Rev. William H. Lamar IV, current student in the PhD Program in African American Preaching and Sacred Rhetoric and pastor of Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., wrote a timely article for Faith & Leadership on the limits of sentiment and the need for action in the fight against injustice and oppression.
Metropolitan AME, the historic church of which Lamar is pastor, was vandalized by white supremacists as they marched through Washington, D.C., in December 2020. In the article, Lamar tells of the incredible support that the church received after this happened, from letters of solidarity to financial gifts. He writes, “I appreciate every gesture and am thankful for every kindness that has been shown to our faith community. At the same time, I have grown weary of the impulse to quiet deep spiritual stirrings by acting sentimentally.”
Lamar insightfully reflects on the way that sentimental responses to injustice and oppression can too often serve to assuage personal feelings without addressing the source of the problems we face: “We turn the page feeling better about the situation and ourselves, but the systems that make suffering possible remain unchanged.” But, he writes, “We are being called to disrupt this world and to co-labor with God as God inaugurates the new heaven and the new earth.”
In an especially poignant passage, Lamar writes that, “The church, Christian organizations and seminaries are largely agents of ecclesiological, institutional and theological sentimentality.” However, he notes, before stressing the importance of communal action, “The gospel puts us on notice that sentimentality is not the aim of God’s reign.”
Recalling his time in the PhD program, he concludes, “I will never forget a masterful class that I had with Ronald J. Allen, professor of preaching and the Gospels at Christian Theological Seminary. Allen said that the Spirit drove Jesus to pick a fight with the devil. Imagine that — Christians are called to pick fights with the demonic, not just to feel bad about evil… The mystical, spiritual energy inside us is calling us to move beyond sentimentality and to move to the music of disruption. Shall we dance?”
Read Rev. Lamar’s article here.
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