Politics is a four letter word it almost all American evangelical churches. It is seldom mentioned in prayers, sermons, or announcements describing the activities of the church. Addressing the topic in church would be tantamount to discussing NFL playoffs at a ladies tea. It is just inappropriate. It is interesting that we have opened the door to virtually every other topic in church, even priding ourselves on our openness to talk about sex and other previously unmentionable issues. But politics; not in church.
I find that this political abstinence serves as source of discomfort to me virtually every Sunday as I sit through the service wherever I find myself attending church. Throughout the week politics comprises a major aspect of life, infiltrating every area of our existence. We find more women in Muslim dress, more people speaking Spanish, more topics becoming politically incorrect, changes in healthcare, alterations in school curricula, battles over gun ownership, marriage being redefined, even the mandatory design of our toilet tank, and a list of other political influences in our existence that could go on ad infinitum, and thus comprising a significant segment normal American life.
In addition, news, which describes for us the important events taking place, is comprised mainly of political issues. Many conversations focus on political issues. One reason for this is that the most pressing issues of our time our political, driving the direction of our nation to include our financial well-being, the legitimate role of church in society, moral issues, and other factors that form the foundation of our existence, factors that are being rapidly transformed in the day in which we live, making politics critical to our existence.
Then I get to church and it’s all gone, checked at the door, scrubbed from the culture. To me it not only feels weird, but in addition it leaves me with a sense of artificiality, like we are playing at life rather than engaging in it. It conveys a “holier than thou” attitude, as if the church is too holy to dirty its hands in the messy business of politics. It reminds me of the priest and Levite walking on the other side of the road in the story of the Good Samaritan, not wanting to bloody themselves by the real life ministry confronting them.
It is interesting that the extent to which the evangelical church does acknowledge political issues and engages in them is carried out in parachurch organizations. It is as though the church, the assembly of believers on a Sunday morning and the structures supporting it, are to sanctified to deal with political issues directly, so if we are going to engage in them at all we must contract out this type of business, consigning it to exist on the outside of the church walls, only occasionally inviting it in to fill baby bottles will change or commit a Sunday to the persecuted church.
Even these engagements with political realities seem strange, like they constitute invasions of the church, entities that really shouldn’t be there. We will be glad for next Sunday when we get back to real church life, which is not real-life at all.
What drives this omission of such a salient segment of our existence from church? I plan to address that topic next week.