Friday, February 20, 2015

Politics and the Church

I participate in a Facebook Group that is designed to give members of my denomination the opportunity to share ideas and create conversation.  For the most part it works.  It can get a bit rowdy at times.  After all, we Disciples are a faith community that values freedom to explore and espouse one's faith.  But, when it comes to politics things can get dicey.  Sometimes the tone of the conversation can get heated, and we can lose sight of what unites us. Indeed the  political polarization that exists within the broader community can infect the church. I've seen that happen lately, and people are choosing to leave the group, which is unfortunate.  

I participate in congregation-centered community organizing, with a focus on organizing suburban congregations. That is not an easy task because most suburban congregations, especially Mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic congregations, are comprised  of people with a wide spectrum of political beliefs and positions.  While politics gets discussed around the table in the fellowship hall and in the parking lot, it is supposed to be absent from the pulpit.  I expect that most of the members of the church I serve as pastor know where I'm coming from politically, but they expect that I understand that not everyone is on the same page politically.  Since community organizing is rooted in the premise that people get organized when it is in their self-interest to do so, that can make it difficult for congregations to come together, especially when the goal is to unite urban and suburban efforts. At least in Metro-Detroit, it's not just religion and politics, it's race and class that complicates things.

So, can politics and the church get along?  I think so, but it is a complicated venture!

When it comes to politics and the church there are those who seek to separate themselves completely from politics.  I'm not sure it's possible, but they believe that the church must keep itself unstained from partisan politics.  Others have pushed the envelope far in the other direction, using the pulpit endorse political candidates, even though the IRS frowns upon such activity.  There is always the temptation to marry the work of the church with the interests of a particular political party, and that can prove disastrous.  

I have tried to take a middle road. While I am a registered member of a particular political party, and generally vote a straight ticket, I don't believe that any one party is more Christian than the other.  I happen to believe that the party to which I belong better represents my Christian values than does the other, but I am not so naive to believe that it completely matches my theological values. When it comes to politics, I believe that people of faith need to be involved. I believe that the church should be involved in advocacy on matters it believes are essential to the well-being of the community.  At the same time, I believe that when push comes to shove, my ultimate allegiance isn't to party or even country, but to God.

So, when it comes to talking about politics in church, I would think it wise to let our Ultimate Allegiance be our guide!

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