A weekly Rector’s Notes reflection for November 5, 2018
As part of this “Election Day-Eve” edition of my weekly rector’s notes, I want to talk a little bit about what politics and the church DO have to say to each other.
Our lives are constantly bombarded by election news. Signs for candidates are going up earlier and earlier. Presidential hopefuls are vetted in public and bet on starting the day after the last Presidential election. The primary news focus shifts to all elections, all the time, months out from any major federal election. This can make going to church feel like a bit of a reprieve, a safe space away from that noise that constantly surrounds us. But, if politics are all around us, if politics are a daily part of our lives, then how is the church supposed to respond to the gospel, today, if it doesn’t also acknowledge the reality of the world we live in now?
I do not believe that the church is called to be political. To me, this means that we (as the collective church) are not called to stump for specific candidates or even specific initiatives (for the most part, and I’ll address that next), because that creates an unnecessary, and frankly unhelpful, dichotomy of us vs them, me vs you. I do think it’s important as citizen individuals to speak up for those candidates and initiatives you believe in, but as the collected whole it is not our responsibility to do so.
That said, I do think it is the call of the church to speak truth to power and fight for the social justice issues (which includes environmental justice issues) that are present in our lives, today. Jesus was not above talking politics. But, Jesus talking politics was not about who was in power but rather if they had the right to be in power, whether they even actually had any power at all. This is our call as the collective church, to speak out when we see injustice being done in this world that we must operate within. This is our call as the collective church, to not shy away from controversial subjects because they’re “too political,” but rather to address those issues head on from a place of faith, a place of hope, and with the intention of living into the way of love that Jesus Christ has laid before us.
We cannot live into this way of love left by Christ when we allow gun violence to continue unchecked. We cannot live into this way of love left by Christ when women are made to be second class citizens because their experience in this world and the harms done to them are lesser than the life and political aspirations of the men who have done that harm. We cannot live into this way of love left by Christ if we continue to ignore the environment, ignore the reality that the poorest, the least among us, are exponentially more impacted by the deterioration of creation. We cannot live into this way of love left by Christ, if we ignore those “political” issues of our time, because we don’t want to offend or upset, because we don’t think “politics” have a place in the church, because we want a reprieve from the noise of the world around us.
The church is not called to be political. But, the church is called to address those “political” issues of our time that are really issues about justice, about giving a voice to the voiceless, about protecting the lives of our siblings in Christ.
In the opening statement from the “Reclaiming Jesus” movement, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, together with many Christian leaders across the country, stated:
“When politics undermines our theology, we must examine that politics. The church’s role is to change the world through the life and love of Jesus Christ. The government’s role is to serve the common good by protecting justice and peace, rewarding good behavior while restraining bad behavior (Romans 13). When that role is undermined by political leadership, faith leaders must stand up and speak out. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state.’
It is often the duty of Christian leaders, especially elders, to speak the truth in love to our churches and to name and warn against temptations, racial and cultural captivities, false doctrines, and political idolatries—and even our complicity in them. We do so here with humility, prayer, and a deep dependency on the grace and Holy Spirit of God.”
This is our call as Christians. And, this is why the church cannot sit idly by, especially during election season.