Dear friends and members of Resurrection,
I don't know about you, but I am often confused when I hear about “Christians” backing certain
political candidates or policies. I am tired of being identified with a kind of “Christianity” that I do not
believe in or practice. I don't see much that points to a group of people trying to follow Jesus and—at
this point in my life—that is all I care about when it comes to this faith journey.
The Christian faith, as I understand it, is about the invitation to know God at a very personal and
accessible way through Jesus. We can read about Jesus in the Bible and learn how he lived his life and
we can pray to him and receive his living presence in our lives. This relationship is saving in that it
frees us from the fear of whether we are loved, whether we are good enough, whether we can trust the
one who has given us the gift of this life for whatever comes next.
I do not believe that the Christian faith is exclusive or condemns anyone. I also know that there are
many Christians who do not agree with me.
As many of you know, I was raised in a white evangelical Protestant church where altar calls and
required witnessing were a part of our weekly life together. There was much fear about judgment and
hell. The God presented in this version of Christianity had made a very narrow way to escape eternal
damnation for a very few. I was afraid of this God and struggled to feel the kind of certitude and
gratitude that our minister called us to.
This kind of Christianity is on the rise in our country today. I think we should all understand what its
basic components are: 1) the Bible is the inerrant Word of God—it is meant to be read literally, 2)
every person must accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior and be born again, 3)
Christianity is the the only way that leads to eternal salvation, 4) each Christian is to share the message
about Jesus with the goal of converting others.
None of these four components are a part of the self-understanding of the branch of Lutheran
Christianity (ELCA) that we belong to.
In the ELCA we read the Bible as a collection of writings through which God's living Spirit continues
to guide us. It is improper to read the Bible literally—we do not live in the time or place in which it
was written. However, we learn from our ancestors' experiences of God as we pray and struggle to
discern what God is calling us to in our time and place. Our faith is not in the Bible, but in the God the
Bible points us toward. We act in our context, not certain that we are “right”, but certain that God is
loving and forgiving and calls us to act.
We trust this about God because of Jesus. We believe that Jesus was the clearest “word” that God has
spoken to the world and so, we read the whole Bible through the lens of his life. We interpret stories
that attribute certain actions and attitudes to God based on their congruence with what Jesus revealed
about God in his life, death and resurrection.
This revelation includes the consistent testimony that all people are beloved of God. Jesus, over and
over again, goes out of his way to notice, speak to, help, and include those who are overlooked--
especially by the religious insiders. He invites them into a relationship of love with the God he calls
Father. He does not issue threats about their need to accept him as their personal lord and savior in
order to be loved by God. He helps them see the truth about themselves: they are already loved and
valued by their creator—as is.
While we in the ELCA do believe that Jesus is a pathway to God, we do not automatically discount the
possibilities of other pathways. We are grateful for the invitation we have received to know God
through Jesus and so, we nurture and strengthen that relationship through many means. However, we
do not think that we are “right” and others who do not hold our same beliefs are “wrong”. We look to
the actions a person's beliefs lead them to in order to evaluate the worth of their religious beliefs.
Hence, we do not share our faith in order to convert others as though it is their only hope of salvation.
Rather, we share our faith because it is such good news—too good to keep to ourselves. We announce
that everyone is beloved by the God who created all that is. We work together with people of all
religions or no religions in the faith that we are already children of God, members of the same family.
The faith of those of us who know God through Jesus is meant to set us free to serve one another,
without fear or judgment.
That is not what I see happening in our country today. Many who claim the title “Christian” are
elevating certain groups of people over others, are accepting and even supporting leaders who belittle
others. There is fear being spread regarding people of different races or nationalities or religions.
I am tired of divisiveness. I am tired of people fighting and calling each other names. I am tired of one
group elevating itself by denigrating others.
I no longer will identify as a Democrat or a Republican. If forced to say, I will claim only to be a
citizen of the world. For now, anyway, these former titles do not explain a position but rather, seperate
people, one from the other.
I choose not to participate in such separation. That does not mean I will disengage from the process of
ordering our life together in this country. However, I will do so based on what I perceive will help this
world to thrive, to be a place where people of all abilities and incomes, races and religions, will have
enough to live a full life.
My participation will be directly influenced by my faith that God has made this whole world and loves
every part of it. No human being is of more importance than any other, nor is any country. There is no
value in making America great over and against Tanzania or Mexico or Israel or Palestine.
I am a citizen of the world who is trying to follow Jesus in living a life of compassion, mercy, inclusive
love. Beyond that, I claim no other identifying titles.
Your beloved sister in Christ,
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The Rev. Dr. Mary Ubuntu is the spiritual leader of Resurrection Lutheran Church and has served in that capacity since 2003. More on Pastor Mary can be found HERE.