Pastoring and Politics

Pastoring and Politics

I don’t know how to be political. And I don’t know how not to be. What a minefield as a spiritual leader! Saying something about political issues is, well, political. Saying nothing about political issues is too. Saying something about political issues will, inevitably, garner thanks and affirmation from those who agree with what I say, or with those who assume they agree with what I say. Saying something about a political issue will, inevitably, garner criticism or disconnection from those who disagree with what I say, or from those who assume they disagree with what I say.

Too much of such communication, agreement, disagreement, applause, and rebuttal takes place on social media, which is a horribly limited platform, algorithmically designed to produce echo chambers of pseudo-connection and pseudo-communication, allowing just enough of the real thing to keep us coming back for more of the same dysfunction. As soon as I finish this blog post, I will post it on Facebook, I assure you.

My own motives are multilayered and messy. As far as I know, everyone else may be far more clear and focused and altruistic than I am. But I like to be agreed with, and that’s a terrible motive for voicing an opinion. And…I also like to be disagreed with. Perhaps this is an even worse motive. I like to be right and popular. I also like to be thought of as novel, challenging the status quo. If I could find a way to be a popular pioneer, then certainly all of my long-nurtured insecurities would find satisfaction.


I like to signal my virtue. I especially like to signal my virtue about knowing just who else is signaling their virtue. It’s like complaining on Facebook about how many people complain on Facebook. I like to point out just how aware I am that others are voicing their political opinions just to signal the rest of us that they “get it,” that they are “in the know.” If you could just be aware of how aware I am of how aware you think you are, that would be great.

But not all my motives are so convoluted and messy. I actually do want to have a healthy perspective on the political and social issues of our day. I want a kingdom perspective. I want to make a difference. Ideas matter. Sharing ideas is important. I am on a journey of deconstructing old (to me) evangelical assumptions about society and politics and the kingdom of God. I am on a journey of discovering that the gospel is intrinsically political, but not in the sort of way that I experienced in my youth.

Is separatism the answer? Should we withdraw from political engagement and focus on building an alternative culture that stands outside of the authorities and powers of this age/world system? We gather, worship, pray, love, serve the poor, welcome the foreigner…or…

Is engagement the answer? If so, how? Local, state, federal? Partisan? Do I just buy into the conservative/liberal binary thinking, choose the best side I can square with the Bible and then “get the vote out?” I’ve spent most of my life as a single issue partisan voter and I can’t exactly report that I’m thrilled with the results of that so far.

Anyway, I say all this to try and communicate that I’m still on a journey. I don’t have this all figured out. It matters but it isn’t obvious. It’s significant but it isn’t simple. I’m hoping that others can be gracious with me on this road. I’m learning how very much I need to be gracious with others whose journey looks a little different than mine.

3 Replies to “Pastoring and Politics”

  1. I appreciate openness and honesty. When I finish reading your post and have to go back and read it again I take that as a good sign. It helps me! It leaves me challenged! THAT I can deal with. How else can we have dialog? THANKYOU for being bold enough to say you don’t have it all figured out. I’m with you!

  2. How funny! and how transparent.

    Politics has become so horribly divisive (even much worse than the divisions theology can cause), and now our President is backing off the 501(c)3, which opens the door and invites our pastors to join the political discussion again. I think this is a good thing, as 1) much of the American Revolution was galvanized by the clergy, and 2) why should everyone else except the church be allowed to express their political opinions these days? The Johnson amendment, which gave the church a tax exempt status (which it already had) in exchange for political silence, has bought us supreme court decisions banning prayer and Bible study in the schools, legalized abortion, and now gay marriage.

    Hmmm…maybe it’s time for the church to start speaking up again in the public arena, before Christianity itself is outlawed, first through redefining “discrimination” and forcing Christian businesses to do business that directly contradict their Biblical beliefs, and next, declaring that it is proper to persecute those who do not toe the liberal agenda.

  3. Truth!! I am a black and white person in morality and yet want to love. My lack of posting on politics is not disconnection from my beliefs, it is an inability to support something without alienating real people. It is hard!

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