“Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is.” --Mohandas K. Gandhi
There are two cardinal sins of polite conversation: talking about religion and politics. And today I not only want to talk about them both, but in the same breath even!
The “separation of church and state” is a fundamental principle of American political life. The First Amendment to the U.S Constitution guarantees the freedom of religion. It’s part of why our Congregationalist ancestors came to this continent in the first place: they were searching for a place where they could practice their beliefs without fear of official persecution.
For many of us, the evils of collapsing the separation between church and state are manifestly obvious. Certain groups of Christians, claiming to speak on behalf of all 2.3 billion of us, espouse a very particular, far-from-universal interpretation of the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, then proclaim theirs as the only “Christian politics.” We may have our unique slant here at UCC Watertown, but “agreeing to disagree” is right there in our motto – we would never claim to speak as the authoritative Christian perspective on any social issue. (As if there were such a thing!)
And yet, as people of faith, we cannot avoid politics, as Gandhi suggests. Jesus’ faith earned him execution as a political prisoner at the hands of an oppressive Roman Empire and the religious authorities who colluded with that Empire to protect their own privilege and prestige. When Jesus says that the greatest commandment is to love God, our neighbors, and ourselves, that has ramifications for how we live with one another.
That doesn’t mean that following Jesus can be reduced to which party we belong to. It does mean that we need to take a good look at our politics, politicians, and policies, and ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” Each of us may interpret that question a little (or a lot) differently. But as Christians, we are called to offer at least a tentative answer, and to stand in the courage of our convictions.
If you’ve ever heard me preach, you know I don’t shy away from social issues in the pulpit. But I will never tell you whom to vote for, nor will I claim that mine is the “one true Christian” perspective. There are undeniable themes in the Bible: doing justice, loving kindness, walking humbly with God (Micah 6:8). As our book group on Rachel Held Evan’s Inspired is discovering, though, there is no such thing as a single “biblical perspective.” Rather, there is always a multiplicity of biblical perspectives, with a multiplicity of possible interpretations.
This week, then, I pray that we may stand boldly for what we believe in. I pray that our elected representatives may act with wisdom and integrity, serving those to whom Jesus proclaimed the in-breaking Reign of God: the widow and the orphan, the captive and the oppressed, the poor and the dispossessed (Luke 4:18-19). And I pray that we may live into our highest values as followers in the Way of Christ, in public as well as in private.
QUESTIONS FOR THE WEEK: Are you comfortable having conversations with those who believe differently than you? How does your faith inform your politics – or vice-versa?
• Bring your items for the Pilgrim Fair before noon.
• Church School 6pm
• UCCW Choir, 7pm
• Tom’s Community Office Hours, 9am-12pm @ Gather
• Pilgrim Fair 9am – 1 pm, don’t forget your baked goods, cookies, pies, bars, etc. We need 165 doz. cookies for the fair.
• Everyone is invited to an Open House, Thursday, October 11th from 3:00-6:00pm at Brent Zemlicka’s new swine feeding facility. To get to the new barn go north on old Highway 81 to 160th Street and go east (Right) for 1-1/2 miles. It is about 10 miles north of Watertown. Lunch will be served.
• Canvases for Christ, 1 pm, fellowship hall, everything will be provided for you. Cost is a free will donation.
• Adult Bible Study, 8:45am
• Sunday Worship 10am
• Church Council Meeting following church service
• Prairie Lakes Assoc., Aberdeen, SD, 2:30pm, registration, supper meal $8.00.
• Book Study 4pm, (Fellowship Hall)
• Fermenting Faith, 7pm Harry’s (16 W Kemp)
· Women’s Fellowship Guild I & II 1:30pm - Pastor Tom will lead us in a Bible study entitled "Praying with Poetry." Bring a favorite poem to share!