Church and Politics

It’s been a very long time since I’ve blogged. Admittedly, I’ve been super busy. My older teens are leaving the nest, my younger two are both well entrenched into toddlerhood (aka, the years of getting into everything) and husband is busy much of the year traveling for work to support our hobby farm (with the hopes it will no longer be a hobby farm at some point). So, I just haven’t had anything move me enough to take time from family and work to write.

However, I’ve really been pondering an issue lately, and want to sort through my personal responses via writing, which indeed helps me process better. A few weeks ago, I was sitting in church and had finished hearing a wonderful sermon, when the Pastor announced some changes on the horizon to be added to the church articles. The statements would pertain to marriage equality, sexual identity, and rights of the unborn. I immediately felt a bit ill. I’ve known for a long time I was one of the more liberal members of my church. I’ve even visited with Pastor, one-on-one, about my position and why it made me feel uncomfortable to actually “join” the church (formally, officially) because I know my position on many social issues would differ significantly from my peers there. I also understand the church’s position – in a litigative society, they want something on the record so they couldn’t be compelled to marry someone they may not want to (like gays, or transsexuals).

Now I’m in a conundrum. I really love my church. I love the way we worship (very contemporary), I adore the Pastor (a charming, educated, personable man who is clearly devoted to God’s Word). I love the congregation (they’ve always been very welcoming to me and others that I’ve observed). Many of my dearest friends have gone there for decades, and I’ve always enjoyed their Bible studies. Their youth program is top notch, and my girls have grown in their faith through their participation. I have wholeheartedly looked forward to raising up Miles and Ruthie in this youth program. These statements, though, counter most everything I personally believe in. I struggle with having politics in my church, and previously, that has never been something I’ve felt conflicted about. I also struggle with *these* statements, because despite my religious convictions (I feel Jesus and I are pretty tight), I disagree with them.

I absolutely want separation of church and state. I recognize that for many Christians, this harkens the death toll for society, but I think they’re overlooking the fact that what they really want is Protestantism in our State, not “Religion.” If we have a Protestant-based governmental system, how would that really differ from an Islamic-based governmental system? What if, by chance, the religious ideologies of the nation shift, and we become, in the U.S., led by a faith system other than Protestantism? If you open the door to faith-based government, you run that risk. I don’t want to suffer persecution for my beliefs, and the only way to ensure that is to eliminate religion from the government. I also don’t want to see other faith systems persecuted for their beliefs under a Protestant-based government system. I love me some Jews, some Muslims, some Buddhists . . . one of my dearest friends is Wiccan, and she’s a *good* person. I can never convince myself that people who don’t believe as I do are bad people – it’s a judgment I never want to make, never want to pass along to my children as I DO try to actively socialize them to love Jesus.

I have many gay friends I love. I want them to have equal rights (marital rights, economic rights, decision making in health care rights). If I have some of my (gay) loved ones over, can I not bring them to my church? Would they feel welcomed? With such a statement on the books, I think we will intrinsically adopt a position of exclusion towards gays, and frankly, I believe Jesus would have loved them, too. Likewise with transsexuals. I realize many people subscribe to the belief that there are only two gendered options (male or female). If you believe in the idea that God didn’t make them that way, how do we explain mixed genitalia from birth? They’re called intersexuals, and as one might expect, they indicate in self-identification that they feel very torn about how to identify. In my teaching, I have a full week in class devoted towards not discriminating against transsexual/transgendered individuals. How can I be comfortable attending a church where I feel discrimination *could* be supported? I’m not positive that it *would* be, but it *could* be. Last, while I am firmly in favor of the rights of the unborn, I also support Roe v. Wade. I don’t think that the dichotomous position (pro-rights, pro-choice) are the only means to describe people (like myself) who really support life, and want to see people make alternatives to abortion, but yet also don’t want to revert to a culture where women (who don’t feel as I feel) are pursuing abortions in back alleys. Is the church taking a position that any woman who’s ever had an abortion cannot belong to the church? Cannot serve? Is there no consideration for circumstances? Is there no gray area?

Then there is how very much I have to GIVE to a church. I have a big heart for service. I admit I’m not a regular attender (err, anywhere), but I attribute that to working 50-60 hours a week, running a farm, homeschooling, and raising up toddlers. Sometimes Sunday morning rolls around and I’d rather take 15 minutes to give it up with Jesus in my personal (daily) Bible time and prayer journaling, and then cook a big breakfast for the family. And yet, I love to sign up to help with things! I can’t sing (regretfully) and I can’t work in the nursery (too much commitment), and I can’t run anything electronic (Luddite). But I can serve in many other ways! If I believe differently than these articles of faith indicate, am I to be discouraged from giving to God with my talents?

I’m in a bit of a pickle. I’ve been praying for wisdom and discernment about withdrawing from my beloved church home altogether, but I’m not there yet. I’ve tried out a couple other churches, and while they’re seemingly good places, I’ve yet to do my “Pastor talks” (where I sit down with the pastor to get a feel for church doctrine). I really wanted to raise Miles and Ruthie up in this church, which I have considered my church home for 6 years. Conversely, I don’t want to be a hypocrite about my ideological positions.

I can’t convince myself I’m the only person who loves Jesus but seeks middle ground politically. I’m sure I’ve got contemporaries out there, but I’m floundering a bit now in finding them (especially here in rural mid-Missouri). I also don’t want to bring on a “poor me” party, because I’ve got many lovely friends (many from my church) who love Jesus, know my ideologies, and love me despite them (since they don’t share them). I’m very fortunate in that regard. It might be that, even in this church, there are more there who feel as I do, but perhaps just aren’t as vocal as I am.

With a positive spin to conclude, I’m grateful to live in a country where I’m able to worship as I want, vote as I want, support whatever political causes I choose without fear of retaliation or threat to my person. So, there is that.