Wednesday, September 26, 2012

In Praise of Uncertainty

The thing I want to know is:  how can they be so sure?

There is a group of pastors participating in an act of Civil Disobedience in October 7.  To be perfectly honest, I am not one of them, though I am not totally opposed to pastors engaging in civil disobedience on occasion.  I did once stand up with a group of pastors and other religious leaders who were pleading for fair treatment for undocumented workers.

But this is different.

October 7th is Freedom of the Pulpit Sunday.  Pastors all over the country are going to speak from the pulpit on political matters, and even endorse candidates.  They take the IRS restriction on political speech from the pulpit to be offensive.  In acts of defiance, they are going to send tapes of the sermons to the IRS, daring them to take action.

And the thing I want to know is:  how can they be so sure?  How can they be so sure that they know who "God's candidate" is?

An acquaintance of mine, someone I knew long ago, and got re-acquainted with through the wonders of Facebook, told me that he would never go to a church where the pastor was afraid of the IRS.  He also told me that he would vote for the candidate who had broken the fewest of the commandments.  (I did not ask him, but thought, "How does anyone know which candidate has broken the fewest commandments?")

As for me, when I step into the pulpit, there are a few things about which I am certain, and many things of which I am uncertain.  I am certain that God calls me to forgive sinners, which means that there are sinners out there.  I am certain that God is hiding in the poor, vulnerable and unseemly among us, and that God's work gets done in the unlikeliest of ways.  I am certain that God calls us to do justice and love kindness.  And I will admit that I have certain opinions about the best policies to follow to make sure that we do justice and love kindness, but I am not so deluded as to think that my opinions are the same as God's truth.

The thing is:  I am not tempted to endorse candidates from the pulpit, but it's not because I'm afraid of the IRS.  It is because I do not believe that endorsing candidates is what a pulpit is for.  I don't think it's the preacher's job to tell the people in their congregation who to vote for.  I think any preacher who stands up and endorses a candidate from the pulpit is abusing the power of the pulpit.  I'm really sure about this.

There was a time long ago that I spent among the Certain.  They were fervent Christians who explicated the Bible, had prayer meetings, sang heartfelt songs.  There were some things I loved about worshipping with this group of people.  They were Certain about who was saved and they were Certain about who was not saved.  They were Certain about how we should live our lives, and what it meant to be a true believer.

It came to me gradually that there was an understanding that a person could only vote one way and be a Christian.  And I was certain that they were wrong about that.   I am certain that God works in our political system, and I am equally certain that God does not work through one party or the other.   God's in the mess, that's what I believe, and that's what I hope.  And that the love of God will eventually embrace and redeem us all.

If the IRS ever tells me that I can't preach the love of God for everyone, I'll be the first to send them a tape.

And folks:  if that time ever comes, that's when we will need to practice Civil Disobedience.  I'm certain about this.


Jan said...

Well done, Diane! You continue to speak truth that is both profound and personal.

Wormwood's Doxy said...


Di said...


Fran said...

I put this on my Facebook page, and I have sent it to many people. What prophetic words you write! Thank you.

Diane said...

I'm humbled. I still feel like I have not captured all I have to say.

Terri said...

I have ventured very close to this issue in recent past. It seems all the more political because when I reflect on my childhood upbringing in the Mormon Church I tread a fine line that one could interpret as endorsing one candidate over another, even though I don't mention names or political parties. All I mention is how one's world view might be formed and informed by certain teachings of your church and therefore how you might respond to social justice issues.

I do think that religious voices need to be in the public eye - but mostly so people can understand that our voices are varied and not of one mind.

I will not be participating in this act of civil disobedience on Oct. 7 - hadn't even heard of it, actually until now.

Thanks, Diane - you offer a good perspective on this.

Diane said...

Terri -- I think you are right that we need to speak, so that people know that there are different perspectives in different faith traditions, and even different perspectives in the same faith tradition. I also believe that the pulpit is a powerful place, and that in many traditions, when a pastor is in the pulpit he or she speaks for God. does God endorse a candidate? Or does God call all candidates, and all of us, to hear God's calls for justice?

Terri said...

Diane, yes you raise a good point - I didn't really address the idea of using the pulpit to preach for or about specific candiates. I was thinking more about issues not people per se.

I don't think God calls any of the politcal candidates, that's what we humans do. Therefore I don't think we should use the pulpit to endorse candidates. I do think we need to speak about issues and let people decide which candiate in their minds best addresses the issues.

(and, if I am not making any sense or am rambling, blame it on this horrible head cold and decongestants)..LOL

Margaret Sch. said...

This message is sooo awesome! I am proud to have heard many loving sermons of yours. (Sorry it's been awhile. But we know God's love is everywhere, at all times.) I did not know about this planned action of Civil Disobedience, and frankly, I hope the IRS will revoke the tax free statuses of those who participate and flaunt it. Why should they disrespect the privilege of tax free status so offensively??? Anyway thank you for this message. It is peacemaking and reassuring and loving and just all round awesome!

Diane said...

Margaret -- I hope to see you again soon somewhere. Give me a call sometime, if you can.