When in polite company, they say to never talk about POLITICS or RELIGION. So when preachers do it, it can get messy. In fact, if you’ve been wondering how to get 50% of your people riled up, start preaching on politics. Preachers, since the beginning of preaching, have disagreed on whether or not the pulpit is the appropriate place for politics. Still today, there is much disagreement on the best way forward.
If you preach expository, or through each book of the Bible, you can’t avoid talking about the issues of politics, how society is organized and how it is governed. If you are a thematic or topical preacher, you have the opportunity to preach on politics on a regular basis. And I’m sure you’re people wonder where you stand (or your church).
Skye Jethani has made the point that if you don’t talk to your people about politics, then someone else will. That someone else could be politicians, whatever news source your people are watching, pundits or their family and friends. Part of our role and preachers is to help our people think biblically. While I do think the pulpit is NOT the most effective environment to tackle sensitive issues, I do think the preacher needs to address this.
But before we do we need to ask ourselves some honest questions. The first question we need to ask is:
How do I define politics.
This is the first step. Politics can seem like a dirty word, but the reality is politics is how we decide to live together. A few years ago Rob Bell put out a podcast called Politics and guns (Episodes 54-59). It is a bit lengthy, but I think he does something very few pastors or preachers do. Regardless of what you think of Bell or gun policy, he was able to DEFINE POLITICS using the example of salsa.
- If we have tomatoes, onions, peppers, do we make salsa with it?
- What kind of salsa?
- Who decides?
This is what makes politics so complicated. We are deciding as a culture how to live together. In our world this means Christians, non-Christians, atheists, agnostics, and nones all have to compromise. And sometimes there are winners and losers.
What are my political leanings?
As preachers we are not apolitical. Meaning, we have our own views, opinions and convictions. We need to be aware of those biases because they will leak out if we are not. The danger here is that if we are unaware of our own political bias’ we end up preaching them rather than preaching the Scripture. It’s ok to have opinions, its ok to have convictions, its NOT ok to preach those as the facts. Even if we hold strongly to certain views or positions, we need to let the Scriptures speak for themselves, and the Holy Spirit has been doing this for thousands of years.
Have I sat down and wrestled with the other side?
Often, we never reach out to those different political viewpoints. Instead, we stay in our echo chamber. We talk with people who believe the same way we believe, live in neighborhoods with those who think like us or consume media that supports our view of the world. Wrestling with the other side means that you read books and newspaper that don’t support your position, you are actively reaching out to people that don’t agree with you, that you are reading books that don’t support your position. By doing this, it will give you a broader perspective.
Have I demonized those I disagree with?
The truth is, as human beings it is easy for us to demonize the other side. Republicans hate democrats, democrats hate republicans everyone hates the libertarians. And as pastors we need to recognize when we are demonizing others, rather than loving our enemies. This will come out in our preaching. Before we make an effort to speak on politics, we need to reflect on the condition of our own hearts before we get up and speak.
Before you preach on politics, you need to do the hard work of soul care. If you haven’t, you are not ready. Because when you preach on politics no one will be happy with you, but you can preach in a way that Christ is honored, people are challenged and disciples are able to grow deeper.