From Jim: Politics in the Sanctuary
The media loves conflict and the religious right has faithfully delivered it to them for many years. As we rapidly approach election day, the question of which religious right figures will stick with Donald Trump or reluctantly disavow him consumes whatever media attention is focused on the faith community.
For decades, some prominent religious right figures have been waging a "culture war" in our nation and have named it as such. They lament the demise of a Protestant white, male-dominated culture in which people of color, sexual minorities, and women were silenced and oppressed. Donald Trump is, for now, their standard bearer. Racism, misogyny, and hatred of immigrants and Muslims mark his campaign.
Many of the Christians who are part of the denominational traditions represented in the National Council of Churches, by contrast, are engaged in a biblically-based countercultural ministry. We are feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, visiting those who are in prison, and freeing the oppressed. We seek a society that welcomes the stranger, assists those in need, cares for the earth, and re-orients national priorities away from war, violence, and racism.
It is not particularly unusual for social concerns to be addressed in congregations associated with the NCC whether from the pulpit or in Sunday School or other forums. The political and theological views of our church members, while labeled by some as liberal, are actually very diverse, and that diversity is deeply valued.
Few, if any, NCC denominational leaders or clergy have publicly endorsed one of the presidential candidates. In fact, quite often clergy and laity are under the mistaken impression that it is illegal to invite candidates to speak in local churches. A large number of congregations avoid any talk of political matters. After all, there is usually plenty of politicking already taking place over matters such as the color of the new carpet in the sanctuary.
This presidential election season, the wildest in recent times, requires careful study. Rather than tell our members how to vote, the NCC and some of its member communions provide voting principles, and study guides to help them make informed decisions.
As a Christian, I want to believe the direction of our nation, with fits and starts, is toward one of more inclusiveness, acceptance, and justice. But what if I'm wrong? When the dominant culture or race becomes fearful, as is the case at this time, problems result. Perhaps we will choose a more negative direction. Britain has exited the European Union, Colombia has voted to reject a peace agreement, Israel has constructed a wall to keep out Palestinians, Hungary has built a fence to keep out immigrants. There's no certainty love, grace, and mercy will triumph.
I hope I'm mistaken in my hunch that most our congregations are avoiding discussion of the choice ahead of us next month in order to avoid conflict. I pray our clergy and laity are praying and calmly analyzing the issues and the candidates and preparing to vote so that they can answer this question: "What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God? (Micah 6:8, NRSV)"
Yours in Christ,
President and General Secretary
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