If I drive south on our main street, I see the tallest steeple in town, the venerable steeple of St. Joseph’s church. If I drive north, I see two steeples, Evangelical Free and Lutheran Fellowship. If I drive east, I see a twelve-sided sanctuary whose roof culminates in the slender steeple of First Congregational United Church of Christ. If I drive west, I see steeples marking the Assembly of God and the Church of the Latter Day Saints. If I turn off the main drag, I could find at least three other buildings that house congregations.
All of these sanctuaries for 5,000 people. (and only four bars!)
And indeed, they are sanctuaries. In an era where many of our leaders are innocently or ignorantly speaking as if we lived in a theocracy, our churches are sanctuaries in which we can worship as we believe. Every Sunday in worship is a gift, a privilege, guaranteed by our constitution. We are invited to leave the world for awhile and spend time with God in God’s house and with God’s family. In worship, we feel more connected to God, less connected to the world. We can forget the cacophony of campaigns and commerce. We don’t have to listen to or think about politicians or issues.
On the other hand, we cannot use our sanctuaries as an escape from politics. Politics, in its most basic definition, (from Greek ¿øª?ƒ??Ã¬, “of, for, or relating to citizens”) is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. Think “Annual Meeting.” Think “committee.”
Every Sunday, in our sanctuaries, we are challenged to make decisions as individuals and as groups. It is not our pastors or our Bible Study leaders who challenge us–they’re just delivering the message. It is Jesus. Jesus challenges us to be involved in the politics of love. How can we serve each other? How can we serve others? What can we do to change the way we deliver can you get zolpidem over the counter love or food or care or justice or healing?
Jim Wallis, founder and editor of Sojourners recalls a time when the church tried to avoid politics: “Jim, Christianity has nothing to do with racism.” That’s what my church elder told me when I was a 15-year-old boy. Can you believe that? “That’s political, and our faith is personal,” he said.
Faith is personal, yes, but if we’re going to make decisions using our faith, then we have to be political.
Pastors struggle with this reality. We can’t endorse a candidate or a stand from the pulpit, yet, at least in my case, my sermons make it pretty clear where I stand in the political continuum. In my defense, I’m reading it the way I see it. It’s tempting to pin your star on “The Prayer of Jabez,” but that other “J” character pretty much blows the “God wants you to be rich” theory out of the water.
I had the privilege of being in the room with Gov. Rick Perry and Gov. Bobby Jindal while I was writing this. I don’t know if you will be voting for Gov. Perry; he doesn’t know either. He claims his Christian faith, and I love him for that. The way he mixes it with his politics confuses me. But I didn’t get a chance to talk to him about it.
The Good News is that you and I can, in the sanctuary of our committee meetings and coffee sipping make the decisions that our faith inspires in us, decisions that do not forget one group at the expense of another, but that aim to bring all people into the Kingdom of God.
So, enjoy the time spent in your sanctuary, but don’t use it as a place to hide. Use it as inspiration to politic for the one and only Ruler, Jesus.
Dianne Prichard, Lay Education Director