In a spectacle of religious hypocrisy last week, preachers who say so much about what God says so little — and so little about what God says so much — stood in the Rose Garden as a backdrop for President Donald Trump’s executive order on “religious liberty.” As they celebrated this administration’s willingness to let them use religious freedom as an excuse to force their “values” on someone else, Trump pointed to the legacy of the African-American church as an example of faith in public life.
In every con, there’s a grain of truth, whether the person who is speaking knows it or now.
I know the prophetic African American church tradition that grew up on the edges of plantations and spoke clearly for the first time into this nation’s public life when Hariet Tubman and Frederick Douglass first escaped from slavery to freedom. On my mother and father’s side of our family tree combined, I count more than eight hundred years of public ministry in that tradition. We do not know how to preach without engaging the powers in the public square. Whenever I open the Scriptures, I read about a God who hears the cry of the suffering and stands on the side of the oppressed for justice.