Often, when people go to church, they look to worship, feel better about themselves, experience a fulfilling sense of community or perhaps better themselves, personally.
This is not enough, though. Church and being involved should be about broader topics and real change in the world. That is why it is the perfect place to talk about politics.
Our political system, though many would not believe it by today’s government, has brought us a long way from where our nation used to be. There is a forward progression in our legislation, and, though it has had temporary setbacks, government will continue moving toward justice and liberty.
Unfortunately, throughout American history, some churches have been moving against this progression. Some religious denominations (but certainly not all) have tried to stifle the rights of slaves, the poor, the LGBTQ community and women. Some religions do not discuss and debate politics; they are told what to think of certain political candidates and policies.
This is, of course, not the way anyone should engage in politics, because it is never that simple.
If it were easy to see which party is truly “pro-life,” it would be overwhelmingly popular in the general public. Unfortunately, among Syrian refugees, drone strikes, healthcare systems and abortion, the issue is more complex. Things are never simple in politics or religion, much less when the two are discussed together.
American intervention in the Middle East, whether positive or negative, is not something that can be definitively debated from a pulpit in an hour. This does not discount the need for political discussions in church, however. Now more than ever, citizens should be comparing their core values to those in proposed policies or candidates. As this contemplation is occurring, we ought to learn from others through their thoughtful introspection.
Which brings us to the commonly held ideal of many different faiths: humility. Church members and leaders alike should be open to other opinions around them.
With issues as complex as these, no one has a system without contradiction or problem, and we need others to take the proverbial specks of wood from our eyes.
With enough of these discussions, I am confident churches will become political forces for good.
When we look to the past for leaders in our society and religious establishments, they were not afraid to have conversations that were not neat and orderly. It was not the path of least resistance, but it was the path that followed the moral arc of the universe toward justice.
Often, loving our neighbors as ourselves necessarily involves becoming politically active for the good of others.
It is time for some churches to move past having their theological dominance as a main priority, and have tough conversations that are already occurring nationwide.
The core values of humility and kindness must be put on display, not just in word but also in legislation.