On Being a Pastor With Political Views, pt. 1

If you've been around Intown for very long and you happen to be on Facebook, you have probably noticed that I often weigh in on some controversial political issues. Some of you are happy with this and have told me that my posts and comments have been helpful to you. Others have been less than enthusiastic, not necessarily because you disagree with my opinions (though that's certainly a possibility) but because you love Intown and don’t want my political commentary to create hurdles for people belonging to our church. 

I’m very sensitive to this, so let's talk:  

First, a confession: I love following politics! There is a lot that is sordid and depressing about politics but I still find this human enterprise ceaselessly interesting. In fact, I was so intrigued by the political process that I went to college and declared a political science major my freshman year. So, all the time that my parents were writing checks to Samford University, from freshmen year forward, they knew they were investing in my acquiring one of the least marketable degrees available!! (Fortunately my dad was as much of a political junkie as I was!)

For many years after college I could identify nearly all 100 senators by sight and dozens of members of congress. Oh, and I could also name the entire cabinet of whoever was in the Oval Office at the time. So, big big political nerd! I also worked for two different members of congress and hoped to make a career out of it. I even started law school, but that was the end of politics as a career (I hated law school and quit after three weeks!)

Maybe that background will help to explain why to this day I read the politics sections of "newspapers" first, just like when I was still a poly-sci major, and why of all the things that I could comment upon online, politics is almost always at the top. (Sometimes it takes a back seat to music). 

There will be a "part two" of this post coming in the next day or so, where I will discuss my guiding political principles, but for now let me share why - beyond my personal enthusiasm for the subject matter, that I'm comfortable speaking politically in a public forum.

First of all, the gospel is inescapably political. While there isn't space for a fully-developed defense of this statement, it's clear that Jesus spoke about taxes, swords, cities, the poor, government agents, violence, sexuality, crime and punishment. He comes announcing the "Kingdom" and rides into Jerusalem as a conquering king. In other words, to follow Jesus is to pursue an embodied spirituality that seeps into every corner of life. As a pastor I want those I shepherd to see this, and to learn to live in such a way that their political views are bound to and subordinate to their Christian confession. 

The second value is built upon the first. I want to model this intentional subordination of our political convictions to our confession of "Jesus is Lord" with regards to specific policies and issues. In my experience most Christians adopt a set of political positions and then seek to baptize them with the Bible. This is backwards. The overall storyline of the Bible: creation, fall, redemption, and final consummation should be foundational to and inform our political views. As we seek to construct a coherent political philosophy (and everyone should strive to do this), we should first seek to determine what overriding values, ideals, types of people, goals, outcomes, methods seem does God seem to place high value upon. The way in which we answer these becomes our lens by which we vet candidates, political parties, legislation, etc. 

Thirdly and lastly (for now), I would hope that as you read anything I write about politics or interact with me personally that not only would my opinions have some identifiable biblical linkage (though you may find the linkage weak!) but that the manner in which I hold these opinions demonstrates Christlike love. Just as we can have "correct" theology and yet be enormous jerks, so we can maintain political opinions that appear to be biblically rooted but do so without humility or charity, devoid of seeking to learn from those with whom we disagree. Even if you might dispute my conclusions I would hope that the manner in which I interact with you personally or online would inspire civility and encourage all of us to be quick to listen and slow to speak. 

Part 2, and maybe 3 coming soon!