2019-04-11
Shutterstock.com

Politics seem to be inescapable these days. Everyone feels the need to shout their opinion as loudly as possible, and cut off contact with those who disagree with them. People refuse to so much as entertain the idea of a compromise and would prefer to resort to ad hominem attacks and childish insults rather than actually try and find a solution that would make most people happy. Under such circumstances, it is no surprise that many pastors are wary of bringing up political topics or that Christians are reluctant to allow such discussions to take place in church, but is it really a good idea to shut politics out of church completely? Should Christians discuss politics in church or are such things better left at home?

It is better to contribute to the discussion now than whine later.

Whether someone loves to debate the nitty gritty details of the latest bill up for debate in the Senate or loathes hearing about anything more detailed than who won the presidential election, politics are a part of life. The policies enacted may be good or bad, but they will affect everyone. As such, it is important that people know about laws that are up for debate or issues that are being discussed by the legislative branch. Most people will already have some idea what those issues are given that political news is nearly omnipresent these days. As such, churches may as well contribute to the discussion rather than making like ostriches and then complaining about the outcome of the debate.

Taking an official stance makes it clear those who disagree are not welcome.

If people feel like an issue needs to be discussed or addressed, the odds are that this is because the issue in question in controversial. There is not normally a lot of need for discussion when everyone already agrees that something is a good idea. As such, pastors and congregations need to be wary of taking an official or unofficial stance on controversial and complicated issues. This can lead those who hold a differing opinion to feel as if their congregation is telling them that anyone who disagrees is not welcome. The only people wanted in the church are those who agree that illegal immigrants should be welcomed, gun control is amoral or whatever stance on a hot button issue the church takes. At best, this leads people to feel that they are being looked down upon or called out for daring to hold their own independent opinion. At worst, it can drive people away from the faith altogether. After all, if church comes to feel like nothing more than political discussions, people may decide it is a better use of their time to simply watch the news instead of attending service.

Christians want to know what the Bible says.

Some people loathe the idea of politics ever setting foot past the threshold of a church, but others would dearly love to hear exactly what the Bible has to say about the issues of the day. They may want to form their opinion of the issue based on what Scripture suggests. Finding out exactly what the Bible says, however, can be difficult for a layman to do when they are trying to apply wisdom from millennia past to purely modern issues. Neither Jesus nor the prophets, after all, ever had to have a debate about net neutrality or systematic Chinese thefts of technology. As such, the average person may not be clear on what a biblical response is to those issues. If the issue is discussed in church, they would get to hear exactly how the Bible suggests handling a political problem, or hear one potential interpretation of how to apply Scripture to a modern issue.

Discussing the issue with the congregation could enable people to hear other viewpoints. It might also create an echo chamber.

One of the biggest problems with politics anymore is that people live, both by choice and through no fault of their own, in an echo chamber. They surround themselves with real friends and Facebook “friends” who share their opinion. This is especially true of young people who are rarely pushed anymore to deal civilly with differing opinions. As such, discussing an issue in church can be an easy way to make sure that people hear an opposing opinion in a venue where they cannot simply shout or insult the other person into submission. That said, congregations often tend to have similar styles of thinking. Rather than enabling people to hear the other side of an argument, discussing politics in church might simply reinforce the echo chambers in which so many people already live.

Pastors are not experts on political topics.

Pastors tend to be the ones leading and shaping discussions in churches. As such, their opinion on issues and their interpretations of biblical ideas dominate. This is not a problem when it comes to explaining the meaning of a Bible verse that is somewhat opaque to modern ears, but it is not a good thing when it comes to political discussions. Pastors may know the Bible well, but that does not make them experts on international economic issues or security concerns. The Bible’s advice on such matters also may not translate well to the modern era. There is, after all, a world of difference between handling an ancient rebel armed with a spear in a city where everyone else has swords and dealing with an Islamic extremist who has hijacked a plane filled with civilians.

Politics should never be preached instead of Scripture, but does that mean that current events need to stay out of churches, or do congregations simply have to be careful how they approach controversial topics? The answer is not abundantly obvious in this case. There are good arguments to be made on both sides. Then again, that is the case for most things. One can only hope that people find a better way to handle this issue than they do most issues today. After all, insults and shouting never convinced anyone of anything but that the person yelling was a jerk.