Do Churches Need to Get More Political?
It's time for some tough conversations.
I was sitting in church when the pastor, while referencing the current and very scary state of America, simply stated, “hate groups are on the rise.”
I was caught off guard. I felt something within me tear, like a dam breaking. Somewhere deep inside, my soul was crying, that’s not good enough.
Are hate groups on the rise? Oh, most definitely. They have names. They have evil motives. Both need to clearly be denounced.
I thought about all the subtle Facebook posts I saw in the aftermath of Charlottesville—with people simply referencing Bible verses and nothing else. I thought about all the calls for prayer for our nation, but never specifically stating what exactly needs prayer. What exactly the issue is. I thought about all the times Bible study leaders have had to steer the conversation away from where it was clearly headed—for fear of getting too political at small group.
Church, please hear me loud and clear: It’s time for us to get political.
It’s time to get too political. Because real politics aren’t able labels; they’re about issues.
I can hear the record scratch. I can hear the sharp intake of breath. I can hear the “But separation of Church and state!” and “Keep politics out of the pulpit!” and all the other claims that for too long have kept too many silent.
I am not talking about liberal versus conservative. I am not talking red versus blue, Republican versus Democrat or Trump versus Hilary. God is not in those divisions; He did not draw those lines in the sand we worship so fervently.
I am talking about the politics of white supremacy versus the gospel of radical inclusion we are called to proclaim. I am talking about the power dynamics the Neo-Nazi movement desires versus the love we are called to. I am talking about the fear terrorism uses to govern versus the spirit of power Christ has given to us.
Politics is neither bad nor simply elected government officials. It’s the power dynamics of people groups, it’s the debate of who (or what) should lead us, it’s the activities that mark a people group and a nation. It is something the Church should very much be concerned with; it’s something those that make up the Church should be vocal about.
Politics is what makes an act by the hands of a Muslim automatically deemed terrorism, but the same act by a white man from Ohio simply a violent car crash. Politics is what allows certain people to stay in power and certain people to stay oppressed. Politics is what allows people to condemn one’s free speech of sitting during the national anthem but support other’s free speech of marching in the streets. Politics is what Christians should be intimately concerned with.
We don’t get to hide behind a Bible verse, and we don’t get to change the subject to something easier to digest.
God calls us into the messy and the uncomfortable—for that is where true change takes place. The story of redemption Christ wants to write involves you and me taking an active role in the hard work. There is no middle ground here. If you find yourself wanting to straddle the line on race issues in America—ask yourself why. Ask yourself what gospel you are living by.
Hate groups are on the rise. Specifically, white supremacists. Neo-Nazis. Domestic terrorists. Nationalists. Our current president responded to the events in Charlottesville by saying there were “many sides.” There are not many sides. And as Christians, we should make clear which side we are standing on. Which side Jesus would be standing on?
Maybe Facebook isn’t your thing; we aren’t all called to be social media activists. But we are all called to be advocates of justice. That means speaking up for the oppressed, denouncing hate and pushing forward in the name of love. That means being OK with getting labeled “too political” from time to time. That means embracing hard conversations, saying the uncomfortable words and asking the questions you’d rather avoid.
Racism is not too political for your church to start discussing. Terrorism is not too political for your prayer groups. White supremacy is not too political to be denounced from your pulpit.
These are evils that need to be named by Christ followers; there are gospel truths in this discussion we need to be reminded of. No matter how uncomfortable it may make some—no matter how “too political” some will claim—we need to begin.