The role of clergy in an election: 11-2-16
November 02, 2016
In this soul-trying election season, I've had lots of feelings of pity for voters subjected to tons of political trash to sift through.
But as I've thought about it as someone who writes about religion, I've also not envied what the nation's clergy have been facing within their own congregations.
The Denver Post recently took this look at how various members of the clergy in Colorado are dealing with the election, recognizing, of course, that if they actually endorse candidates from the pulpit they would jeopardize their tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service.
As the story notes:
"This year’s election has divided families and friends, but houses of worship across Colorado are praying for common ground, civil discourse and a focus on policies — not politicians. And they have a shared message: Get out and vote.
"For faith leaders, ministering to a congregation through the campaign is a task as individual as the church, synagogue or mosque: a rabbi tries to calm fears that fiery campaign rhetoric is fanning the flames of anti-Semitism; a pastor concedes that for evangelicals, there’s no clear choice this election, and that his flock is divided; and an imam encourages immigrants to get involved with their communities, assimilate and vote."
At my own congregation, Second Presbyterian Church of Kansas City, our senior pastor led a multi-week sermon series about issues that divide families and the electorate. It was terrific. You can watch videos of the sermons here. The series, now complete, starts with the Sept. 18 sermon.
Somehow members of the clergy must find ways to minister to the spiritual needs of people with whom they may disagree about politics. It doesn't mean they can't discuss politics. How can they not talk about it? But it does mean that their goal is not to change someone's vote but to make sure that all the voters who are members of the congregation are taking their civic responsibilities seriously and are doing it in some kind of harmony with their theology.
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THE DONALD SPEAKS TO THE CREATOR
Donald Trump has hand-written a prayer that an aide headed to Israel plans to stick in a crevice of the Western Wall in Jerusalem. It says: “May you bless the United States, our armed forces and our allies. May your guiding hand protect and strengthen our great nation.” The surprise is he didn't add this: "If you don't answer this prayer affirmatively, you will prove that the system is rigged, so rigged, believe me."