Name me someone who actually enjoys this time of year when your mailbox is filled with fliers from every candidate about how abhorrently evil their opponent is.
See? Like Abraham, you can’t even find one.
This political season a group of pastors decided to risk their non-profit IRS status by openly endorsing political candidates from the pulpit. I admit that up until a few years ago I didn’t know this was illegal because the pastor of my childhood did it both subtly and sometimes very overtly. Though I’m far from a conservative Republican Baptist, I think I almost admire the pastors for wanting to talk about politics with their congregation.
I have a hard time buying that we should be told who is God’s pick or that the conservative/Republican agenda is the holy one, but I can appreciate they want to discuss political issues and are even willing to take a risk for it. (Though you could of course question if they are being wise stewards of the the tithe money by jeopardizing their non-profit status).
But, as always, there is another side to all this. Tomorrow as you head to your local church to vote (well at least when I lived on the East Coast that’s where the majority of polls were, funny enough) and swell up with hope that the system will finally correct all the problems of our world, just remember that institutions don’t, and won’t, save us. There once was a structure in place where people’s sin were atoned for via sacrifices and temples and religious festivals, but it was replaced instead by a man.
The American Christian church has fallen in love with gigantic structures and programs designed to change the world. In order to manage the millions of people following Jesus as well as the millions of dollars they hand off in tithes, the church has turned to putting systems in place to achieve its goals with industrial like efficiency. I’ll even admit that it seemed like a good enough idea, as people are unpredictable, easily distracted and often not worthy of trust. However Jesus set up not an institution but a body who moves and brings about change via love.
Jesus enacted a church that operated by people making disciples of people, slowly, individually and personally… not curriculum and programs churning out disciples. And though this may not seem to have anything to do with politics, I think Jesus understood something about the human nature – that we respond to real, visceral people, not towering structures.
Don’t rely or trust institutions to do the dirty grunt work. And as much as Christians would love for it to the political system ultimately won’t resolve our problems, and Christians will still have lots of loving the poor to do. Sorry guys, we don’t get to avoid that one.
A lesson I’ve gleamed from my involvement in evangelical Christianity is that God’s movement is best left raw and organic and fueled by love, and that programs and institutions, hard as they try, don’t affect the heart. And this is because Jesus’ movement is passed on heart to heart, not head to head or through the rigidity of institutional structure.
Your turn: what good can the institutions, both political and religious, do? What do they fail to do? Do you agree the church has fallen for McDonald’s like efficiency through programs or structure?