In years and decades to come, we’ll remember the last two weeks. The Emanuel A.M.E. massacre, the sudden shift away from the Confederate flag, the Supreme Court’s reaffirmation of the Affordable Care Act and its extension of same-sex marriage to every state. Last Friday there was an awesome funeral service for Clementa Pinckney, the pastor of Emanuel and one of the victims in the shooting. And all of it while once again black churches have been burning, some under suspicious circumstances.
For all of America’s secularization, actual and expected, each event was resonant with religious significations—and each prompted a wave of public theology.
I often worship and preach in a sanctuary without windows. Renaissance Presbyterian Church is an African-American congregation in Chattanooga, Tennessee. They built the structure, brick upon brick, so that it might withstand bombs, shooting, or burning. Stained glass gave way to safety, so when I stand in the pulpit, I always remember where I am.
A few years after Howard Stephens started providing abortions, he became the target of local anti-abortion protesters. They picketed his home on weekends, distributed leaflets around his neighborhood calling him a murderer, followed his moves around town, and sent hate mail to his son.
Perhaps most concerning, the protesters picketed Howard’s church twice.
Within ten minutes on Monday morning, I ran into not one, but two news stories covering the “Christian reaction” to the Supreme Court’s ruling last week affirming the rights of citizens to same-sex marriage. At first I was annoyed by the stories’ characterization of Christianity, but now I’m not so sure.
On long backpacking hikes in my twenties, we passed the time going up and down mountains by cataloguing the ways we were struggling. Going up, we were breathless and our muscles were shaky; going down, knees and ankles, different muscles. One wasn’t really better or worse than the other, just hard in different ways. We never said much about the hike itself on the few flat portions of trail.