[A revised version originally published in Unity Magazine Sep/Oct 2022 issue. Image via boardmanagement.com]
It is an unwritten rule of ministry: don’t talk about politics. I agree. Instead of politics, we should talk about governance. Politics is the partisan theater that exists around governance. It’s a polarizing and harmful distraction from the real purpose of governance: creating the policies that determine how we live with each other.
We don’t all agree on local, state, and federal laws and policies, which is probably why churches avoid talking about them. And when I say churches, I mean the members of spiritual communities that don’t want to be made uncomfortable by these discussions for fear of creating divisions or driving congregants away. It’s a convenient spiritual bypass: If we don’t talk about it, it doesn’t exist, and we can continue living under the delusion of different political affiliations harmoniously cohabitating in metaphysical bliss. Ugh.
Why should we talk about governance? Because Jesus. We call him the way-shower, but do we actually follow the way he showed us? Jesus continually questioned out loud the laws and customs that did not demonstrate love, justice, and liberation, thereby depriving individuals of their humanity. It’s why he declared the Sabbath was made for [hu]man, not [hu]man for the Sabbath: no one should starve to death to uphold a custom. It’s why he stood between the woman caught in adultery (the man conspicuously absent) when the mob were within their legal rights to stone her: human compassion trumps punitive traditions.
He knew such actions were divisive. It’s why he said, “I have not come to bring peace… I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.” [Matt 10:34-36] Let’s face facts: if we truly live as Jesus did, we’re going to upset a lot of folks because not everyone places compassion, justice, and liberation as priorities over their own beliefs, traditions, and comforts.
Governance is challenging. Ever been to a church or school board or home owners association meeting? But the real (and hard) question is, will we govern from compassion and justice, with a goal of liberation, or not? Will we create laws that make it easier to vote, expand support for the most vulnerable, protect the environment, curtail gun violence, and address the legacy of enslavement and genocide woven into the country’s founding that continues to impact us all?
Or will we create policies that limit access to voting, remove environmental regulations, restrict women’s bodily autonomy, and ban books, discussion, or instruction that address racial injustices? Such policies reflect a time based in white supremacy thinking that denied the rights of anyone who didn’t fit the ideal image: white, heterosexual, middle class or higher, able-bodied, Christian, English-speaking, American-born, or according to the latest coded catchphrase, “legacy Americans.”
The question always before us is, how do we want to live with each other? How do we want to govern each other? Do the officials we elect reflect our spiritual principles and world vision? Do we exemplify Unity principles when we cast our vote? Or do we avoid voting all together, preferring to envision our ideal world rather than help to create it?
Jesus also said, “Whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” [Matt 10:38] In other words, if we don’t live the way that Jesus demonstrated, we don’t have the right to claim him as our way-shower. How will we choose to live?