“To follow Jesus is to be political.”
I quoted that line from a book titled If God Is Love: Rediscovering Grace in an Ungracious World in an article I posted over two years ago. I remembered it during a meeting at church earlier this week. Here’s the full paragraph:
The question is not whether we should mix Christianity and politics. To follow Jesus it to be political. The issue is whether our understanding of Christianity makes the world more gracious or less gracious. Do we work against injustice, oppression, greed, and self-absorption, or do we defend the status quo? Do we take seriously Jesus’s call to “bring good news to the poor,… proclaim release to the captives and… let the oppressed go free” (Luke 4:18), or do we treat Jesus as our team mascot? Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives all face these temptations.
Our church is in the unenviable position of trying to find a new pastor. We formed a search committee recently and had our first meeting after our prayer service on Wednesday night. This experience is rather unique for me, since I’ve never served on a pastoral search committee or even remember a time when I was part of a congregation that was looking to hire a new minister.
During our meeting, we discussed what qualities we might be looking for in a potential candidate. Certain things seem very important (like education), while others (such as gender) seem quite irrelevant. As we began to discuss the theological viewpoints of an applicant, the issue of homosexuality came up.
I immediately made it clear that a pastor with an inclusive viewpoint would be of the utmost importance to me. After all, I explained, my partner and I would not feel comfortable continuing to attend our church if we didn’t feel welcomed by an incoming minister.
Although everyone seemed to be in agreement about this topic, concern was expressed by some about political views coming from the pulpit. I asked, “Is it possible to be a Christian without being political?”
Even though I wholeheartedly agree that a pastor should never condone a political party or persuade the votes of his/her parishioners, I do believe a true Christian has a responsibility to stand up for those who are maligned and mistreated by society – or as Jesus would have put it, “the least of these.” It’s incredibly sad that the rights of women and homosexuals – human rights – are viewed as nothing more than political talking points.
As I pondered the conversation later, I began to question my involvement in the pastoral search process. I recognize that I have an agenda, or at the very least a list of prerequisites that a candidate must possess. Even so, I also recognize that our denomination, the United Church of Christ, insists upon social justice and equality for all. I think to disregard that would be not only a disservice to our church and denomination, but also to the very message of the Messiah – the One whom we profess to follow.