MLK Weekend? Or Sanctity of Life Sunday? Jesus Says Both.

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When American churches gather this Sunday, it will be a unique window into our cultural divide. Being MLK weekend, many churches will decry the prejudice in our land. But in this year’s calendar, Sanctity of Life Sunday is also this weekend, and many other churches will decry the killing of the unborn. But very few churches, I’m willing to bet, will do both.

One of the most disheartening trends in American Christianity is the way it seems to follow the predictable lines of our partisan divide. Progressives worship together, Conservatives worship together, and never, it seems, the twain shall meet.

Nowhere is this more obvious than with the injustices our churches choose to condemn. But as MLK himself famously said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” He learned that from Jesus, who will not allow us to pick and choose our injustices.

At the heart of the Christian faith is the conviction that Jesus was not a product of culture but the insertion of a transcendent culture from on high. The Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, couldn’t figure Jesus out, because He simply didn’t fit the normal profile of a revolutionary. And Jesus told Pilate why: “My kingdom is not of this world.”

The kingdom he was referring to is the Kingdom of God, a perfect kingdom transcending all earthly kingdoms. The necessary implication is that the Kingdom of God cannot fit neatly into the prevailing paradigms of any culture, and in our culture those paradigms have been defined by political beliefs. The call of Christ’s Kingdom cannot be reduced to the platform of the left or the right; instead, it simultaneously affirms and challenges both.

Can this be said of American churches in our day?

Some churches this Sunday will recount the magnificent legacy of MLK, and rightfully so. The work of this great prophet of justice remains as indispensable as ever. Rooted in King’s robust doctrine of imago Dei, we labor still for that great vision of equality where all men, women, and children are revered for who they are: glorious image bearers of God worthy of highest dignity.

To these churches, I say thank you. Thank you for your passion to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves, to defend the weak against the powerful, to protect the most vulnerable and exploited of society at any and all cost. Thank you. I only ask you to look past tribal dogma to see how well the unborn fit your noble cause.

On the other hand, some churches this Sunday will recount the horrific legacy of abortion, and rightfully so. Recent data from the World Health Organization showed that abortion ended more life than anything else last year. To be specific, more than 41 million unborn lives died last year from abortion—more than cancer, malaria, AIDS, smoking, drinking and automobile accidents combined.

To these churches, I say thank you. Thank you for your unwavering fight for the value of life, to speak for those who have no voice, to combat desensitizing semantics and pragmatic excuses by relentlessly calling us back to this one simple truth: we are a talking about a life, and that life is eternally sacred. Thank you. I only ask you to look past tribal dogma to see how well the plight of immigrants, minorities, and the poor fit your noble cause.

The Kingdom of God has a message for American churches that we desperately need to heed. We must rise above our culture’s demand that we choose between MLK Weekend and Sanctity of Life Sunday. Instead, let us follow the much greater demand of Jesus, who is asking us a simple yet profound question: Why not both?

- Robert

Rev. Robert Cunningham