Monday, September 29, 2008

Religion and Politics

I wrote this article for the newsletter. I am sharing it here as well, with active links to the voter guides I mention.

Religion and Politics

Perhaps you have heard me share one of my favorite analogies for faith: think about a pie. Imagine every "slice of your life" like family, school, work, activities, friendships, etc. Now, rather than imagining faith as one section of the pie, think of it as the pie plate. There is not any part of our lives apart from God. Our faith informs and sustains all aspects of our journey.

Practicing faithful reflection about all aspects of life is a vital faith practice. God wants to be a part of every decision, and has some guidance to offer. From whether to eat out tonight, to what kind of car to drive, what kids activities are important, to how to vote…all can be informed by our faith. I find it takes practice.

In the United Methodist tradition, we teach the use of Scripture, Tradition (church history and doctrine), Experience (our own experiences of God) and Reason (our God given brains) as the basis for knowing God and making decisions.

Our church has official positions on just about everything. However, to be a "good" United Methodist, there is not a requirement to agree with all of the positions. Our tradition teaches the use of Scripture, Tradition, Experience, and Reason in community and as individuals. All this is rooted in the understanding that we all "see through a glass dimly" as Paul says. One of the basic values of Jesus that is expressed in United Methodism is that God welcomes ALL people, no matter what.

As we approach another election season, I encourage you to think about how your faith informs your choices. In our Social Principles, we find these words: While our allegiance to God takes precedence over our allegiance to any state, we acknowledge the vital function of government as a principal vehicle for the ordering of society. Because we know ourselves to be responsible to God for social and political life, we declare the following relative to governments:
B) Political Responsibility—The strength of a political system depends upon the full and willing participation of its citizens. The church should continually exert a strong ethical influence upon the state, supporting policies and programs deemed to be just and opposing policies and programs that are unjust.

As citizens of God's Kingdom, our allegiance is always to God first. We have the privilege as voters in this country to have input into how our government is run, and it is both a privilege and an obligation that is to be informed by our faith.

Inside this issue, you will find a voters guide prepared by a Christian organization known as Sojourners. It has close ties with our denomination. In addition, there will be available in church a 12 page voting guide prepared by our denomination. It lists United Methodist positions on issues, and then lists the platforms of the two major parties on the issues.

I encourage you to use both guides as a resource. Read Scripture. Pray in discernment. Take seriously the truth that we are God's citizens first and always and that we are called to put others before ourselves. Also, please don't think that you must be in agreement with everyone else in our church. I know that we share a diversity of opinion on various issues among our church family. I believe it is a testimony to the power of the Holy Spirit whenever unity exists among diversity. May we never lose sight of what matters most: Jesus Christ. I hope these resources help you to feel more spiritually prepared this election season.

Striving to be faithful,
Pastor Amy