I received several Facebook messages from concerned friends and colleagues this week telling me that they are "praying for me." Confused, I inquired what the additional prayers were for. "Well, you have to preach this week," they responded "and this is your week to speak truth to power. To use your prophetic preaching voice!"
After reading their responses, I was even more confused. Here I thought I was using my prophetic preaching voice every Sunday.
I closed Facebook and opened the news app on my phone. Then it dawned on me. My friends messaged me to encouraging me to use the pulpit to cry out against President Trump's executive order on immigration. You can read more about it here.
Their messages got me thinking. Just how are preachers to engage with politics? Especially given that most of us preach in what I like to call purple churches. Purple is a combination of red and blue. Red being the color of the Republican Party, and blue being the color of the Democratic Party. I am learning that in that very few churches are purely liberal (blue) churches or purely conservative (red) churches. But most churches have members from all over the political spectrum. How are our churches to pursue Christian unity when we live in a country with a red or blue political system?
I think immigration is one of those issues where our red or blue political system gets complicated. On the one hand, we have a rich tradition in our country of welcoming immigrants and refugees. Many of us are children, grandchildren, or great grandchildren of immigrants. Our ancestors came to this country with nothing, and made something of themselves. We want other immigrant families to have those same opportunities.
On the other hand, we live in a country that has an immigration problem. Illegal immigration cost our country a lot of money every year. And our politicians are tasked with protecting our borders, facilitating national security, and pursing international trade agreements. Americans have asked an impossible task of their politicians- come up with a fair immigration policy that still puts America's interests first.
I carried these reflections with me this week as I prepared my sermon. In the end, I decided not to use President Trump's executive order on immigration as my sermon illustration. Mainly because I believe that Christian unity is more essential to the gospel than political affiliation. As a minister of a purple congregation, I am constantly discerning what aspects of our life together are essential to the gospel and what are not. And if individual member's political affiliation is not essential to the gospel, then I have to be careful not to confuse prophetic preaching with political protesting.
A litmus test I use to discern the difference between prophetic preaching and political protesting is by asking myself "Would you feel the same way about x if y had not happened." For example, do you actually care about welcoming the stranger, or are you just outraged about President Trump's executive order on immigration? If the answer to the second question is yes, then I know that I am no longer preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, but the gospel of Rebecca DePoe. And the gospel of Rebecca DePoe belongs in the voting box, not the pulpit.
In the meantime, I'm going to work on increasing my empathy for the stranger by meditating on Matthew 25:35-36 which I will leave you with:
'For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’