Let me begin by making it unequivocally clear that faith is absolutely important to me. It was the inspiration for my over two-decades of work in the American missionfield, and is the reason I am committed to fighting to end Zanu(PF)s brutal, corrupt and incompetent rule in Zimbabwe, the country of my birth.
Responses from the pulpit to incidences such as George Floyd’s murder in the United States on the 25th of May 2020 are such moments in history. At such times, Christian leaders pass or fail the test not just of leadership, but of Christian character and humanity.
The “Priests” and the “Levites” in the pulpits fail by refusing to be defiled by the severe wounds of a man they did not know, and by not allowing the cause of the brutalized to change their religious agenda.
There are others who, this first Sunday after Floyd’s murder, passed the test. They would not use any religious rationalizations not to be involved. They would not say: “Why was this man using this dangerous road by himself?” Like the Samaritan, their compassion was entirely focused on the object of violence, and not on the lofty theological issues of the day, or fear that talking about this would disrupt the long-laid plans for “Pentecost Sunday.”
Christian leaders fail the test when they have no understanding that generalizations about the sinfulness of mankind don’t just sound like empty platitudes to those who are in extreme pain, but are precisely the problem the church has failed to lead at critical moments in history.
William Wilberforce knew that the slave trade was a sin. He however knew that the immediate and desperate pain of those enduring it could not wait for the entire world to “get saved” through a religious revival, or for the coming of Jesus. The ending of slavery required men and women of courage to stand up to their convictions in the halls of power of the nations that were responsible for this evil.
It was through the efforts of this men of faith and many other people of conscience who did not necessarily share his faith that the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 was passed in the British parliament.
It is hypocritical to say we must legislate against the abuse of children and the sexual trafficking of women, but that when it comes to equally clear, murderous racism,there is nothing man can do about it, and that it will take God.
God is not responsible for the racism that killed Floyd and many others. He is not responsible for the brutality of the regime running Zimbabwe, the country of my birth. He was not responsible for the evil of apartheid in South Africa. Men and women of faith fail the test when they don’t challenge our tendency to give God the responsibility to do what is our duty to do.
If Proverbs 29:2 is true that “when the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people mourn,” why would any person of faith feel, as the attitude of some of the Priests and Levites in today’s pulpits suggests, that commitment to justice would diminish their righteousness and dedication to religious duty?
While we can never completely eliminate the wickedness in the hearts of men through social activism, it is clear from the word of God itself, and from moments in history when men and women of faith have risen to to the occasion, that human suffering can be reduced if the Levite and Priest have the heart of the Good Samaritan