A woman greets her mother after she arrived from Dubai on Emirates Flight 203 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York, January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

What I said to my church today

Sometimes a word must be said. Below is the statement that I made to my church today, where I serve as interim pastor. Our congregation is politically diverse and located in the Atlanta suburb of Decatur. Statements by our church's pastors on highly charged public issues are rare, but not unheard of, and must be very carefully considered. I did not say everything I am thinking about the issues raised by the newly announced refugee and immigration policies, but I did say what I thought most relevant for my congregation at this moment. This is my text:

The church and the state both have responsibilities in relation to human well-being. The church primarily contributes by preaching the Gospel, forming character, and teaching Jesus' way, as I have sought to do today. The state contributes to human well-being by advancing the common good, keeping order, advancing public justice, and deterring wrongdoers from harming the community.

Baptists believe in a free church and a free state. But part of the church's freedom is the freedom to speak to the state, in protest, when it believes the state is not properly exercising its God-given mandate. Sharp differences in policy preferences among Christians and across political parties are to be expected, and I do not believe that church leaders should often weigh in, as church leaders, when they simply differ on policy preferences, even when those differences are heartfelt. But occasionally issues arise that go beyond policy preferences to the level of fundamental morality.

Friday's announced changes in US refugee policy have evoked principled resistance across the Christian theological and ecclesial spectrum already, including among Catholics, mainline Protestants, and evangelicals. The way in which those changes have been implemented in the last 36 hours, including by pulling green-card-holding foreign nationals off airplanes and sending them back to their countries, without any prior notice, strikes many of us as exceptionally bad implementation of bad policy. It is affecting, and will affect, many people, including people in our Decatur community, such as professionals working in higher education. (I am grateful that a federal judge blocked this part of the policy last night.)

It is not my intent to often surface such issues here. However, as a Christian, as an ethicist, as the leader of two academic professional organizations whose membership includes people affected by these policies, and indeed, as a Christian minister, I feel conscientiously obligated to state my protest and to do so publicly. Let us pray for policies and implementation of policies that improve upon what we are currently witnessing and better reflect the proper exercise of state authority.


  1. I live in another suburb of Atlanta and well understand it takes courage to make the statement that you made. Thank you. I think many agree with you, but say nothing to keep peace in the family or among friends. I also think far too many have not really thought through issues like this, but have bought into a simple narrative that appeals to their fears and prejudices, without prayer, thought, discernment.

    But, sometimes what happens gets so outrageous that even those who tend to silence feel compelled to speak up. That is why so many women marched last week who had never participated in a protest march in their, why there have been demonstrations at many airports, why mayors of cities feel compelled to protect members of their communities from acts of a federal government which create fear, divisiveness, and tear communities apart.

    We have forgotten how to be a community and we have forgotten that God calls us to be kind to strangers and those in need, to welcome them.

    God bless.

  2. 81% of them voted for Trumpee, according to an article I read last week somewhere. Makes ya think, it does.

  3. I’m not so sure Baptists believe in a free state. The seem to want to impose their religious beliefs on others. Of course not all Baptists, but many do, especially on dealing with the LGBT community and matters of women’s health. All non-Orthodox denominations allow Gay and Lesbian Jews to marry and to become Rabbis and Cantors. So these Baptists are limiting my freedom of religion.

    Since Holocaust Remembrance Day just passed. I asked a Black Baptist minister if the Jews who died at Auschwitz were now in Heaven or Hell. He waffled, but eventually admitted that they were in Hell. What is your answer David Gushee?

  4. How much better it would have been had Gushee found a new and creative way to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and apply it to the spiritual challenges of the lives of his parishioners. They’re all capable of forming their political opinions on their own. The come to church to be fed spiritually.

  5. Very well done Rev. Gushee. I too appreciate the courage required to make that statement. When families are being separated and people left in limbo by the president’s *Muslim Ban, it is incumbent on clergy to respond pastorally, as you did, to assuage their fear and anxiety. Kudos.

