Every time I speak, I want the truth to come out. Every time I speak I want a shiver.” — Tupac Shakur

Warning…this may seem like a rant.

However, I feel the need to share my recent experience as an example of why this particular blog space is so vital.

Too often, many think of pastor OR prophet.  Sometimes we even describe someone as both pastor AND prophet.

I believe that the role and responsibility of prophet is part and parcel to the call of serving as pastor. I believe that all pastors are called to care for and love their community while speaking truth unapologetically.

Some of us are bolder and louder than others. Some of us stand with the community in protest and some of us do our truth telling behind the screen and with op-eds. Not being loud does not make you less prophetic.

The pastoral is political. Period. ¡Punto!

This is especially top of mind for me today because of a response I received from a “thank you letter” I recently sent to the donors of the organization I lead. My letter, which starts with this quote, reads:

“If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.” – Zora Neale Hurston

Dear 

With your generous support listed below, A Just Harvest is forging Collective Healing with our neighbors. Part of this is creating space for lament, vulnerability, and the sharing of the pain and marginalization experienced due to the violence of poverty.

We can no longer allow the “strength” and “resilience” of our community to be weaponized by those unwilling to disrupt the status quo. We cannot look away when it gets uncomfortable or hard. Accompanying one another as we share stories and a willingness to rend our hearts open is often the first step towards healing.

A Just Harvest is grateful that we do not do this work alone. Your partnership helps to amplify our message of abundance, mutual accountability, justice and belonging–while making sure the community has access to free, healthy meals daily-¡mil gracias!

With resounding joy, Rev. Dr. Marilyn Pagán-Banks, Executive Director

*

Upon receiving the acknowledgment, one donor responded by saying:

Marilyn, Your wording of the tax receipt is a little disturbing. Are you trying to foment revolution? Disrupt the status quo? “weaponized?” I find your rhetoric a little disturbing for a soup kitchen operator. You are shall we say unique in your philosophy, but I am glad you stated your position because you’ve weaponized my response. Sincerely,

And before we could respond, the donor followed up with a second email saying:

Marilyn, If you haven’t deposited the check from me on 6/7/2021, you should be advised it won’t clear the bank. You will not receive any further donations. I regret any inconvenience to you. Sincerely,

*

My reaction, as you can imagine was “wow!”

Unfortunately, this is not the first time I’ve received a response like this in the 18 years I have served in this role. I am sure it will not be my last. I must say that it surprises me each and every time because these responses come from church folx, those led to give of their resources, the charitable.

What is it about the truth–hard truths that scare people? How come it’s OK for me to “operate a soup kitchen” (which I do not) but when I advocate, speak up on behalf of, cry out, or simply get pissed off because our communities should not have to learn how to survive the ugliest of circumstances  – hunger, poverty, homelessness, disenfranchisement, being locked away in cages, marginalization and systemic oppression – I am “out of line” (from a different donor response earlier in the year-agh!).

When has it become the responsibility of the pastor to “code switch” in order to keep from making folx uncomfortable instead of fully embodying the Way of Jesus?

Rev. Dr. King understood that the pastoral is political and I often refer to his words:

Philanthropy is commendable but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.

This is the work of the church. To recognize the pain and suffering all around and to do something about it. Not to simply feel good about addressing the result of the pain and suffering — but to do all we can and must to stop it at its source.

Ok, I am done ranting.

But beloved, if I can offer one last thing — healing begins with sharing our stories. Silence will not save us or our communities. You may not always get the response from others that you hoped for — but neither did Jesus. Or Zora. Or MLK. Or Tupac, who would have made 50 today. Rest in power, King. Ashé.

*********

Rev. Dr. Marilyn Pagán-Banks (she/her/hers/ella) is a queer womanist freedom fighter gratefully (though not always gracefully) serving as executive director of A Just Harvest, Senior Pastor at San Lucas UCC, and adjunct professor at McCormick Theological Seminary. She is a joyful contributor in the newly released book “Words of Her Mouth: Psalms for the Struggle.”

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3 thoughts on “The Pastoral is Political: All Day, Everyday!

  1. First, I am so sorry this happened to you. (I know, it’s not the first time or the last time and you’re not the only one, but it happened to you this time and that is so hurtful) I am sorry. Second, you do realize that this person was aiming at you personally and was waiting for the opportunity to ambush you because they didn’t actually read what you wrote. Mostly your political pastoring had been going on a long time not just once. Thank you for the ongoing sweet holy painting a target on yourself.

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  2. Brings to mind the truth from the lips of Brazilian Arch Bishop Dom Helder Camara: “When I feed the hungry they call me a saint. When I ask why they have no food they call me a communist.”
    And the startling statement, also painfully true, I heard from Tony Compolo: “Yes the church is a whore but she’s your mother.”
    Thank you for being true and faithful to your calling. God help us all to be true and faithful whatever the cost.

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