Recently a letter to the editor appeared in the St. Joseph News-Press which criticized the title of a sermon I preached almost two years ago. Interestingly, the letter writer not only criticized me but also a letter written a week earlier by FCC member Keith Evans. I have no idea if he knew the connection between Keith and me. I will put links to the letter I’m responding to along with Keith’s letter on my blog. Below you will see my response.
I am responding to an April 18 letter by John Beggs of Maryville in which he referenced a sermon I preached at the church where I serve, First Christian Church, Disciples of Christ of St. Joseph, MO. Although he neither heard the sermon nor knows me personally, Mr. Beggs labeled me a “Marxist” and a “hatemonger.” Although this isn’t the first time someone has called me names, usually people who disagree with me wait until our first or second meeting before doing so.
I preached the sermon on September 13, 2009 and its title was “Jesus is not a Rich, White Republican.” I stand by this declaration, especially as we near another presidential election year, because people in all times and places who have wealth and are in the majority have always sought to domesticate the divine to justify their hold on power. Over the last few decades the Republican Party has been particularly adept at claiming Jesus is on their side in the culture wars. Democrats are by no means above attempting to do the same; they just aren’t any good at it. My sermon was a denunciation of all who seek to co-opt God to legitimize their own power.
Had Mr. Beggs heard the sermon, he would have heard me declare “Jesus is also not a poor, black or brown, Democrat.” Although I did give the caveat that since Jesus clearly identified himself with “the least of these” in Matthew 25, he would be found among the minorities and the economically marginalized of every culture. In our culture, the “least of these” are not exclusively black or brown in skin color but are likely to be so. I believe it is neither liberal nor conservative but biblical to declare that while God may love everyone, God is especially concerned with those on society’s margins whatever their ethnicity or politics.
I can only assume that Mr. Beggs and others who prefer to demonize those who disagree with them would not care for sermons like mine nor for the church where I preach. I’m proud to serve a church that fully welcomes and accepts people of all sexual orientations, skin colors, ethnicities, incomes and abilities. I am also proud to serve a church that does more than charity but dares to ask why our society chooses to oppress so many of God’s children. All are welcome at First Christian St. Joseph, but be warned, if you come, people like Mr. Beggs may call you names.
Rev. Chase Peeples
First Christian Church
St. Joseph, MO