The E-mail Commentary from Eco-Justice Ministries
Neither Cold nor Hot
I fear for planet Earth, which is being ravaged by the exploitation and devastation of its powerful human residents. And I fear for the Christian Church, which all too often does not seem to care about this crisis. Or -- a far worse thing than not caring -- perhaps many churches feel that they have no authentic word of hope for this time.
I admit that I have a strong personal and professional bias in my critique of churches. Eco-Justice Ministries works with churches from a perspective that takes seriously the faithful responsibility to seek justice for all of our neighbors -- human and other-than-human, now and into the future. At the core of our work, Eco-Justice Ministries believes that churches must be engaged with these most urgent issues of ecology and justice. That engagement is essential for the health of our "in-house" spirituality and theology, as well as for the validity of our much needed witness to the world around us.
My fear for the Church is tempered by the good and faithful ministry that I do see in thousands of congregations. There are many churches addressing today's great issues, and I rejoice in the committed and transformative work that these churches are doing. I am hopeful that awareness and action will spread from this small "mustard seed" of engaged churches, and will flourish in many more congregations.
But I also must be realistic, based in my experience of churches in the United States. While there are congregations that act for the health of God's whole creation, there are many, many more churches that seem oblivious, disconnected, or irrelevant. I am prompted to write on this theme because of three broad examples from this week alone.
Three times this week, I have come face-to-face with the failure of churches in the US to act boldly on matters of great importance. Over and over again, it seems that the vast majority of churches in this country are silent and disengaged on the issues where we should be providing great moral leadership.
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Out of the entire Bible, the text that I think speaks most clearly and directly to the church in the United States is found in the Book of Revelation. In the opening chapters, there are messages directed to seven churches around the Mediterranian basin. The seventh one (Revelation 3:14-22), addressed to the church in Laodicea, speaks to the condition of many churches in the US:
The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the origin of God's creation: I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. For you say, 'I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.' You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. ... I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent. ... Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
Those harsh words do not apply to all churches, of course. Eco-Justice Ministries is honored to work with many congregations that are far from being lukewarm in their witness and ministry. But when it comes to caring for all of God's creation, to seeking justice and peace, to proclaiming the realm of God as something other than the American dream, far too many churches are comfortable and complacent.
Eco-Justice Ministries tries to help churches be bold in addressing the intertwined problems of social justice and ecological sustainability. While we highlight "environmental" issues, we are eager to help congregations move toward transformational ministry on any front. We see it as part of our mission to help churches claim their moral leadership on issues such as peacemaking, economic justice and human rights.
A church that is neither hot nor cold deserves the rejection described in Revelation. A church that is lukewarm, disengaged and silent on matters of great importance does not fulfill its calling to embody Christ in the world. As a matter of faithfulness -- in the church, and for our ministry in the world -- may we call lukewarm churches to repentance and renewal.
Eco-Justice Ministries * 400 S Williams St, Denver, CO 80209 * 303.715.3873
Home Page: www.eco-justice.org * E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org