Facebook ~ yes; preaching, no. Friends, yes ~ congregants, no.
That’s been my general approach to political commentary. On Facebook, I post news articles and, often, my own opinions thereon. I don’t think that my outlook is lost on my congregation ~ I speak and pray often enough about those who suffer or are disenfranchised ~ but I don’t go all out political. I’ve been told, and I’m pretty sure that it’s true, that the folks in the pews hold views across the political spectrum, and while I’d like to persuade some of them to move further to the left, that’s not my job in the pulpit. On FB, I don’t usually feel the same constraints. I also read posts by friends and family who disagree with me. I don’t follow their logic! ~ but I read them. Usually without responding. Their pages, their posts, their views. I don’t feel inclined to take up their space with argument. (They don’t always extend the same courtesy to me.) Harder, for me anyway, to listen to folks in the church with whom I disagree without reacting.
In the last church I served, after a couple of months, people began to thank me for bringing contemporary concerns into the prayers. (I did hear of one gentleman who was angry that I had not prayed for a matter he deemed of concern ~ which I would have, actually, had I known about it but, as so often happens, he told other people, and not me.) But I didn’t push things very far. When we held a service of music and prayer for the city the day before the Republican Convention opened in Cleveland, we kept it strictly nonpartisan.
Last Sunday, however, I was done with caution and impartiality in the pulpit. Just done. Angry at what the American infatuation with guns had wrought. Disgusted by cowardly politicians raking it in from the NRA. Devastated on behalf of parents whose lives have been forever altered in a vicious and brutal way. And inspired by the young people of Parkland FL.
So my sermon on God’s promises of reconciliation through Noah, for the healing and rebuilding of all of creation throughout the Bible, became a sermon on laying down weapons of destruction. I mentioned AR15s specifically. I mentioned Emma Gonzalez, specifically. I said NO to criticizing young people and NO to wringing our hands and saying “there’s nothing we can do,” and YES to the Kingdom of God among us. And told them about specific ways of taking action.
I wasn’t preaching to the choir, as would have been in my home church. A few people thanked me for giving voice to their own thoughts. Many more were silent, and I’m sure that at least a few of those were critical ~ but not to my face, not yet.
To my astonishment, our secretary asked me to publicize means of communicating with our state and federal representatives. So we’ll put that information out next week.
There are hundreds, thousands, of pastors more articulate and powerful than I am in preaching what the Spirit tells me is the real good news ~ God’s passionate love for all of creation ~ and political ways of moving on that news. I write this for all of us somewhere in the middle, trying to figure out how to live with integrity without creating a resistance that prevents people from hearing us.
It’s hard to know when you’re hitting the right balance, and when you’re simply wimping out.