I was invited to a meeting of clergy at a church whose parking lot is the staging ground for a militarized police force in Sherman Park, the site of unrest in Milwaukee. The clergy meeting would be with Governor Scott Walker.
I considered going. Political leaders have power, and it is affirming to have churches recognized and brought into that sphere of influence. Its nice to be wanted. I thought maybe this would be a place to speak truth to power, to push the issues behind the violence: jobs, racism, police-community relations, racism, mistrust of youth, and racism.
But then I remembered Amos, and I stayed home.
A few hours later this picture emerged:
In good vauge-book fashion, I posted this:
Folks pretty quickly figured out what I was referencing.
God told the prophet Amos: “Never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.” There are places where power serves the empire and the work of the empire is not of God.
I wasn’t in the room. I don’t know what was said.
But I couldn’t do what was happening in this room. Not because Scott Walker is a republican and I’m not. I couldn’t do this because several of Walker’s policies – from defunding transit to assaults on voter rights to expanding attacks on public schools – created the conditions that led to a segment of Milwaukee feeling like they had nothing to loose. Because so much had already been taken.
No doubt you will quote to me, “Pray for your enemies.” I do pray for my enemies, but not with them. I will not let my voice be used to justify a curfew that vilifies youth or consents to the national guard being on call. I will not let my prayers be used as a talking point from the governor to the media. I will not say, “Peace, peace when there is no peace.”
The church is called to be the voice of liberation. Church leaders must follow the example of preaching good news to the poor. If it isn’t good to the poor, it isn’t the good news. And if it is good for the powerful, it usually is not good for the oppressed.