Sacred Space: Politics at Church

Every Friday in Sacred Space, Brad Williams explores the place of popular culture in the local church.

This year’s Republican primary has been interesting to say the least. “Not Romney” candidates have come and gone, the latest one being the sudden ascension of Rick Santorum in the Iowa caucus.  Just a few weeks ago, Michelle Bachmann was the leading candidate, now she is out of the race. Then it was Rick Perry who sort of sabotaged his own campaign by fumbling the debates. Next, we had Herman Cain who left the race in a whirlwind of scandal. Interesting, important, grievous, entertaining, and sometimes thoughtful, the primaries are sure to be a topic of discussion amongst friends at church, right?

Since discussions of politics are going to happen, and because they can help us, we ought to be wise about how we enter into these discussions with our church family. We ought to set some simple ground rules for ourselves before we get into a discussion on politics, and if we have the discipline to follow a few self-imposed guidelines, we may find that our talks are helpful and thought-provoking on the subject of the candidates and our government in general.

First, we must realize that no one is going to agree with us completely. They may like the same candidate we do, but they may have different reasons for doing so. Keep that in mind.

Secondly, we must be willing to listen and not speak. Why does your friend support Ron Paul or Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum? Why don’t they like your candidate? Are their insights helpful? We may learn some things if we will allow folks a moment to explain themselves.

Thirdly, we must realize that one’s salvation does not hang on one’s politics. It is possible to be libertarian or a democrat and be a Christian. You can be independent and be a Christian. You can even be a republican and be a Christian. Don’t let those labels confuse you too terribly.

Fourth, we need to come to grips with the fact that not everyone prioritizes issues the same way. Some people are one issue voters regarding abortion. Some care deeply about welfare, government reform in finance, and some prioritize bringing our wars to an end. So while someone may agree with you on certain issues, they may not place them in the same place on their personal hierarchy, and therefore they may vote differently.

With all this disagreement, one might come to the conclusion that politics ought to be left out of the church. To the contrary, I believe that this is precisely why we ought to be talking about politics with our church friends. Finding friends, true friends, who disagree with you is a boon. It will help you understand the issues better, and it will help you understand yourself better. Ultimately, it will help you understand your friends better as well.

If we could spend some time understanding what people are passionate about and how they think about the issues, it will go a long way towards helping us share our contrary views in a meaningful and respectful way. If we get enough practice at this sort of thing at church in a healthy way, we may be able to communicate our views better outside the church as well, and that might lead us to actually having opportunities to share about the gospel and how it effects our views.

 

 

About Brad Williams

Brad is the pastor of a Baptist church in a small town in Alabama. Brad has a lovely wife, two children, two dogs, a cat, a turtle, and five bee hives. Besides the incredible fact that he managed to persuade his wife to marry him, he is proud that he served six years in the Army National Guard, managed to graduate college with an English Lit. degree, graduate seminary, and finish the original Bard's Tale as a youngster by making maps on graph paper.


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