Thursday, April 26, 2018

All Religion is Political


DISCLAIMER:  I know the title may be off-putting to some, but I promise it’s not what it seems.   

When I was in seminary, I had a professor who made that statement in class one day.  She was known for going for the shock factor, so initially I thought that was all it was.  The more I thought about it, though, the more right I realized she was.   
If we read the gospels, I mean really read them, we will see that Jesus was not a moderate in any sense of the word.  He saw the damage that was being done by the systems that had been in place for years.  He saw how it allowed some to live very comfortably, but at the expense of those who struggled on the very edges of survival.  He realized there were double standards in place depending on how one was born, and that there was very little chance of upward mobility in their society.  Generally, if you were born into poverty you died in poverty.   
Jesus was very intentional about everything he said, everything he did, and much of what he said and did flew right in the face of those who held the power and who eventually became his critics.  He stood up for women and children, widows and orphans, those on the margin, and those who were considered outcasts.  He ate with sinners and comforted those no one else wanted anything to do with.   
This wasn’t just because he was a great guy.  He knew that creating a society where equality was the norm instead of the exception was part of his mission and part of the kingdom of God.  Anything less just wouldn’t do. 
So, Grace Church, since we are in the middle of election season this year, what is the Church to do?  With so much going on that affects so many people, probably more so this year than we have seen in recent history, do we ignore the things that are being said and done?  Do we follow the example of Christ and make a stand for the more vulnerable among us?  Do we make our voices heard?   
In nearly 19 years of ministry I have never once voiced any kind of political stand in a Sunday morning message.  I won’t.  That’s not the place for it…  But, engaging in politics, especially where our religion is concerned, is about more than voicing support for one candidate over another.  That I won’t do.   
But…as followers of Christ, everything we say and do as a church carries political connotations for the simple reason that we are called to care for the weak among us, or those who, because of their station in life have little means of protecting themselves.  If we don’t, who will?   
It’s so easy to apply labels to folk during this season…Conservative, Liberal, Moderate, Republican, Democrat, Independent, Ultra-right, Ultra-left, rich, poor, gay, straight, white, black, and we could go on and on.  When we do that, though, we remove a level of humanity from those to whom we apply the labels.   
As the Church, with a Capital “C” we have but one name, one label…Disciple of Christ.  His example is the gauge by which we measure all that we say and do.  That name goes with us from the worship service to the polling place, and everywhere in between.   
Handing out care packages is wonderful, but what system causes them to be a necessity?  Helping folks with utility bills is wonderful, but what system causes it to be a necessity?  Preparing meals and supporting the food pantry are wonderful, but what system causes them to be a necessity?  Recovery ministries are wonderful, but what system causes them to be a necessity?   
The Church should be asking those questions and looking for gospel examples of how Christ dealt with those who had the power to institute real change.  We have the power and the calling to do that just as Christ did.  The problem is, it got him killed.   
So, Grace Church, I promise that, as your pastor, you will never hear me endorse one candidate over another from up front.  That’s not my place.  But, I may push us to look at ways we can bring real change to our community through the power of the vote.  That’s not just politics.  That’s Kingdom of God kind of stuff.     
“May God bless you with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly, and love deep within your heart.  May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people.  May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.  May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really can make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.”  (A Blessing of St. Francis) 

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