Many of us grew up with the notion that religion and politics are dinner conversations to avoid. I think I understand why. Both are deeply personal. And we want to believe that how we believe is the morally right way to believe. All of this leaves very little room for discussion and lots of possibility for hurt. For many the only solution is to remain silent, especially around the dinner table.
We need to find ways to be a people of faith without becoming partisan. Moreover we must own that faith is always political. These are inescapable realities. Too many church leaders have been seduced by partisan politics. If I were allowed to rewrite Barack Obama’s keynote address to the Democratic National Convention in 2008 for the church, it would go like this (the irony of using a political speech has not been lost on me):
“There are those who are preparing to divide us the church of Jesus Christ. Well, I say to them, there is not a liberal church and a conservative church; there is only one church, one body. There’s not the black church and the white church and the Latino church and the Asian church; there is only one church. Yes we argue, we don’t always agree, but when push comes to shove our unity always trumps our divisions.”
In the parable of the Good Samaritan a lawyer asks Jesus how to inherit eternal life. An exchange about the law happens and in the end Jesus tells a story. It is a story about religious people making bad decisions and one really bad person, the Samaritan, making a good decision. The Samaritan chose compassion over any possible difference – political, social, religious or economic. This act was political and even a bit subversive.
When people of faith do justice and demand justice partisan politics become irrelevant and kingdom politics become everything.
When we start with the radical political assumption that all people are created in the image of God everything changes. People dying in the dessert, the health of your neighbor, education for all, racial profiling, and gun violence are all issues that people of faith should speak to with one voice because our oneness in Jesus trumps all the other possible divisions.