I’ve been wondering lately, where are the prophets? Are there any real prophets cut from the same cloth of an Elijah who confounded the evil King Ahab or a John the Baptist who called out the sins of Herod? Are there any among the fundamentally conservative or the progressively liberal wings of Christianity who are willing to break political ranks and speak truth to power?
Solutions to complex issues like war, poverty, healthcare and environmental deterioration will require greater vision than what is currently possessed by those in power and those seeking to replace them. Our nation stands in great need of the truly prophetic.
The populace of American Christianity is generally polarized along the same fault lines as the two political parties who seek to gain the blessing and endorsement of the faithful. Tepid partisan clergy ranging from conservative to liberal on the theological spectrum has generally displaced the prophetic mantle in the public forums of our time.
Much of the upper tier conservative clerics still offer their carte blanche blessings to a political party and president whose values and policies have grossly distorted the Christian image to the rest of the world. The progressive wing of Christianity offers a similar endorsement of the entire platform of the other party. Where is the prophet like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who fearlessly advocated against war and for social justice in the face of both Republican and Democratic leaders and the Church?
I have a question for those recognized as prophets by the theological left and right. Are there points on the platform of your chosen political party that falls short of mercy and justice? If so, then please show some genuine prophetic authenticity and offer divine public correction to these issues. You could help change the errant course we travel as a nation. Our national leaders on the left and right apparently possess no map and have lost their compass. They desperately need prophetic help in the realms of vision and accountability. They do not need your blanket endorsements.
Many conservative and liberal clerics alike have become nothing more than pathetic lap dogs for the two political parties and the special interests they represent. Citizens entering voting booths must make their choices based on their individual conscience, but how can true prophets publicly endorse a single political party when both are corrupt?
Shouldn’t the prophetic office serve as a watchdog of the Church and the State? Prophets point out injustice and speak uncomfortable truth to those in authority regardless of their political party or church affiliation. Their function in society is not bound solely by the parameters of religion. Their authority to rebuke and bring correction historically extends into every social dimension where justice is lacking and mercy is needed.
Where is there a clear prophetic voice rising from the American societal landscape today? Where is the group or individual who dares to expose the injustice committed in our name by our government regardless of who is in power? Why do the preachers of the left and right only rebuke those leaders of the opposite party and never their own? Where is the prophet who is bold enough to confront the harlotry of the Church as she runs recklessly into the seductive arms of corrupt and conscienceless political suitors?
It is a terrible and costly compromise when preachers and prophets offer their endorsement of any party or candidate who is not willing to work legislatively for mercy and justice on every front. It is an even greater compromise when they dare not speak needed confrontational truth to those whom they have endorsed. The fear of losing their privileged place at the trough with the other lobbyists tragically enforces their silence.
Much study and editorializing has been done regarding the influence of fundamental Christianity in the outcome of the 2002 and 2004 elections. Although conservative Christian voters seemed pivotal in the elections, their actual impact in public policy was minimal. Four years of total Republican control of the White House and Congress delivered little that represents the values and concerns of the conservative Christians who endorsed them. Two Supreme Court appointments are the only real solace for the believers who supported this president and his subservient Congress.
Much work is being done among progressive Christians to counter that electoral influence. The 2006 elections show the pendulum of political control is swinging away from Republicans and continues to favor the Democrats in 2008. Will moderate and more liberal Church leaders be willing to speak truth to power when they are the ones being allowed through the turnstiles of the White House and the Congress?
The current influence of the polarized Church is apparently no greater than any other minor special interest group finding identity and nominal representation in the political parties of today. It will always be so as long as the church world allows itself to be exploited and fragmented by the strategists of the two political parties.
A united Church could actually become a powerful purveyor of good in the realm of public policy. This could happen if the conservative and the progressive wings decided to coalesce around a broader spectrum of justice related issues. They could collectively influence both parties to design public policy more reflective of judicious mercy. Is such a thing possible?
God help us. Where are the prophets?
Gary Vance is an evangelical pastor/writer living in rural Tennessee. He is the author of "Wasn't Jesus a Liberal?" and other published essays.