Beliefnet
Progressive Revival

When people talk about radical homosexuals, they mean me. When they talk about left-wing, socialist feminists, that would be me. And when they talk about Christian voters, that’s  me, too. 

 

So I’m driving along yesterday with my friend and colleague Paul: he’s a gay left-winger, too, and a priest at the church where I’m the director of pastoral care. We’re on our way to a funeral; Paul’s wearing his collar and I’m in a nice black pastor-lady suit, and we’re talking about the elections.

 

Both of us–full disclosure, we’re big Obama supporters–are filled with dread. “It’s just August, and already I’m struggling with how to preach in the election season,” I say. Most of our members would describe themselves as liberal, but there’s a sizeable contingent of Republicans, and more diversity of political views than many churches have. “Really,” I say,  “all I want to tell them is to turn off the damn television.”

Paul laughs. He used to be a priest in Texas, and his husband works in politics, so he knows a lot about the weird things that can happen when religion and politics mix. “Well, you can always remind folks of their civic duty,” he says. “Vote, register others to vote…”

 

I interrupt him. I get Christian activism: my grandmother and her minister husband integrated their Baltimore church in the 1930s, and participated in the great uprising of the church during the civil rights era; my other grandmother, a missionary, was arrested in her eighties for blockading a nuclear weapons facility. (“I’ll go quietly, officer,” she told the burly cop who hauled her away.) And my own city’s filled with churches who mobilize their members to act for justice. “What I can’t stand,” I say, “is the way we use our political opinions to feel like we’re better than everyone else. I wish our congregation would read the Bible during the election season as much as they look at TV.”

 It’s not that I think faith exists apart from what Christians like to call “the world.” Just like Jesus, we’re all born smack in the middle of the flesh and blood of a politicized world, and I believe we’re called to engage with it. I’m not asking Christians to retreat from activism.

 But I  know that we’re shaped by what we pay attention to. And that, like a tree planted by a stream, we flourish when we steep ourselves daily in the often uncomfortable waters of Scripture–the Word which demands that we see ourselves as fundamentally the same as God’s other messed-up children; that we humble ourselves and admit what we don’t know; that we pray not just for our side but for our enemies.  We flourish when we drag ourselves to church and sit next to people whose politics we don’t agree with; when we listen openly to the prayers of their hearts, when we offer them the kiss of peace even when we can’t stand them. 

On the other hand, if we avoid real conversation with other human beings in favor of being planted by the shallow stream of TV news, or the treacherous stream of attack ads, or the noisy stream of angry blogs, our souls are in danger. Our attention to all the disembodied trivia and rage and slander that pours forth in an election year can be poisonous. It makes us passive: we don’t necessarily do anything in response to the media onslaught; instead we only reinforce our own opinions. A politics -like a theology–that’s only about opinions and doctrine, not action, makes us self-righteous. And then we’re only able to pray, like the Pharisee, “Thank God I’m not like other people.”

 “Preach it,” says Paul.

So Paul and I agree on a plan for our church, a way for us to involve our members as Christians this election season. Here it is, our radical gay agenda: Read the Bible and pray for your enemies. 

 Spread the word.

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus