Pastoral Series

Church Matters: Politics?!?!

   The words “church” and “politics” are not very cozy with one another. Back on January 3, I asked what you guys thought and wondered about regarding church. Quite a few spoke of the problem of “politics.” But in two different ways.

There’s “church politics,” as in the way decisions get made, who has power. Beyond question, in some churches, somebody with money, or the shrill voice that intimidates can win the day and exercise undue influence – or some small group colludes to get their way. But I’ve found, on the whole, that church leaders bear immense responsibility, and do so humbly, prayerfully and faithfully. I’ve been part of many hard decisions that the Church at large doesn’t understand, and actually can’t know about for reasons of confidentiality. Is that being political? Or faithful?

Then we also have “church” and “politics” as in they don’t mix. “Don’t talk about politics in church!” My personal experience of being told this is that it’s a code – which means “You said something I don’t like because of my politics.” Say liberal things around a liberal and they won’t hush you; say conservative things around conservatives and they will nod. Say something that clashes with what either think and they’ll get really annoyed.

Why the anger though? If I hear someone say something that collides with what I think, I don’t get mad. I’m interested, or I shrug. Why we get angry, and When we get angry: this is something important to diagnose, internally – and it’s a warning flare that spiritual growth is required.

Then there’s the inevitability of saying things that sound political in church. You could avoid it by muttering sweet, sugary platitudes about an invisible spiritual life. But if we read the Bible, Old and New Testaments, we see things that sound – and are! – political everywhere. Jesus, after all, was killed by politicians who recognized him as a threat to the status quo. The first Christians were accused of treason, being subversive, not getting along with society as it was constructed.

Politics is about real things, and real people – and that’s Jesus’ realm. The Bible compels us to speak of food, shelter, violence, life, race, rights, war, taxes, poverty… Everything, actually, because God made it all, cares for it all, and will ultimately redeem it all. Sometimes Bible perspectives sounds conservative, and sometimes liberal. But the Bible is neither. We mis-hear it because we are so thickly shackled by our political ideology. And yet there is always hope – to listen to the Bible clearly, to seek the Spirit’s leading in reading and understanding and implementing it.

The title of our series is Church Matters. God wants Church to matter in the real world. God doesn’t want Church to hide inside its fortress and shut out the world.  Church matters – and if and when it does, we will cheerfully sound and appear to be political.  The only other option is Church Doesn’t Really Matter.

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