Faith & Politics

In a recent message to the clergy of the diocese Bishop Cate Waynick  shared her thoughts about  criticism of the church being motivated “by politics” in espousing actions and  to support or oppose governmental policies, issues.  She wrote:

“I want to be clear that I don’t believe there is anything inherently bad about politics.  We have political systems because we live in communities/States/Nation and need to have shared expectations about how our common life will be lived out. Truth be told, I have always been rather fascinated by political processes, and have actually enjoyed participating in these processes both in the secular world and in The Episcopal Church.

It’s when people start describing our motivations as ‘political’ that I want us to be careful.  We use political systems to register our desires and values, and to participate in making what we hope will be positive changes in our common life.
What I hope we do, as followers of Jesus, is allow ourselves to be guided and formed by the imperatives of our faith.  When we advocate for justice and engage in works of mercy it is because we understand that God has commanded that we do so, and we have committed ourselves to do so.

We do not refrain from degrading, insulting, demeaning language in order to be ‘politically correct.’ We refrain because we are followers of Jesus who know we are called to a ministry of reconciliation and to be witnesses to God’s love of all people.

Such categories as ‘political correctness’ or ‘political motivation’ are valid where people who have no other structure or underpinnings are concerned.  Our underpinning is the Gospel, and our structure is the framework of Jesus’ teaching and example, and our Baptismal Covenant.
I have to wonder whether, when the Roman Catholic Church stands firm in their advocacy against provision of birth control or abortion, anyone considers they are being ‘political.’  I suspect that they have been so clear that this is a religious imperative in their own minds that their actions are seen in that light by society in general.

I think it is entirely possible for us to be equally clear that justice for all persons, merciful response to human need, and respect for every person is considered among us to be a religious imperative of the first order.  So when we advocate in a variety of ways, including in our existing political processes, no one can accuse us of being motivated by anything other than religious commitment.

“… there can be honest disagreement among us about particular issues, and we must always guard against speaking in ways which seem to deny that reality.  The only way we can learn what it truly means to love each other as Jesus loves us is to refuse to walk away from each other in the midst of disagreement.

That we are all experiencing a level of uncertainty, angst, anxiety, or fear is undeniable,  but we are not without resources. We have each other. We have the networks we have established with others – both ecumenical and inter-faith, and we have the teachings and the spiritual disciplines which have sustained our forebears for millennia.

At every moment God is with us. At every moment the eternal reality of the Incarnation makes Christ present among us. At every moment our Savior is teaching, healing, challenging, and bestowing the gifts of the Spirit. At every moment Christ is commanding us to love with sacrificial love, sharing the sacred meal of his Body  and Blood, being betrayed, suffering, dying, and undergoing the attempted annihilation of God’s divine gifts to the world – and at every moment is rising to new life and making new life possible for all creation.

In times of high anxiety we must remember what we believe and who we are called to be. And as I said yesterday, when we find ourselves walking with those who have always had to live in fear, we may discover that great spiritual gifts come to us.  The experience of Jesus, Peter, James and John on the mount of Transfiguration did not move seamlessly to the resurrection. They had to travel first to Jerusalem, and all that dangerous journey meant for them.

Keep breathing. Keep praying your prayers. Remember that you, and every other person is beloved. And hold fast to each other.  You are amazing, gifted, and creative leaders and servants of the people of God. Be to each other and to the world around us the love God longs to share……

The Rt. Rev. Catherine Waynick is Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianpolis

About don

The Rev Don Hill is an Episcopal priest, rail fan and writer. He and his wife the Rev. Dr. Nancy Woodworth-Hill are currently Co-Pastors of St Paul's Episcopal Church, Jeffersonville IN, in the Diocese of Indianapolis. They also work as parish consultants in Appreciative Inquiry, strategic planning and spirituality development for parishes and vestries.
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