    *In a tweet this morning the president referred to it as a “Muslim Ban.”

  6. Yesterday we talked about whether God was a noun or a verb. Terminology was new to me as an understanding of belief orientation.

  7. Mondo is walkin’ down the street on a sunny day
    Hubba bubba hubbell hubbell hubbell
    Feelin’ in his bones that he’ll have his way
    Hubba bubba hubbell hubbell hubbell

    Well, Mondo is a happy boy (happy boy)
    Well, Mondo is a happy boy (happy boy)
    Oh, ain’t it good when things are goin’ your way? Hey hey

    Mondo’s little dog, Hillary, will get hit by a Bernie
    Hubba bubba hubbell hubbell hubbell
    Mondo will put her guts in a box and put them in a drawer
    Hubba bubba hubbell hubbell Hubbell

    Well, Mondo is a happy boy (happy boy)
    Well, Mondo is a happy boy (happy boy)
    Oh, ain’t it good when things are goin’ your way? Hey hey

    We’ll forgot about Hillary for a month and a half
    Hubba bubba hubbell hubbell hubbell
    We’ll look in the drawer and start to laugh
    Hubba bubba hubbell hubbell hubbell

  8. They’re putting up like a thousand Ba’al arches here, there,
    everywhere! “I’m coming out for the whole world to see” and the next thing “I’M GOING TO SUCK ON YOU LIKE A BUCKET OF TICKS FOR ETERNITY!”.

    The McGuffin is spiking humanity. The setup hero is Barack. The villain is humanity. Hillary is the anti-Christ.

    You’re gonna die of Lyme disease in denial unless you untie
    your tubes you tied in your commie core teens and join Team America. Hillary was last in line for brains. The ones she’s got are rotten and insane.

  9. Ronald Reagan wasn’t a lifeguard. President Reagan was a
    life saver for opening the big pool for business. When the rich man goes off the end of innovation diving board, he or she swims to the side of the pool and gets back in line. Reagan also cut taxes along the virgin mother of economics.

    During the Elizabethan age, Queen Elizabeth took England
    from an indebted backwater to the dominate world power. King Phillip and Sir John Keynes did not bust her Friedrich Hayek and capitalist pirates. Her cast iron booty was pure silver and gold that’s why our founding fathers promoted
    the species in the Constitution but what Queen Elizabeth and her public corporations were all about has been forgotten.

    Queen Elizabeth wanted everyone to love her and loved to
    give. Her despotic suitors and predecessor weren’t smart enough to realize they had to take in order to give. Taxpaying parishioners love to give after they have plenty of earned success making other people happy. The English loved her and still love her to this day.

    Queen Elizabeth’s public corporations were a means to put a bloated bureaucracy through a Church of England basket strainer. If the taxpaying parishioners thought a project or bureaucracy was of no use then no money went into the collection basket.

    By separating what government needed to do and what everyone wanted done, she was able to lower the base flat tax rate. The virgin mother of economics made it very clear that her capitalist pirates had to walk the free market plank. There is a right and wrong way for fat cats, politicians, and bureaucrats to get some loving. The fat cats, at the end of the diving board, made everyone love them by putting more money in the collection basket. With the belly flop junk out of the system, the government pumps ran smoothly and
    the control valves worked.

    Should I build a pedestal or replace Hamilton with $10 Sarah Palin only wearing a gold and silver chasisty belt. I got my sister to tickle my elmos. I know I can do you.

  10. Thanks to the vulgar stupidity of filthy dirty and profane intellectuals, political, economic, and religious thought isn’t complex and all the same thing!

    We all care. We all have a sense of fairness. We all don’t like coercion but otherwise nothing is sacred. Everybody’s body is an amusement park. Betrayal is what we deserve until we stand up for our rights.

    In comparison to persuasion, bribery and coercion are pathetic cop outs but causes for alarm became public institutions of coercion and criminal enterprises one premediated crisis, reaction, and solution at a time.

    Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t pay attention. The guards are worse than the inmates. The warden is worse than the guards. People inside and outside the prison are easier to fool than convince them they have been fooled.

    It’s the nature of the state to grow and grow and consume
    the civil society unless the inmates breakout. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness means being able to question authority, presumptions, and protocols from one fresh perspective after another because models, templates, and people systems make the difference.

    So many people don’t question authority, presumptions, and protocols, the Catholic Church created propaganda but no matter our wonderful the guards and warden are, terrible things happen to the inmates when the lights are turned out. Democide, the state killing its own citizens, is by far the greatest mass killer of all time but humor is tragedy plus time and distance. The persistent and persuasive inmates always end up winning.

  11. Everyone stereotypes because it serves an useful purpose. The facts are usually Conservative. Progress is usually pragmatic. The truth is usually stranger than fiction thanks to all the plausible lies.

    King James was the King of Scotland before he wrote the bible. When King James, Adam Smith, and David Hume were young Scotsmen, they spoke gaelic, wore their kilts at their knees, and played with their bag pipes just like everyone else. The English were so feed up with the Hatfields and
    McCoys, the English shipped the Whigas off to Appalachia. Adam, James, and David pulled up their kilts, learned to speak English, and changed the world.

    Our national anthem is based on a drinking song the English use to sing about hating the Scots. We are the Scottish Enlightenment Shining City on the Hill and our founding fathers were radical hip hop dudes. Jerry Curls went out of style in 1780s just like they did in 1980s. Next time you’re blowing Barry’s bag pipe, pick me up a couple of mouth condoms to keep my feet dry when I go skiing.

  12. I am not wetting myself over what Christians think. It does matter though because I don’t want Jewish children to be called “Christ killers” at basketball games. Nor do I want any Jew to face antisemitism. Antisemitism don’t just come from Nazis, it comes from otherwise perfectly normal people who don’t realize they’re being antisemitic.

  13. I’m not sure what any of this has to do with my comment, but King James did a rather bad job of translating the Hebrew Bible. Maybe because he used the Septuigent which is a Greek translation of the original Hebrew. He translated the The Hebrew word almah which means young women of marriageable age as virgin, for example.

    I should have made it clearer that I just meant conservative Baptists, not all Baptists.

  14. A Jewish rabbi, David Cooper, wrote a book called God is a Verb.

  15. With each passing year, all conspiracies turn out to be the same conspiracy thanks to the curse of Canaan. If debt is money.. Jesus and Islam were Roman creations….honest money,small localized governance, and free markets work every time.

  16. Actually, small governance doesn’t always work better. It often protects local prejudices.

  17. Hey Susan, I’m really curious about that question you brought up. I’m sincerely hoping to see what answer David Gushee will give to you (keeping in mind that a pastor’s schedule is over-loaded 24/7).

    But while waiting, let’s dance. You asked a Black Baptist pastor, and he eventually got real and gave you his real answer (with no malice & no hatred), that he believed all the Holocaust victims were in Hell.

    (I myself grew up as a Black Baptist and am now a Black Pentecostal preacher. My gig is dealing with tough questions that people ask or are experiencing in their lives. I’m sorta like a call-center phone guy for Christ. Phone always ringing somewhere, and the Boss won’t let me transfer the call.)

    So here’s my question: How do you feel about the specific answer the preacher gave you? Agree? Disagree? Neutral? Insulted? Was he right? Was he wrong?

  18. Facts are only conservative in the same sense that liberals are the only people who are conservative. The impulse to seek to preserve The New Deal and Civil Rights is in essence both liberal and conservative. Nixonism, Trumpism, Brevhnevism, Putinism, KimJongUnism, Stalinism, etc. are all just reactionary and decadent.

    Just a hint: speaking in riddles is not conducive to communicating. Say what you mean.

