Siblings in Christ,
It is good to be back home with you all. Our trip to Tanzania was remarkable in many ways and we look forward to sharing it with you in the weeks to come.
It was life-giving to spend time away from email, social media, and most news outlets. Perhaps a more necessary sabbatical than in the past, with the divisive, vitriolic mud-slinging from both sides of the aisle.
There is as much commentary out there on the fact of the negative, oppositional language as there is negative, oppositional language. We are living into the reality of posting opinions on the internet to be discovered years after we posted them. Perhaps years after we had a change of heart or been awakened to a new way of thinking. Anyone curious enough to look can find what we wrote and turn it into fodder for a campaign, a confirmation hearing or a news cycle.
And the mud-slinging goes on. Politics and political conversation fill the air waves and our brain waves.
We have had some conversations about the role of the pulpit in addressing our political life. Some of us are opposed to it under all circumstances. Some of us are more okay with it when it aligns with our own viewpoint. Others believe it makes preaching and the life of faith relevant to what happens the other 167 hours of the week.
Because the life of faith is relevant. And it is not separate from the rest of our lives. Faith is not something we put on with our Sunday best and then take off as we live our “real” life. Faith is what sustains us through each minute of each day. And faith informs how we live those minutes.
Politics is our public life together as citizens. Politics is the way we express our citizenship. Our citizenship is not apart from the life of faith. The life of faith is to be the whole of life. Which means our faith informs our vocation, our role as spouse, sibling or parent and our role as a citizen.
Jesus calls us to live as those reconciled to God and to live on behalf of our neighbors. Our neighbors are fellow citizens and they are hurt or blessed by the cumulative action of the citizenry just we and our children are. Sometimes they are hurt more. Sometimes less.
Frankly, a pulpit that is not addressing your political life and our political life together is a pulpit that is abandoning its call to explicate the Word of God. Pastors are called, by you, to do a number of things, including “…to speak for justice in behalf of the poor and oppressed.”* Poverty and oppression often occur at the hands of those who hold power. We cannot do what we are called by you to do unless we address the sources of power in our country: legislature, corporations and so on. Even the church.
The limits to what we can say in the pulpit are based on tax law. They are not ecclesiastical or theological limits. Our non-profit status means that Pastor Peter and I cannot speak on behalf of a political party or encourage you to vote for a particular candidate. We can speak about policies, actions, behaviors, language, and violations of the law by leadership, corporations and other entities—including the church.
Here is a great question for conversation: Do you want to know what your church and the word of God have to say about how to live as a person of faith in a political reality? We, your pastors, are constantly challenged to bring a “relevant” word. What could be more relevant today than how to respond to our current political climate through the lens of faith? How do we as disciples of Jesus faithfully follow Jesus through the morass of political campaigns? How do we as people of faith think about our leadership and what we expect of them? How does God’s word inform every breath we take and which boxes we check in the election booth?
This much is sure: it is an act of faith to be an engaged citizen and cast a thoughtful and informed ballot. Vote. Please. Pray and then vote. If you need help connecting with your polling place, ask me or Pastor Peter. We can help.
Peace and grace in this season of decision making.
*ELCA Letter of Call to Ordained Ministers