I have been reading and re-reading Lee Camp’s book Scandalous Witness for a couple of weeks now. I very much appreciate this book, and I think it is timely for the church in America. So, I recommend it.
It challenges me at a couple of points, clarifies a few things for me, and in a general way offers a message like I already want to see getting out there. Basically, I “agree” with it in the big brush strokes and promote it.
That said, there are bits I quibble and wrestle with despite that. The introduction is the main part I have the most trouble with. So, I have read the opening chapter now about six times. Some of it remains stubborn for me, but I am coming to grips (I think/I hope) with the gist of it. (I mention this only to be on record with the notion that I approach even Camp with a critical eye and not like a sycophant – something I think a lot of political endorsements and yacking is really all about.)
Still, in spending so much time on the introduction, there are some bits which I have come to appreciate. ONE of those is the encouraging word Camp gives right at the close of the intro. There he talks about “inside voice.” He is purposely talking about prophetic critique of Christian politics and the church.
Camp tells us that the prophetic critique is for insiders, basically. The kerygma, the Proclamation of Good News, is for the outsiders, but the prophet’s speak almost entirely to those already established as insiders. The prophetic critique can be harsh. That is the “tough love” part. The kerygma for outsiders is much more gracious and inviting, warm and friendly, that is the part where the minister “becomes all things to all people in order to save some.”
In my prophetic ministry, I have drawn on the description I got from N.T. Wright who called the prophets “critics from within.” But, I like Camp’s way of putting it too, maybe even better.
This, of course, has bearing on the things we have to say about politics, and to whom we address them. It’s not our job to campaign for a candidate or against one. I, like anyone else, have my thoughts, my judgments and ideas about them – my preferences for one over another. But as a Christian prophet, I do not speak to the average voter about which way to vote, I don’t have that KIND of investment in them really. But I do have critique of the “Christians” (or those claiming that designation) and the way they treat others with regard to politics, and to question them for their power grab ideals.
As a prophet of God, THAT is my aim here.
(This may seem quite a stretch to the impatient reader, but I recall once in high school developing an interest (not exactly romantic, but something akin to it) for a young lady in one of my classes. Because of the encouragement from a couple of my buddies, I asked her out on a date, and she accepted. The next week, one of my buddies asked her out, and she accepted, and then I became angry. Soon word got back to her, and as you would expect from an independent, modern woman, she didn’t like it. She told me that I didn’t own her, which I completely concurred with. But I told her, that wasn’t the point; I owned him! As a buddy of mine, he was the problem I had, not her. … Maybe you see the difference.)