Politics and the pulpit. For some church leaders they are oil and water- always separate. For others, it’s fire and gasoline- always setting off some conflagration. Whatever you say, some of your congregation will want you to be more political, others less. The Catholic Church officially never endorses politicians or parties, nor should it (though you wouldn’t know it the way some pastors preach).
Let me say, those who know me know that I am very interested in politics and I do have opinions. Nor am I against Christians serving in office or seeking to influence the public square. It would be completely disingenuous for a church leader to stand up and say they are a-political, and might betray a lack of serious biblical reflection. In any event, politics is not one of the core purposes of the Church, nor does the Church get its purpose from politics. It is therefore important to address wisely and well. Before launching into that next homily or talk, here are three tips to consider.
- Preach Principles
There is a difference between being prophetic and partisan. In the Bible, God stands up and even takes sides, especially on behalf of widows, orphans, the poor, and the oppressed. You won’t find specific endorsements in scriptures, but an overarching call for his Church to act with justice and mercy wherever it is threatened.
We too easily assume the Bible will provide clear, indisputable instructions on how we should vote in 21st century America. It doesn’t, and if we use it to that end, we do a disservice to the authentic intent and purpose of the scriptures. Since no politician this side of eternity will ever measure up to the Biblical standard (not electable enough), there will necessarily be room for intelligent, well-meaning Christians to disagree when it comes to voting.
On the other hand, don’t ignore the elephant (and donkey) in the room. Most people are engaged, and though they don’t want your endorsement, many honestly want some faith perspective as they form their opinion. As a note, pastors: Be mindful what you post to your Facebook and Twitter accounts.
- Focus on Leadership
Instead of backing politicians, the Church is called to shape leaders of moral character and integrity. The Bible is full of the collective wisdom and history of godly leadership applicable to any person and situation.
This summer, for example, we have been working through a message series called “David For King,” examining David’s call to kingship and how he exercises his leadership for good (and evil) purposes. We’re certainly riffing on the election season, but in a way that both pokes fun and offers serious material for reflection.
- Invest in Missions
It is easier to criticize than construct. One of the most constructive things your church can do is invest in its missions program, whether it be local or international. Just this week, Brian Crook, our Missions Director, and our Nativity Missions team left for Kenya (you can follow their journey here). Another parish team just returned from Haiti last week, and we have partners throughout the city as well.
If you’re going to preach it, then you need something to point to. This serves as an important reminder that the purpose and mission of the Church extends beyond the boundaries of district lines and borders.