Revelation 3:8 was posted in large black letters on orange paper on the classroom’s front bulletin board: “Behold, I have set before you an open door and no man can shut it.”
Over the course of those terrifying days of tribal genocide in 1966, missionaries and Nigerians opened doors to do what their Christian faith called them to do.
They opened their doors to fleeing Igbos, hiding them in kitchen storerooms, driving them at midnight to safety, helping them board airplanes to secure areas, seeking help from governmental authorities, tending to the wounded, singing to the dying.
That experience opened a door for me and resulted 50 years later in our new film and book, “The Disturbances,” both of which are getting glowing reviews.
Only a faint theological comparison may be made between the many doors that God has opened to me and the mega-door that the Apostle Paul said had been opened to him in Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:9).
God sets before us doors. Sometimes these are mega-doors. Sometimes they are miniscule doors. At all times, we must decide whether to go through doors, never knowing what is on the other side.
We, the founders of the Baptist Center for Ethics (BCE), saw a door with the collapse of the moderate control of the Southern Baptist Convention and the radical right turn of its moral concerns agency. We went through the door without the faintest sense of what was on the other side.
On the other side, we found abundant media opportunities to frame issues from a proactive, positive and more biblical perspective, critiquing the Religious Right. We also had some opposition from a few unhappy moderate Texas Baptists.
Little did we know what doors would open when we produced the award-winning documentary, “Beneath the Skin.”
The National Council of Churches’ Pat Pattillo called asking if we would be interested in producing a documentary made for TV on Christians and Muslims. We went through the door without secure funding and with uncertainty about where we were going. But the experience and contribution to church life were priceless.
After the broadcast of “Different Books, Common Word,” another major door appeared. The United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas asked us to produce a documentary on the church’s engagement with the undocumented. With the foundation’s significant funding, we produced “Gospel Without Borders.”
In a historic first, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops distributed to every bishop a Baptist-produced documentary.
My experience has been that we go through doors without knowing what is on the other side – and always without adequate funding.
I present to EthicsDaily.com readers a door and ask you to go through it.
You have seen us go through mega and miniscule doors for 25 years. Many of you have joined us on the journey without ever having made a financial gift.
We need your gifts to enable us to keep going through doors. Denominational giving doors have been closing. So, we need individuals to open their doors with credit cards, checks and stock transfers.
I’m reminded of the account of those who were first called Christians in Antioch. They faced a challenge of giving to hunger relief. The text tells us that everyone gave according to his or her ability.
That’s my appeal: Give according to your ability. Some will give less; some will give more. Cumulatively, your gifts will enable us to move energetically through doors of opportunity.
As Paul experienced, we, too, have many who oppose us.
Some oppose us because we haven’t accommodated to culture. We haven’t become the moral echo of the Democratic Party. Others oppose us because we have challenged the Religious Right, warning against its collusion with the Republican Party.
Still others oppose us because we favor civil commentary over incendiary critiques. And some have objected to our advocacy for the undocumented and Muslims – and our plea to address climate change.
I remain confident that goodwill Baptists and others will step up financially. You know where we’ve been. You know who we are. You know what we do.
Many of you know you ought to give. Some know they can give more. To all, please go through the giving door.
Building off of 1 Corinthians 16:9: “A great door for effective work has opened to us and there are many who oppose us.”
We face a host of challenges in the years ahead. We need our supporting readers to give for our effective work.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics. Follow him on Twitter at RobertParham1 and friend him on Facebook. Order his new book, “The Disturbances.” It is available as either a paperback or an e-book.