Sunday, June 17, 2012

Church and Politics, Again

The last post on this blog was criticized for being too pious and self-righteous, apparently because I didn't indicate what issue the caller was promoting.  I can see the person's point, even though my intention was simply to steer clear of charged political issues.

I was not attempting to make myself out to be better, or more spiritual, or more pious, or more enlightened than someone else.  I apologize to that person, whoever it is, that was offended by what I wrote.

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Here, perhaps, is what I should have written about that encounter.

While I was in my office the other day, working on Sunday's sermon and a couple other things, I got a call from a political operative.  This woman, who was very polite (and I presume, kind as well) wanted to know if I would consent to having some petitions available on Sunday morning for the congregation I serve to sign.

The petitions she wanted to bring are in support of the 'personhood amendment' (an amendment which would constitutionally define the beginning of life as the moment of fertilization).  She may not have been, but she seemed baffled that I (a member of the clergy and a student of scripture) would not want to support this amendment.

To tell the truth, I do not support this amendment.  I believe that there are many matters more pressing on us as a society, which (I believe) need to be dealt with before we're ready to broach this subject.

At the same time, if someone were to approach me on the street with this petition, I'd sign it ~ see, I believe that signing a petition in support of having an issue on the ballot is not the same thing as agreeing with the promoters of the petition.

But this is not why I refused to allow these petitions to be available at the congregation I serve.  The reason is that the membership of my congregation has not decided, as a congregation, that we will support this petition.  And to have them available on Sunday morning would imply that we do.

The question that this petition, in support of the 'personhood amendment', addresses is one on which people of deep faith disagree ~ and to have it available at worship would imply congregational support.  I cannot speak on behalf of the congregation I serve on this issue, and so I cannot make this petition available.

Further, the phone-caller did her best to convince me that Jesus would agree with her, and that I was wrong to not let her send these petitions.  She did her best to convince me that Jesus was a political figure, and that I ought to be working politically on behalf of those who can't speak for themselves.

I, for one, am reluctant to state definitively that I know the mind of G-d.  Others, smarter than I, have said that whenever G-d's opinion and mine are always in sync, I've succeeded in making G-d in my image. 

My reading of scripture leads me to believe that there are more important issues to deal with before this one.

According to an article found on Wikipedia, the population of the world reached 1 billion in approximately 1804.  Today, the world's population is over 7 billion.

The truth is that there are issues which are part of our reality today that those who were inspired to write scripture never could have imagined; for instance, overpopulation, globalization, the capacity of the planet to feed everyone who is alive, the degradation of the environment ~ issues that we are only beginning to recognize and which we have not begun to be able to responsibly address.  

In my opinion, questions of poverty and hunger and housing and environmental degradation need to be dealt with soon (before the question of the moment when life begins). 

Additionally, I see the Torah and the Prophets and Jesus talking way more about the injustices of poverty and hunger than I see them talking about the beginning of life. 

You should also know that I don't think my refusal is based on or motivated by my personal opinion that this amendment should not pass.  For instance, I believe that same-gender couples should be allowed to be married.  However, if someone wanted to make a petition available to my congregation that supports an amendment to that effect, I would also not allow that one.

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I hope that's satisfactory, Mr. or Mrs. Anonymous.


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