The evil existent and active in this world, even at our door step seems to no know end or boundary. Sex trafficking right in our city, killing with guns domestic and gang related, and the list can go on and on. What is remarkably sad is that taking a stand on such issues, climate change being a good example, is considered political in the base sense of that word. So that one has to watch their step, and often sidestep all kinds of issues, or else alienate at least some people.
I have friends who are quite active in taking stands on issues which to some extent do end up making them overtly political in the American sense. Although their concern without a doubt is beyond that, grounded in taking a stand for righteousness, justice and truth in the face of evil. I for one not only applaud them, but sometimes have participated that way myself, and will continue to do so now and then.
I think a good question if put into proper context, and one has to keep working on that, is to ask what Jesus would do, or maybe better, what Jesus would have us to do as his followers. If we are known to be one way or another on the American political scene, even with good reason at least in our own view, might that not detract from the singular calling that is ours in Jesus? I am open to the idea that there’s room for us to make our voice heard in such areas, as nonpartisan as possible. In fact, with wisdom we surely should do so. There is a Christian climate scientist who is also a social scientist and professor who I think is doing a remarkably exemplary work, appealing well to those who are in disagreement. She is an example of how to navigate a most difficult and divisive issue in our nation in a way that is edifying and constructive.
For myself, I want to be careful to be led largely by one criterion: the gospel and my own contribution and witness with reference to that. I like to listen to civil dialog and debate which is respectful and not out merely to defend one’s position, but is open and desirous to reach a solution for the good of each individual and community, even the nation at large. Of course we’ll disagree on some points minor and major.
What the world needs in all of this is a church, and Christians who are committed above all else to one thing: the gospel, which is God’s power for the salvation of everyone who believes. And which moves us to the one domain that is actually over every other domain. The church being a unique witness to the power of the gospel both in how it lives together as one body and family in our Lord, and in calling the world to that grace and kingdom present in and through Jesus, found in the gospel through the church in the word and sacraments and common life present.
When any Christian leader makes a strong statement pro one party or candidate, and anti another party or candidate, then they step down from the higher calling into something which may be important, but will without any question alienate many from hearing anything they have to say beyond that. So that any hope of the impact of the gospel through that ministry is all but lost. There may be an exception to the rule as with Hitler in Germany and those who resisted that rule, such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but the church and its leadership should be reticent, while ready during exceptional times, to do so.
I probably think and act beyond anything else as a pastor. And I think the church should do the same under the leading of the good pastor meaning shepherd, Jesus himself. Which means we teach faithfully so that people can read between the lines and make good judgments. And we realize that our goal is not to see this or that party succeed, or even whatever policy, as important as it is, to prevail. But that the gospel might do its work, bearing and increasing the fruit that will last. With the inevitable change that is beyond what any state sphere could possibly bring.