Help, O Lord, for there is no longer anyone who is godly; the faithful have disappeared from humankind. They utter lies to each other; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak. Psalm 12:1-2
Something Cornel West said when speaking about the ineffectiveness of Obama really stood out for me. He said: “He doesn’t realize that a great leader, a statesperson, doesn’t just occupy the middle ground. They occupy higher ground, or the moral ground, or even sometimes the holy ground. But the middle ground is not the place to go if you’re going to show courage and vision.” I could not help but think that faith leaders everywhere always head straight for the middle ground because to do otherwise might mean alienating the wrong person (or persons) and losing one’s audience all together. It’s tricky because if you’re too honest people will accuse you of being judgmental or inflammatory; then they shut down and are no longer willing to listen to anything else. On the other hand, if you allow that every perspective has merit, then sometimes you’re not really being prophetic – or even honest. Rabbi Hirschfield says that: “You Don’t Have to Be Wrong for Me to Be Right,” and that is true to the bone, but it doesn’t automatically make you right or me either for that matter.
In some ways I think we have diffused the prophetic voice of the church by breaking it up into so many bits and pieces. Granted, the church was filled with corruption and no longer served God or the people, but breaking it up was not Luther’s vision; he was looking to reform it. Today there are literally thousands of denominations, and within each denomination there are thousands of congregations. A pastor is accountable to only one congregation – the one that signs the paycheck – and if the pastor wishes to remain on the payroll then they are required to lead the flock wherever it is that the flock wants to go, all the while keeping in mind that not everyone in the flock wants to go to the same place. Through all this it is easy to lose sight of the fact that we are accountable only to God – who might not provide a monthly paycheck – but who will provide.
When we are accountable only to God, we speak God’s truth freely without worrying about whose hackles might be raised. We stop seeking the middle ground and start searching for the higher ground, the moral ground and ultimately – the holy ground. Sadly, most of us are too afraid to go that far out on God’s limb. What will we eat, what will we wear, where will we live if we don’t have our nice safe little flocks to take care of us?
As I search for a call and try to figure out what it is that search committees want to hear, I often find myself gravitating toward a nice safe middle ground because I want a job. Have I become willing to utter lies with flattering lips and a double heart? That is not my call; that is my fear and my lack of faith. Jesus spoke the truth and he did not back down when people tried to boo him off the stage. We know of only one occasion where he changed his mind when he recognized that he was wrong, and that was with the Canaanite woman; but when confronted by the elders – he stood his holy ground.
Today I pray that I find within myself enough faith that I can stand my holy ground, because that is what I was called to do.