How Do We Respond When Parishioners Say They Don’t Want Politics in Church?

Do politics belong in church?  Social Justice Protests

If we see Jesus as the living Word of God and a model for the best way to live our lives on earth, then followers of Jesus have to respond with a big “Yes.”  To call Jesus “Lord” and “King” in 1st Century Palestine was considered politically dangerous because it challenged Caesar and Herod who claimed those titles as their own.  To call yourself a royal name was considered treasonous.

Ken Bailey – among others – teaches that many women were named Mary in those days as a political protest against Herod the Great who had had his wife Mariamne killed.  Jesus’ own mother was a living symbol of political protest.

So what do we do if political, business, military, and other leaders are taking actions that we believe to be against the way God calls us to live?  At what point do we speak up as followers of Jesus if we believe that injustices are being done (often in our names)?

It seems that many of us don’t like politics in church when those politics do not align with our own.  Good people often disagree on issues.  We see them from different perspectives.  We come with different information and personal experiences.

But if we cannot grapple together as a church, when can we do it?

The General Assembly of my denomination made some controversial decisions a couple weeks ago and our congregations are just now starting to talk about them.  Some are saying they will leave the church because of those decisions.  Others are saying that they have renewed confidence in the church because of those same decisions.

If you’ve never been to a General Assembly, it’s possible that your impressions are that a throng of rabble rousers get together, take provocative actions, and then go home not caring about the consequences of their decisions.  But in reality, people from all over the country – an equal number of teaching elders (clergy) and ruling elders (non-clergy) actually study, debate, and pray about all manner of issues.  They painstakingly discern and then prayerfully vote.  Sometimes they vote against what we think they should do.  Sometimes they vote in accordance with what we think they should do.

So how do we respond when people in our congregations say they don’t want politics in church?  We could cower and keep our distance.  We could avoid all conflict.  Or we could use these splendid opportunities to talk and pray together, to listen to each other, to learn from each other.

Imagine that.


3 responses to “How Do We Respond When Parishioners Say They Don’t Want Politics in Church?

  1. Well said, Jan. I often tell people that I make no apologies for being political for the very reasons you have noted. I try hard, however, not to be overtly partisan.


  2. I recently had a negative reaction from a member of my congregation when I questioned the UK government’s policies on taxing extra bedrooms for those who were receiving benefit. He didn’t like that I was having a go at the party held helped elect. Unlettered I plowed on but afterwards reflected about whether I’d been speaking for those affected or just having a go at a party I disliked. I decided it was the former. It’s right to be involved in politics this way but we must always check that we speak against injustice and not for our own brand of politics.


  3. Pingback: This Week’s Links « Timothy Siburg

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