Friday, October 10, 2008

Preaching on Political Issues

image I considered deviating from my year-long Acts series this coming Sunday. 

We in Oregon vote totally by mail.  We are the only state in the union that only has the option of vote by mail. There are no polling places except your home.  (Our neighbor to the north, Washington, comes in second with maybe 70% for ballots cast by mail, according to Newsweek.) 

The voters explanation booklets came in the mail yesterday and the ballots will start arriving next week.  As soon as you get it, you can vote & send it back  (or drop it in drop boxes located around the city).  So my church folks will start voting this week.  A majority will wait until the last few days before Nov. 2, but up to 1/3 will send in their ballots weeks early. 

I can easily live with the restrictions put on us as a 501(c)(3) organization not to endorse specific candidates, [see my previous posts on this] but I do feel the need to link our faith with our right to vote in a democratic republic like ours.

So I thought it important to speak to the issues of Christian values in voting and I liked an outline I had seen by Bob Russell, of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY, on Josiah. I had torn the outline out in Aug. 07 and had set it aside for possible use.  His text was 2 Chronicles 34-36.  (esp. 34:2,31) and the story of the reforms on Josiah. 

His outline was:

  1. There is a direct correlation between the morality of a nation and its stability. "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people" (Prov.14:34).
  2. The spirituality of a declining nation can be reclaimed.
  3. Spiritual renewal demands drastic action.
  4. If real change is to occur, the leadership most likely will come from young people.

I played with it a little, and then decided not to do so, mostly because I thought it was too bland, and the last point could, in this election, be seen as favoring Barak Obama.  And both since I am undecided as for whom I will vote, as well as any congregation's propensity for reading things into what the preacher says, I decided to stay in Acts 16--although my application will deal hugely with our reaction to the economic earthquake going on around us, not only in the US, but also around the world.

I was helped in this decision by an article in the Nov.-Dec. issue of Preaching Journal.   In it Adam Hamilton says:

"When you preach on political issues in any congregation, part of what you've got to take into account is you're standing in the place of God in the pulpit. People are coming not just to hear a lecture or your opinions, but they're coming to understand what is God's will. And when it comes to addressing the issues of politics, that calls for a great deal of humility and care in how we go about addressing those issues.

"I fear that many times we as pastors have violated the commandment not to misuse God's name or to use God's name in vain by attaching God's name to our own political persuasions or positions. So we have to be cautious about it, but at the same time, we're going through a really important time of making decisions about the future of our country and our leaders, and our faith needs to be brought to bear on those issues. I like the way someone defined the issue of politics, as, 'Who gets what, when and how.' When you think about that--the issue of who gets what, when and how--is a very moral issue. Those are questions that have to do with justice. They have to do with our world view. They have to do with our faith. And so, if we're not bringing our faith to bear in the area of politics then what are we using to decide who gets what, when and how?"

As a political junkie, I have to be very careful that my words are the words of God and not the words of Cal  (even if they are correct!). 

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