Politics and Church

By Brian Carr

Church and politics. Politics and church.

These two things often go together like peanut butter and mayonnaise. It usually becomes some odd, ugly combination that doesn’t go well together and leaves a strange taste in your mouth afterwards. You walk away upset at yourself for ever thinking it could work. 

You should never try to eat a peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwich (no, seriously, don’t do it) but we should try to make the church and politics thing work.

I’m not talking about the combination of church and politics that leads to politicians using their religious background and scripture to make laws for all Americans. And I’m not talking about the preacher who gets up in front of their church and tries to convince you to vote for Candidate A and Senator B (because, as we all know, Senator B did vote for Unfair Law G!).  

I’m talking about the church that cares about the politics of America because they directly affect (in both positive and negative ways) the people the church is claiming to love. Fighting against discrimination, prejudice, genocide, ecocide, and numerous other political and social issues is one part of loving humanity. They are political issues and they are also love issues. 

How many pastors and churches have talked about the equal pay laws for women? That’s a political issue. And it’s one that will curb the inherent sexism in our capitalist society. Women make 77% of what men make in the same positions with the same education. They deserve 100%.  That’s a love issue. 

How many pastors and churches have talked about the repeal of the Voting Rights Act? That’s a political issue. And it’s a decision that now allows for states to systematically make voting exponentially more difficult for minority and impoverished people. Voting is a basic right for democratic nations and this is now another way in which discrimination is used against minorities and the impoverished. That’s a love issue. 

How many pastors and churches have talked about climate change and the irreparable damage we are doing to the earth? That’s a political issue. And it’s an issue that is avoided because it will challenge the comfortablilty of our lives. We are slowly but surely destroying the very creation that God deemed so good in Genesis. That’s a love issue. 

How many pastors and churches have talked about the corruption of the American judicial system and criminal laws? That’s a political issue. And it’s one where black men are incarcerated at rates six times that of white men. Prisons are now becoming for-profit companies which creates a NEED for criminals so that these companies can make money. People are being treated unjustly in a justice system. That’s a love issue. 

Those are four examples out of the hundreds that I could give you off the top of my head. And they are huge issues that affects millions of people in a negative way. And yet most of us are comfortable sitting on the sidelines with a blindfold on, pretending that nothing is happening. 

Some may say that there is no room for politics in church. That church is for worshipping God and becoming more spiritually centered. But these political issues are also issues about love. Are we not called to love all of humanity? How can we love these people if we refuse to fight for them? Does God really care to be worshipped by a bunch of people who won’t take their love to greater heights than the steeple of the church?

Church needs to be a place where people can love God and learn how to love others. What better way to learn how to love than to hear and discuss the ways in which people need love from us? I’m not arguing that every sermon has to be about political issues, but shouldn’t some of them be? To completely ignore these in church (which has been the case in the churches I’ve experienced) is to do humanity and God a huge disservice. 

Jesus’ ministry was inherently political. And aren’t we called to follow Jesus? His ministry and beliefs were in direct opposition to the Roman Empire. He actively subverted this empire throughout his life. The irony about Christianity is that while it has become the religion of empire, it was originally the religion against empire. It’s always dealt with politics. 

Church should be a place where our love for each other fosters a passion and call to action within the political realm. We cannot distance ourselves from the world and the problems within it. Jesus came to experience and be a part of the political world, and so should we. 

We must take a stand as a faith community, because if we don’t, what good are we?

So let’s make church and politics more like peanut butter and jelly. 

Besides, who doesn’t love a good PB&J?