Scared to Talk Politics in Church?

Pastor Brian McLaren has found it difficult to preach about
election year political issues in his Spencerville, Maryland
church, especially when it runs counter to the doctrine of the
‘radio-orthodoxy’ — the loose band of conservative radio preachers
that tend to orate on the ‘prosperity gospel’ and the dangers of
liberal secularists. The small town preacher’s Sunday message of
love for one’s neighbors and of God’s tolerance can be forgotten
after a week of ‘greed and fear’ radio sermons.

Pastor McLaren has tried ignoring the election. He’s tried
encouraging the flock to vote without telling them who to vote for.
He’s tried sermons that only raise issues that everyone agrees on.
This year, McLaren will try a fourth option: ‘preach and educate on
the moral issues related to the election about which my
congregation is not already in agreement.’ So how does a pastor
talk about election year issues important to both the church and
the government without polarizing the congregation?

In the 1960s, preachers in the deep South faced a similar
dilemma if they sought to sermonize on racial integration to
unsympathetic white audiences. Speaking out in the South might
cause a congregation to dissolve, even if it gave the preacher
credibility in the North. Why not try to change some minds? ‘This
year,’ pastor McLaren writes, ‘I’m looking for a better option than
either thundering self-righteousness or avoidance. It will involve
risk. But it will also involve patience and gentleness and
respect.’

McLaren plans to encourage respectful dialogue and preach
‘prophetic’ sermons — ones that use the gospel to highlight themes
of universal love and tolerance over provincialism and fear. He is
planning a ‘Presidential Dialogue’ wherein congregants on both
sides share why they support their candidate. He also plans a
discussion group for the televised presidential debates. ‘Whether
the best candidate gets elected in November or not,’ writes
McLaren, ‘I hope through this process that Christians in our
country will be wiser, more thoughtful, and more biblically formed
and Spirit-guided after the election season than they are
now.’
Harry Sheff

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Scared to Talk Politics in Church?

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