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Apolitical Church?

I’ve been following a discussion online about young Christians leaving their churches, why they are leaving, and why they are or are not finding a home in another church.  A number of young adults have written about this recently and one item on their list of why they get fed up enough to leave their church is that the church became “too political.”

One thing I try to determine about someone who says this is whether or not this person is apolitical.  Does she have an aversion to everything in the realm of politics?  More times than not, the answer is no.  It is incredibly rare to find someone who is apolitical.  Most of us dislike or disagree with one thing or another about our political system.  Some of us hate nearly everything about it, but when it comes down to it, what happens in the political arena affects us personally at one time or another.  And when those laws or decisions touch our lives, we pay attention.  We have opinions so either we endlessly complain about politicians and parties, or we get involved.  This applies to all of us who attend CCUCC as well.  So I wonder, “what is the line between appropriately political, and too political when it comes to church?”

One reason I’ve been interested in this recently is because I’ve just begun working with a group of people from the community who want to make it possible for all people to marry in the state of Washington.  In fact, this group may not have come together if not for two members of our Community LGBT Group.  So the ties to our congregation are there already.  I also know that while the majority of people at CCUCC probably supports marriage equality (we are an OnA Congregation after all), not everyone does.  And we value the freedom of individuals to make up their own minds and decide where they stand.  As a general rule, Kristine and I tend to not talk party politics, but if we get involved in advocacy of some kind we are careful on a couple of counts. First, we never endorse candidates.   Second, if we talk about an issue, it is with the intent of inviting us all to think about that issue in light of our faith.  In other words, does our faith have any guidance for us on the issue.  I think we become too political when we don’t leave room for a variety of opinions, and stop making the effort to be very clear that we welcome questions and respect people, no matter what their view on a particular issue.  The mantel of “too political” gets laid on churches where respect for others is some ways down the list of the core values of the organization.

Churches, like people, are almost never apolitical.  Politics is about how we organize ourselves to manage what is most important to our common life.  My view on how we should manage these crucial elements of life is very much influenced by my commitment to following Jesus.  So, this particular issue of whether everyone should be able to marry, as well as many other issues, should be talked about in light of our faith so that we can decide and act with integrity.  And if we feel that our faith is leading us to have political will, be it for LGBT friends, the natural world, or the poor, etc…, our churches should be places that facilitate that good work, shouldn’t they?

If the answer is yes, then there is good work on many fronts to be done on behalf of others.  Here is one example of how members of a little church in NC that made some waves by telling their stories.

What do you think?

For further reading:   an article by Brian McLaren in Sojourners Magazine and brief set of guidelines for churches who do engage in some political actions by Our Faith, Our Vote.

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