When I graduated from seminary, I had no idea of ever being political in sermons. Basically I just want to be liked. I saw political issues as a struggle between two extremist groups and imagined myself to be standing in the sane and moderate middle.
When I arrived at our church there was a pro-life group. I saw the church as a big umbrella so I said nothing. One day the preschool director buzzed me on the intercom and asked if I could come to the church parlor. When I arrived there was a woman sobbing. She was a mother of four who had been told by her doctor that her latest pregnancy could kill her and leave her other children without a parent. She had called a “crisis pregnancy number” and our pro-life group had lied to her telling her they would help her get an abortion. When she arrived they showed her the “Silent Scream” which is a graphic anti-abortion film.
I tried to find my typical middle ground, but the truth was, I needed to make a decision. Either I would be a part of such dishonesty and cruelty, or I would not. As the years went on, I realized that was true of many issues of injustice. For the oppressed, social issues are not matters of opinion, they are matters of survival. In times of injustice the person standing in the middle, for all intents and purposes, has sided with the powerful .
This Sunday we celebrated Palm Sunday as a kind of “Occupy Jerusalem” protest. If politics means how we treat each other, then love must express itself politically. We cannot say we love God and stand by silently while others suffer.
The word “protestant” and the word “protest” come from the same root. We cannot say “yes” to humanity, unless we can say “no” to all that is inhumane. We cannot say “yes” to a religion of love, unless we oppose that which is cruel. We cannot say “yes” to life, unless we say “no” to all that poisons life as we actually live it.
“The word “protestant” and the word “protest” come from the same root.” Early on in my bookselling career, a customer returned a copy of the American Heritage Dictionary. When we asked why, he said that it was inaccurate. He said the dictionary had the pronunciation of Protestant wrong. The proper pronunciation was Protest – ant. We took the dictionary back, though I don’t believe we were ever able to find a dictionary that had that pronunciation. That was my introduction to the idea that Protestants were protesters, or should be.
I’ve never heard it pronounced that way, but who knows? You’ve learned a lot of interesting things in your years in the bookstore.
In environmental law, people who are protesting against the issuance of a permit are called protestants, pronounced just as described above – proTESTants.
Every time I see a file labeled “protestant” I automatically, almost unconsciously start looking for the “catholic” file. I suppose I should be looking for the “orthodox” file as well.
An interesting commentary. And while I agree with some of the underlying sentiment, I also think pastoral responsibilities and politics do not mix. The issue is not “being political” in sermons or other pastoral duties … ‘politics’, of course, being the public venue whereby political parties and their adherants debate the issues of the time. Instead, the more appropriate issue is addressing the moral, ethical, or spiritual topics of Christian relevance … but, leave politics out of it! Rarely do all social issues have the mantle of spritual purity where intellectual and ethically honest people cannot be found on opposing sides. A pastor must shepherd all of his/her flock, regardless of their political persuaion. The mistake I’ve seen is pastors too closely identifying with a political party … once that happens, he can immediately alienate those of the flock belonging to another party, and his overall ministry then ceases to be effective. One can be subversively and effectively in support of an issue ala Eugene Peterson without butting heads in a political debate.
Thank you for writing. We must be using “political” in different senses. Are you using “political” in the sense of partisan politics? I’m sure you don’t mean that clergy should have been silent about slavery and civil rights. I see those as political issues. I’m sure you don’t mean that Moses should have stayed in Egypt and given pastoral homilies. I agree if you’re saying that the gospel not be reduced to politics, but surely you’re not saying that the gospel has no political implications in real life are you?
Yes, issues of social justice and ethics certainly have political implications … there’s no denying that ,,, but for me, it’s the way those issues are addressed pastorally. So, if they are addressed in the context of scriptural mandates and how that in turn informs our lives of Christian discipleship today, then yes, every pastor should indeed speak to those issues. But my point is when the pastor uses the bully pulpit and other communicative venues to vent on the wrongfulness of one political party or another … then he/she will surely alienate some the congregants. I’m not saying your commentary was doing that in general, but only reacting to your comment about being political in sermons … and what I’ve seen when some pastors do become so politically alligned. Bessings.
It is a hard situation sometimes. It’s the old mercy and justice balance. So easy to say, so hard to do. Thank you so much for commenting.
Love longs for the comfort and militates for the survival of all that are loved. I love my undocumented sisters and brothers and so I preach, teach, and work that you might treat them with the mercy they need to be comfortable and survive on our shores. Love cannot shirk from action to benefit the loved ones. God does not rest easily with a creation once good, God has not rested on this the eighth day, this forever the eighth day. There can be no Sabbath with Jesus upon the cross, and our empty cross is not free of Jesus, it is never free of Jesus, no matter how much we wish we were.
Thank you Bruce.