Over the past weekend, a highly elected North Carolina official preached in the Cornerstone Church in Salisbury, NC. The quote from his sermon that is stirring controversy is this: “No other nation has ever survived the diversity and multiculturalism that America faces today because of lack of assimilation, because of this division, because of this identity politics.” First let me say, I don’t doubt this man’s sincere faith, however misguided it might be. All Americans are given freedom of religion. It’s what our founding fathers wrote in the Constitution.
What gives me pause is that other sincere Christians were sitting in the pews, hearing a message that is not grounded in anything Jesus said, or taught, or lived. And there were probably a few nodding their approval of a speaker who is using a pulpit to begin his campaign for Governor of North Carolina. From what I read of this man’s talk, it seemed all about ginning up distrust for the other, skepticism about multiculturalism, and fear of pluralism.
When hegemonies are lost, people rise up in fear. Historically the hatred that is born of fear manifests itself in nationalism and religious piety that excludes, villainizes, and persecutes any one who threatens status quo power or pushes back at systems that work better for the few than for the many. This is what is going on in America today as people of color, people of gender difference, and women – who have only had voting rights for about 100 years, are rising up to say, not so fast you who would work to disadvantage, silence, or suppress any of us.
For such rhetoric as was preached in the Cornerstone Church in Salisbury, NC, pandering church folk who are just there to praise Jesus, is slippery slope Christianity. Where do we think this will grow the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven?
Diversity is God’s design. Just look out the window and see the birds of the air and the plants of the garden and the river that flows right in front of me. The birds fly and sing their own song, the plants bear their unique fruit, the fish and crabs inhabit the same river. All creation, the whole biosphere is diverse, different by design, yet symbiotic and interdependent in its coequal-habitation. To say that nations have not survived diversity is simply not true.
When we look at Japan, Korea, Germany under Hitler, and others who have worked to eliminate diversity, people have experienced great suffering, pain and ultimate loss. So, Mr. Candidate for Governor, and any who preach nationalism and exclusion, how do we speak to a diversity that is edifying for all people, enriching the blessing that is Christianity at its purest and America as its best?
We can love one another as God has loved. We can listen to one another until we hear the cry of the needy. We can seek common ground, realizing that we are all in this life together for better or worse. We can lay down our pride and self-righteous rhetoric.
Sliding down slippery slopes often ends in a crash. I speak from experience. Neither the church nor the government will fare well sliding down slippery slopes that take us off the path of righteousness, fairness, justice, and kindness. Dignity and diversity, acceptance and productive co-existence will grow a truly great America and a truly faithful church. This is more than political; this is life.