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God's Politics

Brian McLarenLast year, a group of us put together something we called “Worship in the Spirit of Justice.” We planned five weeks of outdoor public worship in Washington, D.C., to bring attention to the suffering in Darfur. We believe that worship is closely connected with protest: when we praise God as the One who loves the poor, oppressed, and forgotten, we are implicitly protesting people and structures that oppress, exclude, and forget. Worship in this way radicalizes all of us. It forms us as people who join God in God’s care for our world.

RallyWe chose five “prophetic locations.” The first week, we met at the Lincoln Memorial, recalling our history of racism and slavery – and realizing that, as the film Hotel Rwanda said so painfully and powerfully, the way the rest of the world neglects the deaths of millions in Africa must be attributed in part at least to racism. In succeeding weeks, we met in front of the Capitol building, calling Congress to action; we gathered across from the National Press Club, urging the news media to keep Darfur on the front page until our nation used its influence more effectively for the dying in Darfur; we met across from the Sudan Embassy, where we prayed for that nation’s rulers to change their ways; and finally, we met in front of the White House, where hundreds of us knelt in prayer for our nation’s leaders to take action.

Now, over a year later, a group of evangelical leaders have spoken out on behalf of Darfur. In a sign that more and more evangelical leaders are unwilling to be held hostage to a single political party or a too-limited moral agenda, a wide array of leaders have come together saying that for us, Darfur will be a front-page issue, a true moral issue, and we won’t forget the good our leaders do for Darfur – or fail to do – as we move forward.

It’s important to remember (as a recent Time magazine cover story and a recent CNN series made clear) that Darfur isn’t the only scene of tragedy in Africa. The Congo continues to be a nightmare of violence and chaos. And while Africa gets a bit more of the attention it deserves, we can’t forget the terrible suffering in Latin America (where I recently walked the streets of some of the worst slums in the world), in so many parts of Asia, and even in our own nation – whether we’re speaking of the Katrina-stricken Gulf Coast or the urban and rural poor who are neighbors to all of us.

I’m encouraged to see more and more Christian leaders in the U.S. not only caring about these places, but also visiting them – not just to bring aid or “do mission,” but equally important, perhaps more important, to listen and learn, to meet people, to build relationships so the poor become our neighbors, our friends indeed. (For example, consider the beautiful and historic work of Amahoro-africa.com in bringing emerging Christian leaders from the U.S. together with their counterparts across East Africa.)

On December 10, thousands of churches will join together to “worship in the Spirit of justice.” Across our nation, they will praise God as the God of justice, the God who cares for the oppressed, the God who doesn’t play favorites, the God to whom a starving and frightened Muslim child in the Sudan is as precious as a Christian child in an affluent U.S. Sunday school. They will pray for Darfur, for the leaders of Sudan, for racism and genocide to be exposed and rejected, for rescue and reconciliation to be pursued. They will pray for our President and Congress not to let politics so preoccupy them that they forget justice and compassion.

I hope you’ll invite your church to practice “worship in the Spirit of justice” on December 10, and I hope that kind of worship becomes habitual for more and more of us, week after week, day by day.

+ Click here for Dec. 10 worship resources from Sojourners/Call to Renewal

Brian McLaren is the author of Secret Message of Jesus, and board chair for Sojourners/Call to Renewal.

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