  19. Exactly. Local government is the most oppressive of all.

  20. If one votes to favor oppression, one is incapable of spirituality.

  21. I DIDN’T vote to favor oppression! I DID and DO vote in favor of our security. It’s all a matter of how you define oppression: if Homeland Security agents shoot and kill a terrorist who’s about to blow up a crowd of people, then they can oppress as many of those people as they want!

  22. Well “Perverse Robbie Baby” your long treatise here robs from the intellectually rich to give to the intellectually stupid! Nice goin’!

  23. That, my friends, explains the emotion behind fascism in a nutshell. Of course the notion Trump provides “security” which Clinton didn’t is not based on facts; if anything she was the clear choice for national security and defense and the military. So, yes, you did vote in favor of oppression.

  24. That must have been an interesting talk – I hope it was a conversation with many people piping up. I don’t know how I would answer if required to pick one or the other. How thought provoking!

    I think God IS. (S)he is both object and action of all that is.

    Perhaps a better question: is faith a noun or a verb. If we are talking about a particular faith, contrasting it with another faith, it is a subject with particular content. Interesting mind game and is the way to distinguish one from the other – there are so many of them.

    But faith lived – that is a different matter. There are many more similarities in how people live out a faith – and in what their faith requires they value. I think especially of the call to love our fellow man, to recognize the God given dignity of each person, to care for the sick and infirm.

    Living faith calls us into community. Faith as a subject divides us.

  25. My first thought was that he was finally honest. My next thought was they had already served their time in Hell. Yes, that insulted me. I doesn’t make want to accept Jesus, because if I have to believe in Jesus to be saved that is a very conditional kind of love. Of course, I disagree, I’m Jewish and Jews don’t believe that Jesus is the Messiah or the Son of God. Nothing that is supposed to have happened when the Messiah came have happened. We certainly don’t have universal peace.

  26. Thank you for your upfront heartfelt reply Susan. Let me offer this: Obviously I don’t know the preacher you mentioned, but it looks like he did not have any malice / hatred, nor intentions of insulting you or insulting Judaism.

    Indeed, it looks like he was trying to **avoid** offending you, since he initially waffled. That’s what people do when they’re trying to avoid conflicts or “frictions” with another person.

    But you did ask him a seriously tough question, and I suspect that it took him by surprise. And I won’t lie to you: I myself wouldn’t have been ready to immediately answer you in person. I do have a reply now, but only because of the Google, to surf up an appropriate response. (“Appropriate” from a Christian perspective, that is. I do know you’re coming from a Jewish perspective.)

    So, what would have been my sincere response for you, now that I’ve cheated and snagged an online answer? Umm, probably something like THIS:


  27. Here are my thoughts so far. I will need to give it more thought. It’s not just that people who were killed in the Holocaust in a horrible way, it’s how they had to live their lives before they were killed as a sub-class of human. Jews in many Eastern European countries and from Russia were continually persecuted by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. My father’s family is from Lithuania and 90% of Lithuanian Jews died in the Holocaust. How did that happen? It was the antisemitism of the local population.

    How come Hitler goes to Hell because of his works, but Jews go to Hell because of their beliefs or lack of beliefs? I don’t buy the Christian answer of believing in Jesus for a minute. I wouldn’t let you counsel because you’d drag Jesus into it somehow. I don’t find it comforting that Jesus will save me if I believe in him at all. Being “saved” is a Christian term. It’s not the way Jews think about the afterlife. First of all, Jews don’t believe in Original Sin. We think God knows we’re not perfect, but that is not the same thing as Original Sin. We read the beginning of Genesis differently than Christians so. We don’t really think that much about Heaven or Hell. The rabbis discouraged basing your actions on getting into Heaven or going to Hell. I was in Junior High School, when a born again Christian asked if I knew if I was going to Heaven or Hell. I didn’t even know if Jews believed in Hell and I had gone to services nearly every week.

    Wow! I didn’t mean for this to be so long, but after I started, kept thinking of new things.

    I just wanted to add that Jews don’t think much about a personal savior. God alone decides what happens to us after we dies. Our Messiah is not a personal savior. He is coming to save us all. It say in various points in our liturgy that we have no savior but God.

