Advocacy for Social Justice Blog: Talking Politics in Church

12/6/2012

Talking Politics in Church

I have heard it all my life. I imagine you have as well … don’t discuss politics in church. If there is an ironclad rule of church life this just may be it. Several reasons are given for not discussing politics in church. Politics can be controversial. Controversy must be avoided in church. People disagree about politics. Disagreement must be avoided in church. Politics makes people angry. Anger must be avoided in church. In other words we are willing to risk controversy, disagreement and anger in every realm of human existence except church. 

Politics seeks to determine how we human beings can live together in a way that benefits all of us through the common good. How we arrive at the common good is the basic question of politics. That question is answered in many ways by many different groups of people. Indeed, sometimes there are those who dismiss the ideal of seeking the common good altogether in favor of some other ideal.

Is this really a discussion that we want to avoid in church? Is the discussion of the common good and how we arrive at the common good (or whether we arrive at the common good at all) a discussion that must be avoided in the life of the church? Do we really want to leave politics out of church life and church discussions? I hope not. I say instead, that church is where we should and must discuss politics.

Let me clear on this. I’m not talking about partisan politics. I don’t envision a debate between Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, etc. going on within the life of each local church. What I am suggesting is that the church is the perfect place to discuss the political issues of the day in a way that focuses on the issue itself rather than the partisan politics surrounding that issue. The church is the perfect place to bring together the moral and ethical teaching that can help us find our way toward the common good. The church has amazing resources to enhance the discussion of politics.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ addresses every political issue of the day. By searching the teaching of Jesus we can find guidance for our discussions. The moral teaching of the church addresses every political issue of the day. In the United Methodist tradition we have the Social Principles and any number of resolutions to guide our thinking and our discussions. By employing these and other resources we can address the political issues of the day in a way that honors the Gospel and the wisdom of the Church.

There are many political issues that affect each one of us every day. There are many issues that impact human life and the common good, issues such as war and violence, hunger, poverty, the distribution of wealth, education, health care and many more. These are not conversations to be avoided in church. These are conversations to eagerly seek out in church.

Tom Duley
gtduley@gmail.com

Discussion Questions:

  1. How is your understanding of politics similar or different to the understanding of politics in this blog post? 
  2. How do you understand the notion of the “common good” in politics as it relates to Jesus’ commandment to “Love your neighbor as yourself?”  Is Jesus talking only about how you individually treat others or does he include the way we work to build a society that treats everyone fairly?
  3. What are some ways we can effectively talk about politics in church without just having Republicans and Democrats arguing with each other?
     

The Advocacy for Social Justice Blog is produced by the North Alabama Conference Advocacy for Social Justice Team to help people think about justice issues through the lens of faith. It is intended to be a place where United Methodists can listen and learn from each other with mutual respect and understanding. (For the purpose of this blog see the the post “The work of justice is the work of the church”.) Please join the conversation by adding your comment below. If you have an idea for a blog topic or would like to make a submission to the Advocacy for Social Justice Blog please contact the Team Convenor Rev. R.G. Wilson-Lyons at rg.lyons@umcna.org.


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