Jun 28 2012

The New MethoFesto: Preaching is Pointless Unless It’s Political

Original post at http://newmethofesto.wordpress.com/2012/06/28/preaching-is-pointless-unless-its-political/


Every preacher faces a few hard choices on days like today. We struggle with how to publicly talk, tweet, and blog about things like the Supreme Court’s decision concerning the Affordable Care Act.

The problem is that we have been conditioned by parishioners to steer clear of politics. We are not supposed to let people know what we think about such things, nor do we tip our hand about our political affiliations. They tell us that they don’t want our opinions on such matters, by threatening us with the presence or absence of their pocketbooks and presence. They don’t care if we disagree with their political judgments.

Just this week, I was criticized by such a person in this vein. On Sunday, I preached a sermon about the Jubilee year, and suggested that we learn how to “do justice” in our society. On Monday, I received a brief and pointed email in which a church member told me, “I don’t appreciate hearing your politics in the pulpit.”

At the time I was preparing my sermon, I didn’t conceive of it as being “political.” I was not recommending a particular course of action, nor did I suggest how one ought to vote. Specifically, he took exception with this particular statement: “It’s just plain wrong that CEO’s and CFO’s and venture capitalists make millions of dollars every day sitting in offices in Manhattan when men and women do the hard work of teaching children, driving trucks and buses, and working the soil for a mere dollars a day.” That’s the line that upset him.

In a very profound sense, he was right. That was a political statement — I criticized a state of affairs, and implicitly urged things to change. He feared, wrongly as it turns out, that I was suggesting that the State put limits on how much a person could earn; he didn’t like the implications of those kinds of politics.

But I was preaching politics. And this kind of politics certainly does belong in the pulpit.

Politics is the art of living together in community, and therefore, preaching is toothless, sterile and irrelevant unless it touches on politics, unless it recommends a specific course of action in the real world. What’s the good of talking about love, mercy, grace, fellowship, sin and salvation unless you can tie it to particular behavior and action?

One cannot avoid politics in the pulpit, in fact. Every principle of application that a preacher espouses implies a way of living in the world, a course of action, a direction.

If a preacher suggests from the pulpit, for example, that we ought to love our enemies (an undeniably Christian sentiment), that is already a political statement, for it challenges every war that we may be fighting, every prisoner that we execute, and every potential terrorist that we torture. If those things don’t emerge in the sermon, then the preacher is missing the point!

The question is not whether politics ought to be preached, but what kind of politics.

I have no beef with preachers who talk honestly about specific issues and policies from the pulpit. The question is whether the politics expressed truly reflects the politics of the prophets, of Jesus, and of the kingdom of God.

That is the issue.

Or to put it another way: preaching is the art of proclaiming the Kingdom of God, also known as the Beloved Community; and politics is the art of forming, living, and sustaining community. Preaching and politics — indisputable partners.

So what do I think about Obamacare?

Well, I’m happy that the Affordable Care Act remains intact because it protects the poorest in our society. But it falls far short of what I really hope for … free, universal healthcare for every man, woman, and child in this great country.

That’s worth preaching!

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Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2012/06/preaching-is-pointless-unless-its-political/


  1. d

    Moses steps into the political arena:

    6Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
    7The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering
    . 8So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey-the home of the Canaanites…
    9And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them.
    10So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

  2. d

    When Moses entered the political arena, did God command Moses to do so representing the entire world or His people alone?
    What was God’s directive to Moses?
    Where God’s people the only people enslaved, mistreated and abused under Pharaoh?
    Pharaoh’s were understood to be Gods . Gods in human form.
    Slavery was the fate of those captured as prisoners of war.
    That was also true in the days of the early Christian Church.
    Slavery did not discriminate based on age, race or gender.

    What would the world witness when the Jews where freed?
    Although the directive of God was to free His people, wouldn’t all slaves benefit from the freeing of God’s people?
    Is it not true the world is beneficiary to the work of God thru and by his people even today?
    How is that accomplished today?

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