Romans 12.18 “If Possible, so far as it depends on you live peaceably with all.”
In case you haven’t heard the comments made by Melissa Harris-Perry have created quite a stir amongst many. Not least some within the American Church. In case you haven’t heard it or seen the “Lean Forward” advertisement here is the quote that rose the ire of many…
“We have never invested as much in public education as we should have. We haven’t had a very collective notion of, these are our children. We have to break through our private idea that children belong to their parents, or children belong to their families, and recognize that children belong to whole communities. Once it’s everybody’s responsibility and not just the household’s, we start making better investments.”
Many have seen this as an attack on the nuclear family and the role of parents. Some have even said that it sounds very socialist. I don’t know a lot about the woman, but as a fellow Black American I can imagine that some of her comments about children belong to communities is harkening back to a part of Black American Culture that existed well into the 70s. The comedian Sinbad even told stories about this part of Black culture in one of his stand up routines; if you got in trouble at school which required a call home, then the ladies in the neighborhood and your grandmother (assuming she lived in the neighborhood), knew about it and gave you a piece of their mind/disciplined you, before you even reached home and had to face your own parents. It could be possible that Harris-Perry is harkening back to concept of “it takes a village/tribe” as a way of encouraging people to consider how they can invest in the youth in their community beyond their own (And not in the exclusively discipline fashion of the 70s).
As a member of the church and more specifically as a youth pastor this got me to thinking… No one ever freaked out when someone said, “It takes a village…”. In fact I’ve heard many in the church use the analogy in positive ways to encourage the role of community within the body of Christ. No one ever said in response to that, “it reeks of naturalism or early western pagan spirituality”. As a youth pastor I promote the idea that parents have the most potential influence in shaping their children, and while I have a role to play and something valuable to add, parents are (and always will be) the primary stewards of their kids. Personally I feel all the drama surrounding her comments just highlights something else that I’ve observed lately, which bothers me.
So many within the American church seem to be on the hunt accusing people of being socialists like its the 50s again in the midst of the “Red Scare”. It makes us look as though we are more concerned with protecting the American republic we’ve been born into (and gratefully so), democracy, capitalism and the “American Way” more than our concern for announcing the gospel message of God as King. A huge part of the Gospel is that all nations all kings all rulers, and all forms of government will be found wanting. All of them, including America no matter how much we rise or fall as a nation, will fall and be done away with when Christ returns (Revelation 17.14). His kingdom rule will fully and undeniably invade not just heaven but earth too resulting in the New Heavens and New Earth that so much of scripture points towards and eagerly awaits. Not that politics and government are insignificant, but when a sizable amount of our PR and announcements concerns our loathing and fear-mongering of liberals, socialists, or ultra-conservatives and politicians in general then the likelihood of the gospel falling on deaf ears increases. Announcing and living the gospel needs to be the foremost of our concern. The gospel calls those of us who claim to submit to the rule of the king the good news announces to do our best to live at peace with everyone (Romans 12.18), and to pray for those who are in positions of power and influence (1st Timothy 2.1-6). Living at peace with and praying for those outside the body of Christ is a powerful witness.