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Time to put down the prophet’s mantle?

Time to put down the prophet’s mantle?

On the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, Mark Silk suggests that it is time for religious leaders to put down the mantle of prophets. He writes:

But with King as prophet-leader, the March on Washington established a new and exciting role for religion in postwar America — one that in due course seized the imaginations of even those who most bitterly opposed it. For after spending much of the civil rights era attacking activist clergy for destroying “the spirituality of the church,” conservative pastors led by Jerry Falwell decided to take up the prophetic role from the other side, and the religious right was born. For over a generation, the public face of religion has been subsumed in culture wars.

As Ecclesiastes teaches, there is a time for everything, and we may finally have reached a time for the prophetic voice to quiet down. If the young papacy of Francis has shown anything, it is that this does not mean that religion has to abandon a public role. It does mean that what we now may need from religious leaders is teaching by humble example as well as by word, gentle persuasion and understanding of human weakness, and a dialing back of millenialist dreams.

Fifty years after the March on Washington, it’s time.

What do you think about this argument?

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Adam Wood

HB - I often disagree with your view point on various points of theology, ethics, and politics.

But I could not agree with you more on the point of your last post: Churches need to do church, and do it well.

I'm not saying we should leave all the rest to other groups (as you suggest above) - but if churches are not primarily about doing church, they will fall apart.

Even if it were the case that a church's end-goal is social change or whatever, you have to focus on CHURCH - on worship and praise and mystery. Otherwise there will be no church to work on the social things: everyone will just go find a non-profit that is run more efficiently.

The continual recasting of Jesus and his mission/ministry as if he was a social-justice crusader is ABSURD.

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Harriet Baber

Well here I am--your local prophet. Though not a very effective one. The institutional church is collapsing and no one who has any say in the institution is willing to do much about it. I see clergy who do not seem to believe that religious practice as such is important or even interesting. Congregations are dwindling and church buildings being closed down. Something of value is being lost--the buildings and the ceremonies, the liturgy and cult.

Of course none of these things are as important as promoting social justice and improving the material conditions of people's lives. But we can afford the unimportant things that make life good--art, sports, pets, games, books, good food and wine, music, parties and religion. In losing churchy stuff we are losing one of life's pleasures. Sure we can turn a few churches into museums and fossilize some church music as art, but visiting museums and going to concerts isn't anything like getting the whole package as a participant in liturgy in a sacred space.

I joined the church so that I could go to church--for a Communion ticket. I was interested in mysticism, in getting a particular sort of experience. But while I went for the aesthetics I got socked with the ethics. I joined the church to get a woo-woo acid trip in high church fantasyland--which I got. But religion made me a better person: isn't that what's supposed to happen?

Many are eccentric but no one is unique. I know this take on religion is peculiar but there are likely lots of people who are as peculiar as I am. We want beauty, ceremony, mysticism, aesthetic experience, "transcendence." And if there isn't a crowd, the ceremonies are no fun. For God's sake, give us bread, not stones. Promote church as such--the buildings, rituals, and bums on pews. Please!

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Adam Wood

Go ye, therefore, unto all nations, speaking truth to power.

If ye love me, speak truth to power.

These three things are all that remain: faith, hope, and speaking truth to power.

------

The prophetic mantle is not something we should chose to take up or set down.

Some among us are called to be prophets. (Others teacher, apostles, etc, etc.)

The notion that we can turn on and off the prophet switch based on cultural circumstances (like whether or not it is effective) is a pretty strange view on the nature of prophecy, and its source.

Prophecy is not about changing government policy. It is not about ensuring the Caesar treats everyone fairly.

Remember what Jesus had to say when the most politically-powerful person he ever met gave him an opportunity to explain what truth was?

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Adam Wood

Go ye, therefore, unto all nations, speaking truth to power.

If ye love me, speak truth to power.

These three things are all that remain: faith, hope, and speaking truth to power.

------

The prophetic mantle is not something we should chose to take up or set down.

Some among us are called to be prophets. (Others teacher, apostles, etc, etc.)

The notion that we can turn on and off the prophet switch based on cultural circumstances (like whether or not it is effective) is a pretty strange view on the nature of prophecy, and its source.

Prophecy is not about changing government policy. It is not about ensuring the Caesar treats everyone fairly.

Remember what Jesus had to say when the most politically-powerful person he ever met gave me an opportunity to explain what truth was?

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billydinpvd

I think it's rich that whenever the issue of "being prophetic" comes up, Episcopalians tend to think that we're naturally Jonah or Elijah. It hardly ever occurs to us that we might actually be the Ninevites. It always seems to be our party boldly denouncing *others'* sin and vices.

Bill Dilworth

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