Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Faith and Politics

I just read a New York Times article where a mega-church pastor got in trouble for speaking out against evangelicals who are a little too friendly with the Republican Party. Apparently he had a mass defection from his mega-church, which is probably a good thing. The whole idea of faith being political is taboo to some, and an absolute necessity for others. A few months ago I preached a sermon referencing Hurricane Katrina, and a church member with whom I often disagree politically complimented me for "not getting too political" with my sermon.

I think perhaps we're not all saying the same thing when we talk about faith being political. Religious convictions can and should lead us to hold political opinions, but that doesn't mean that we have to become a card-carrying member of one political party or another. That's faith being partisan, not just political. I don't believe that our faith should lead us to be blindly partisan, even though my religious convictions end up leading me to vote with one particular party more often than the other.

While I don't believe that being partisan is a good idea, I don't think you can be a Christian and not be political. In the first century it was impossible to be a Christian and a fully loyal citizen of the Roman Empire at the same time. Christians proclaimed "Jesus is Lord", not so subtly implying "Caesar is not". One of the earliest Christian confessions was an unashamedly political statement!

More basic than this historical tidbit, though, is the simple fact that things like politics and economics deal with the messy realities of everyday life. Politics and economics are the means by which we figure out how we obtain the resources we need to survive day to day, how we're doing to use our resources as a community, and how we're going to get along with each other. These things deal with the basic realities of everyday life, so our faith has to be concerned with these things. God wants to be a part of every aspect of our lives, not just relegated to the region of our brains that deal with abstract ideas. To do this would be to keep God trapped in the private parts of our lives. God is personal, but not private.

While our faith should not lead us to blind partisan loyalty, it should get us passionately involved with political issues. One resource I'd recommend to help you think about the interaction of faith and politics is Sojourners. Ask tough questions, think very hard about these issues, and please let your faith motivate you politically.

1 comment:

Brad Smith said...

I mentioned this subject in my sermon last Sunday. I paraphrased Martin Luther King and Jim Wallis by saying that the church has no business in politics with its mudslinging and deceptions, but must become again the conscious of the government. We must once again become the prophets who make the king shake in his boots as in the days of Amos and Isaiah, as DLW said.