Churchnet

October 05, 2010

As part of the First Priority 2015 strategic plan adopted earlier this year, the Baptist General Convention of Missouri is now known by its doing-business name Churchnet. Part of the transition includes changing the publications. My latest column appeared recently in the Churchnet E-Current, the monthly electronic newsletter that was previously known as the BGCM E-Message. Due to website transition issues (as we move to the site www.thechurchnet.org), the piece is not online yet, so I posted it below.


Moving Beyond the Punchline

Comedian Stephen Colbert's recent trip to Capitol Hill generated a lot of media attention--which was precisely the point. Testifying in character on a House Judiciary Committee panel on immigration reform, Colbert's presence was designed to attract attention to the important issue. Had the faux pundit not joined the panel, it likely would have been completely ignored by all except a few policy wonks. Yet, Colbert did not just bring attention to the issue; he also brought profound insights that should cause all Christians to pause and think.

In the midst of wisecracks and sarcastic digs, Colbert articulated the plight of migrant works, many of whom are undocumented and illegally working in the U.S. Clearly, Colbert the real person believes serious immigration reform is needed, regardless how unserious Colbert the character may have seemed. Colbert also rightly noted the problem of partisan polarization between Republicans and Democrats that has impeded the necessary progress needed on this front.

However, the most poignant moment of the entire panel--or in Congress in a long, long time--came in his answer to the last question as he seemed to drop out of character for the first time during the hearing. Asked why he decided to speak out on the issue of immigration, Colbert, a Catholic who teaches Sunday School on occasion, responded, "I like talking about people who don't have any power. And this seems like one of the least powerful people in the United States are migrant workers who come and do our work but don’t have any rights as a result, and yet we still invite them to come here and at the same time ask them to leave. … And, you know, 'whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers,' and these seem like the least of our brothers. ... Migrant workers suffer and have no rights."

As the man behind the mask peered out, those in the congressional room and watching on C-SPAN were powerfully reminded of a key teaching of Jesus--caring for the least of these. Jesus hung out with the tax collectors, prostitutes and other despised classes, and focused his proclaiming of the good news to the poor and powerless. As Colbert astutely noted, undocumented migrant farm workers are among the least of the least of these. Regardless of one's opinion on specific immigration reform proposals, all Christians should remember the teachings of Jesus to make sure we do not add to the misery and suffering of our brothers and sisters.

Although congressional leaders have often failed to lead--as dramatically proven by the fact that a comedian needed to remind them of the serious truth--let us as Christians not forget the teachings of Jesus. ChurchNet is committed to working not only to proclaim the good news of salvation and help churches grow, but also to work toward helping make a difference in the lives of those in our community, especially the least of these. The "Share Hope" five-year emphasis adopted earlier this year includes these three aspects—relational evangelism, congregational health, and community advocacy--because all three are needed for a gospel emphasis to be complete. We must speak out for our brothers and sisters who are poor and powerless, even being willing to push political leaders to make necessary public policy reforms. Let us not surrender our calling to a comedian.

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