Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about the role of the pastor in a politically heated climate. I believe firmly that there is a key feature of how all pastors should interact with most of partisan politics: silence. I say that not because I may lose members of my congregation by making highly partisan statements, nor because I may get bad press. I say that because in a world filled with political talking heads, my people need a pastor more than ever. The way I understand it, the role of a pastor is twofold: prophet and priest.
The priestly side of my job involves all of those moments where I am the nurturing, comforting presence of Christ in the world of an individual. It is those moments sitting next to a student while they are grieving, counseling a mother at her wits end, or walking a someone through how to study the Bible. In the realm of hot political topics, it is being a calming presence helping people find the image of God in each other.
That does not mean that we do not engage seriously with the world around us. The oft-confused role of the prophet is to call the people back to God. In the scripture, this included dramatic statements and dramatic actions to help the people see how they had drifted. But here’s the key: the people were drifting from God. The focus on the prophet is the divine. The peoples’ actions were not the focus, it was how their actions separated them from God.
The prophet at times pointed out how being calloused bigots separated them from God and at others how their open, permissiveness was doing the same. In a heated political climate people need pastors, in their prophetic role, to help them remember that God is their focus, not a political party or stance.
It is our role to point to the wild injustice that goes unnoticed as millions of children are trafficked in modern day slavery, as over 1 billion people live in deplorable conditions of the world’s urban slums, and, though the world produces plenty of food, 16,000 children die from hunger each day. It is our role to talk about the death of the church in Europe and its massive decline in America. It is our role to lift up the person of Jesus and call people to turn away from their elephants or donkeys and run as fast as they can to his feet.
So I will vote as always because I love my country, but I will keep my political pie hole shut so that my people can have the pastor they need in what can be difficult political times.
Jeremy Steele has been working in youth ministry for the past fifteen years and now serves as the Next Generation Minister at Christ United Methodist Church in Mobile, AL. He writes for Group Magazine, RETHINK Church and various publications and organizations. You can find a link to all the places he contributes on his website at JeremyWords.com.