  28. I went completely off-track and never discussed the subject of the Muslim ban. I think it is illegal and unconstitutional. Trump pretends that is a ban of certain countries, but he knows that is not true. It’s a Muslim ban. Christians are exempt from the ban. I don’t know whether Jews are banned too. Trump is probably too ignorant to know that there are Jews in Iran, Syria and Yemen. The Syrian refugees are just ordinary people who got caught in a war. They are starving and freezing. They include children and babies. Yes, we should take in refugees.

    Notice the ban does not include any countries that Trump does business with.


  29. Hillary Clinton is a do-good Methodist. I’m not sure why people believe she is evil or anti-Christian.

  30. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have more terrorists that have attacked the US than from any of the countries on the list, but Trump does business with both countries.

  31. Hillary smiles like a reptile and her lips are razor thin
    Her legs are made of jello but her voice can rip your skin
    To hide her potty mouth she hikes her skirt above her head
    The whole Seventh Fleet is checkin’ out her spread

    Foul gas shot glass stuck to her snout
    In everybody’s business don’t care what it’s about
    Volka gin anything now it’s Guinness stout
    The whole world’s praying she finally passes out

  32. Besides being Kali, the goddess of destruction, her mentor, Saul, was Al Capone’s lawyer and her dad took over for Al Capone and she took over for her dad. The Clinton foundation corrupt is easy to summarize, Al Capone was a small businessman. Hillary is a female Mao. A hard core criminal and sick bastard.

  33. You’ve been reading far right-wing news sources that present alternate facts again. None of that is true. You also are completely misinformed about Saul Alinksky. Who wanted to help the poor, the oppressed and the working class.

  34. Obama thought he could get away with replacing George Washington with Muhammad doing a Norman Rockwell portrait of himself. Muhammad’s Obama grin and Yamaka gave him away.

    If half the players are in the stands cheering on a back door Santa, King James will move to Miami, move overseas, or sit in the stands. Radical referees always go left, think the best defense is an infuriating offense, and promote their failures. Obama was a missed layup and we had to beg him to fix the pothole – oops another miss.

    The “wipe out the middle class” criminal elite game plan is Cloward and
    Piven and REX84. Harvard law is where commies get their masters in retardation.

    Fabian Socialists are Luciferians with three symbols. A wolf in sheep’s clothing. A turtle that moves slowly and strikes hard. Two controlled conflicting parties pounding us into the dirt.

    If debt is money thanks to compounding interest, the national debt very quickly rises. As the economic hit men take the jobs and money out, they bring the people in. When the currency crashes, civil war and martial law. The other day buddy boy Obama said the end of the republic is in sight and Hillary wants to kill it.
    Rules for radicals was written to impress the dude down under.

  35. Lump sat alone in a boggy marsh
    totally motionless except for Dick Cheney’s heart
    and mud flowed up into Lump’s pajamas
    totally confused by the passing piranhas

    She’s Lump, she’s Lump
    Stump’s in her head
    She’s Lump, she’s Lump, she’s Lump
    Think she might be dead

    Lump lingered last in line for brains
    and the ones she got were sort of rotten and insane
    Small thing’s so sad that birds could land
    Is Lump fast asleep or suckin’ off the lamb?

    She’s Lump, she’s Lump
    Stump’s in her head
    She’s Lump, she’s Lump, she’s Lump
    she might be dead

    Check it out

    Lump was limp and lonely and needed a shove
    Lump slipped on a Huma and tumbled into love
    she spent her twenties between the sheets
    Life limped along at supersonic speeds

    She’s Lump, she’s Lump
    Stump’s in her head
    She’s Lump, she’s Lump, she’s Lump
    I do believe that she’s dead
    (Hillary’s dead, dead as a doornail)

    Is Lump all that’s in your head, I think so
    Is Lump and Stump in your head, I think so
    Is Stump all that’s in your head, I think so

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