By Jan Shannon
“Things are going to hell in a handbasket,” my father used to say. No matter which side of the Great Divide you are one, you probably think it’s true. One side thinks things are bad, but with new policies and a new administration, things will get better. The other side thinks that things are bad, and getting worse, BECAUSE of the new administration.
Facebook, that bastion of baseless facts and blatantly biased beliefs, has become the bully pulpit for angry Christians. Pastors across denominational lines are taking to Facebook to preach a sermon of resistance, with the heading, “Good Strategies to Apply.” When I first read this list, posted by a Christian pastor that I know, I was shocked. The No. 1 item on the list is not only childish, I think it’s un-American and indefensible. No. 1 is, “Don’t use the name.” While I oppose a ban on refugees, and oppose discriminatory practices of all kinds, I also oppose dehumanizing tactics such as refusing to say someone’s name. I have written about this previously and stand by my belief that all persons, regardless of their actions, are children of God and deserve to be love and respected simply because they are human beings. To refuse to say someone’s name, is to take away their identity, and that is not a Christian value.
We can see just how important names are to God, by reading about God’s interaction with Moses in Exodus 3:13-15. “Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ “This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.”
Moses, having been told to go free the Hebrew slaves from Egypt, complains to God that no one will believe that God has sent him. Names allow for relationship. God, Who wants to be in relationship with humanity, gave us a name to call on, a way to connect with the Almighty. This name is so important, the third commandment demands that we not misuse the name of God. Shall we then misuse the name of one of God’s creatures?
Have social justice warriors forgotten the #SayHerName campaign? We lift up the names of those who have died because we don’t want them to be forgotten. We say their names because it is who they are, if only now in our memories. If you thought it was powerful to continue to say the name Sandra Bland, Tanisha Anderson, Yvette Smith, Miriam Carey, Shelly Frey, Darnisha Harris, Malissa Williams, Shantel Davis, Rekia Boyd, Shereese Francis, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Tarika Wilson, Alberta Spruilli and Kendra James, and other women of color who were brutalized by police, then you must also say the name of those who make the policies that allow the brutality to continue. Christians are not called to only love our friends, we are called to love our enemies too.
It’s AWESOME that the progressive Christian community is FINALLY speaking up, but as we begin to fight this fight, don’t go to battle half-dressed. Put on the whole armor of God. The Apostle Paul’s words in Ephesians should be our guide. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
Our fight isn’t against the person, President Donald Trump, it is against bigotry and hate and discrimination, and we will lose the fight against the ‘powers of darkness’ if we leave behind truth and righteousness which are founded in the Gospel of peace. Peace must be our foundation, and the love of God our guide, if we hope to make a positive impact in our nation. We cannot, and MUST NOT, act like bad-tempered toddlers. We must rise above our base sinful natures, and, as mature, loving Christians, speak truth to power and stand up for the weak.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” Do not allow yourselves to go down that dangerous path toward darkness. Rise above, in the power of God, and love your enemies.
We need to fight against hate in all its forms, including the dehumanizing tactic of refusing to say someone’s name. President Donald Trump is a human being, loved by God, and as such, he deserves to be loved by everyone who calls themselves a Christian. Do not allow yourselves to fall into the trap of abusing one of God’s creatures with degrading methods such as making fun of his body, his family, or his office. Oppose the ban, not the man. #SayHisNAme.
Jan Shannon is a full-time seminary student at Iliff School of Theology, a wife, mom, granny, and gay Christian.