There’s a line between politics and preaching, but sometimes it’s difficult to discern. At times politicians sound like preachers. At times preachers sound like politicians. Some preachers avoid politics. Others become absorbed. For those who involve themselves in offering a theological response to political decisions, there awaits a great deal of criticism about whether it’s appropriate for clergy.
I struggle with this having been ordained after decades of political involvement. My theological reflection revolves largely around contemporary issues and how political choices are informed by religious beliefs or spiritual practices. I firmly believe God calls us to ministry from the place where we have lived, the experiences of our lives. Not all are called from the same spot or for the same purpose.
I find direction in the words of the prophets. I close my eyes and easily envision Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Micah wagging long, bony fingers in the faces of the powerful. The prophets of the Bible uniformly and harshly rejected empty worship by those who failed to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless. They rejected war and violence in God’s name and decried those who clung to a belief in personal salvation while they ignored the suffering of the innocent.
There is something deep in me responding to the impact of a decade of endless war on families in our community, when I hear political leaders proclaim God but cut deals with wealthy friends to the detriment of the weak, as I meet homeless people and see hungry children on the streets of the richest country in America and hear politicians say it is they who must sacrifice even further so that the wealthiest among us can receive tax cuts.
It’s as though the Bible on which they take the oath of office says, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, and then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 3234Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are seriously blessed, inherit even more while you are yet exempt from the estate tax that would have distributed a widow’s mite portion of your ill-gotten gains to those in need…
…f3or you had all you ever needed and we gave you more, I was thirsty and you bought me a drink, I was a lobbyist and you welcomed me, 36I was clothed like a king and you judged me accordingly, when people were sick you created a health care system that profited the wealthy even more, when hard choices had to be made, you made sure those who had no voice were kicked to the curb.’
“37Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Aw shucks, 3 I’m shocked to learn those political contributions had anything to do with your judgment! Knock me over with a feather. 340And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it for my political action committee, you did for to me. “
The Bible I read tells a different story. The scripture is clear. These are not simply political, economic or social issues. They are deeply spiritual issues implicating our relationship with the Divine and with one another. Preachers must do more than quote scripture, they have a responsibility to fulfill its promise acknowledging the spiritual implications of choices about who is housed, fed, clothed, imprisoned and protected.
Rev. Rodger McDaniel is the pastor at Highlands Presbyterian Church in Cheyenne. He has a Law Degree from the
University of Wyoming and a Masters of Divinity Degree from the Iliff School of Theology in Denver. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org