“There is no such thing as being non-political. Everything we say or do either affirms or critiques the status quo. Even to say nothing is to say something.”
– Richard Rohr, in the introduction to “politics and religion” issue of Oneing: An Alternative Orthodoxy
I attended a workshop on “preaching and politics” at the 2019 NEXT Church national gathering in Seattle. I attended the workshop because I have been uncomfortable preaching anything that smells political, fearing it might cause division within our politically diverse congregation. And yet, anxiety around the state of our nation plagues all, whether on the right or left. Am I willing to preach a radical vision of the Kingdom of God, even if it disrupts our political perspectives? How do I do that without becoming polarizing?
The workshop didn’t offer any silver bullets, but its panel of speakers (including Outlook editor Jill Duffield) offered wisdom. Here are some of the nuggets I gathered:
- Begin with confession, especially if you are pastoring a context that benefits from the status quo.
- Go deeper to the spiritual issues beneath the headlines.
- Paint a vivid and vibrant picture of the Kingdom of God.
- Don’t be afraid of conflict but be willing to embrace it when discussing complex issues.
- Tell the truth, even if it costs you.
- Articulate your moral framework (i.e. your rock bottom beliefs) so that when you’re challenged by someone regarding a political sermon, you can explain your point of view.
- Face fear with faith.
I heard over and over again at the NEXT Church national gathering that we need to break the silence, especially in matters of racial injustice. Breaking the silence, especially when I’ve experienced comfort in the silence, takes courage and intention and lots of prayer. I’m grateful for the insight of preachers who have broken the silence and model it for me.
RACHEL YOUNG is the associate pastor of spiritual formation at Clear Lake Presbyterian Church, in Houston, Texas. She is married to Josh, who also serves on staff at Clear Lake Presbyterian as the director of contemporary worship and media.