Commentary
By Jim Wallis 4-19-2018

As we approach Pentecost, it has become painfully obvious that a new effort is needed to take our faith to the streets — to remind Christians in the U.S. what followers of Jesus are called to believe, and therefore what we are also called to reject.

We are inviting church leaders, pastors, seminarians, and congregants to join us for this critical observance of Pentecost this year, which has liturgical integrity and urgency at this time in the life of the nation.

First, we ask you to read Reclaiming Jesus carefully. Then, we ask you to commend it to your churches and communities for prayer, study, civil discernment, reflection, and action — encouraging our brothers and sisters in Christ to become “reclaimers” of Jesus in these times. If you’re a pastor or a lay leader, we’re asking you to help lead this process, using the “Reclaiming Jesus” statement as a discipleship tool. If you’re not a pastor, we encourage you to take this to your pastors and offer to help them lead with the statement in your churches.

What does being a “reclaimer” mean? It means committing to use this declaration in your Christian communities for prayer, discernment, and action. It means speaking from and for the words and spirit of Reclaiming Jesus. It means sharing this statement with your social media networks, as a starting point for civil and prayerful conversation.

It also means marking Pentecost as a starting point for a season of prayer, discernment, conversation, and action in your churches and communities.

On May 24, the Thursday after Pentecost, pastors, church leaders, and lay leaders from all over the country will join us here in Washington, D.C., to make Pentecost the launching point for a new season of action reclaiming Jesus.

Together on May 24, in our nation’s capital, we will:

  • Hold an evening worship service at National City Christian Church, a large church in downtown Washington, D.C., beginning our public declaration of faith with communal prayer, proclamation, and worship, which will be livestreamed on  Sojourners’ Facebook page;
  • Process by candlelight from the steps of the church to the gates of the White House to deliver our declaration on reclaiming Jesus;
  • Observe a candlelight prayer vigil outside the gates themselves, as we proclaim to our political leadership what we believe and what we reject.

Pentecost commemorates the coming of the Holy Spirit to the earliest followers of Jesus, on the 50th day following his resurrection. Acts 2 describes the room filled with the small band of believers, a sound “like the rush of a violent wind,” and tongues “as of fire” resting above each of their heads. And it describes a further miracle: While there had only been 120 gathered in that room, 3,000 were added to their number that day. Pentecost was the first day that the followers of Jesus truly took their faith public — it was the day they took their faith to the streets.

The Holy Spirit confers on us that same power, to reach people and change the world, when we take our faith into the public square. Today, that is needed as much as it has ever been.

Christianity has been co-opted many times in history by political and religious leaders looking to justify inequitable laws, unjust social structures, and even terrible atrocities. Christianity in the United States is now going through such a time, where racial and national idolatries have co-opted and divided Christians — specifically, white American Christians — who have lost their way. This has become the critical discipleship issue of our time.

The Jesus we serve and obey offers a powerful alternative to the moral crisis that exists at the highest levels of political leadership in this country, and to its bitter fruits: racial bigotry and white nationalism, the mistreatment of women, the rejection of immigrants and refugees, the abandonment of the poor, the denial of truth, and the dangerous replacement of public service and servant leadership with autocracy and rising authoritarian leadership.

We believe these issues are not just political problems, but theological challenges, ones that pose pressing dangers to authentic Christian faith. What is at stake in this dangerous moment in the United States is nothing less than the soul of our nation and the integrity of our faith.

With these thoughts in our hearts, this Easter season, a group of current and former heads of churches and leaders of faith-based organizations from evangelical, mainline Protestant, Historic Black, and Catholic traditions, all old enough to be called “elders,” has been engaging with our constituencies, the heads of church denominations and national faith-based organizations, and Jesus followers everywhere in a process of civil discourse and discernment around our declaration to reclaim Jesus and what it means for Christians in the United States. The response has been deep and powerfully resonant for many people. But we know that this confession of faith must lead to concrete action. So we plan to launch Reclaiming Jesus on Pentecost, as the beginning of a season of action — a season of taking our faith to the streets.

The Holy Spirit visited the disciples on Pentecost as tongues of flame above their heads. Our taking those flames forth into the world, and to the heart of worldly power, symbolizes us taking our faith to the streets just as the disciples did, trusting God and the Spirit to guide and empower our steps and our words.

Political events have created dramatic public contrast and spiritual confrontation in this season. News reports suggest that up to 1,000 (overwhelmingly white) evangelical leaders who support President Trump will gather with him at the Trump International Hotel in June to “celebrate the president’s accomplishments and identify priorities for the future,” priorities which are said to include how best to mobilize white evangelicals to turn out in the November midterm elections to vote for Republican candidates who will defend Trump and his agenda. These are the same “evangelical advisers,” who have called him their “dream president,” have said he “has delivered more than any other president in [their] lifetime[s],” and have told him “you get a mulligan” regarding his serial adultery and his boasting about sexual assault, among other immoral behaviors.

We had already planned to have many more than 1,000 pastors and Christian leaders come as uninvited guests to President Trump’s White House gate on May 24, to identify what we believe are priorities based on the gospel of Jesus Christ, and which therefore reject the heresies and apostasies of racism, misogyny, white nationalism, America First theology, lies, authoritarianism, and contempt for society’s most vulnerable people.

Let us pray that the week after Pentecost marks a decisive moment in the journey of the followers of Jesus to come back to Christ in the Unites States, uniting with the body of Christ around the world.

It is time to join together, with faith, in this time of crisis.

Jim Wallis is president of Sojourners. His new Audible spoken-word series, Jim Wallis In Conversation, is available now, as is his book, America's Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.

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