We live in a world full of public trauma and tragedy. Most mornings, we wake up to discover newsfeeds and social media accounts churning with fear, anger, guilt, and shame rooted in a long list of persistent social problems. In this age of ubiquitous information, our heads and hearts are quickly flooded by the rising waters of evil and injustice.
A decade ago, I began to record every time I heard the statement “The church is so silent about X.” My anecdotal list is now very long. That phrase has been used repeatedly to introduce discussions about sexual abuse and harassment, racism, creation care and environmental justice, religious persecution, and more.
To be sure, there are lots of Christians talking about these things in lots of different settings. And yet, complaints about the church’s complicit silence often ring true simply because these issues aren’t always showing up in public worship.
Painfully, in the worship of far too many churches, there is barely even a mention of the world’s horrors. Instead of lamenting, confessing, and interceding with specificity and honesty, these churches tend to avoid, deny, or minimize the public trauma that is all around them. The understandable desire for a respite from trauma ends up perpetuating a pattern of disengagement from society.
There are many interrelated reasons for this liturgical silence. First, some churches operate with a thin, individualistic view of the gospel, focusing nearly all their liturgical attention on individual conversion and comfort. Second, some churches are conflict avoidant and eager to stay away from public controversy during worship. A third, perhaps underappreciated, reason is a pronounced decline in public intercessory …
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