compassion. Let us lift up the voices of our black and brown siblings so they may be heard, and let us learn how white members of our church can create safe spaces for the lives, voices and souls of our siblings of color.
In an ELCA Social Message on Community Violence, we read:
“According to Lutheran theology, society is to be ruled by the civil use of the Law. Government is responsible under God for the protection of its citizens and the maintenance of justice and public order. Just laws and their proper enforcement by police and courts are necessary to restrain violence. But laws and their enforcement are often corrupted by sin. As citizens in a democracy, we have the responsibility to join with others to hold government accountable for protecting society and ensuring justice for all, and to seek changes in policies and practices toward these ends.”
We must recognize and condemn harmful actions and damaging leadership in ourselves and others, learn how not to behave and what not to tolerate, and in turn provide care for those in need and LOVE ONE ANOTHER, TOGETHER. We learn from the actions of others, both negatively and positively, and react with compassion, determination and faith in order to shepherd change for the good of all God’s children.
The Rev. Paul Egensteiner
Bishop of the Metropolitan New York Synod