by Dr. Preston Clegg
Pastor, Second Baptist Church, Little Rock
CBFAR Past Moderator
One of my favorite writers, Jim Wallis, observes that politicians spend a great deal of time with their finger in the wind. While most people think about changing the politicians, we should be thinking about changing the wind.
The most divisive and unsettling Presidential election in US history came to a culmination this week, and the fallout continues. As one whose vocation takes place in the church, I’ve been reflecting on the role of the church in all of this. What does this mean for us? What is our place in this process and system? What might our future hold?
The painful truth is that, in a democracy, we get the candidates we deserve. It is the people- WE THE PEOPLE- who empower our leaders. We get the parties and platforms we deserve. Our politicians tend to expose our values as much, if not more, than they shape them. This is why I believe, at the core of my being, the church must help change the wind.
The gospel of Jesus Christ demands a public witness in our world. It is not just about our private souls but about the public and cosmic good. It is not so much about going to heaven as it is bringing heaven to earth. The gospel compels the church to leave the building as much as it compels the church to gather there. It summons us to seek the power of truth rather than the truth of power. And while the arc of the universe bends towards justice, the church has a role in helping push in that direction. This is a time to change the wind.
If we want a political system with a spirit of benevolence, we should model that in the way we go about having difficult conversations.
If we want candidates who stand in solidarity with the suffering and the outcast, that’s where we should have been all along.
If we want just policies, we should engage the struggle for justice in our own communities and be educated enough to spot an unjust one.
If we want a politics void of unfounded fear and paranoia, let us confront that fear with bold faith and facts.
If we are mourning our political alienation from each other, let us be sure we are cultivating beloved community in our churches.
If we are concerned about the children, let us invest in our public schools.
If we long for candidates that will tell the truth, let us guard our tongues and speak the truth in love.
If we long for candidates that embody our highest virtues, let us be sure we’re not entertaining our lowest vices.
For Christians, partisan politics is always penultimate. It does not and will not have the last word. However, politics does have very real ramifications for people, including those who are most vulnerable in our society. And politics is so much more than the person at the top. It is the expression of how we structure life and make decisions at every level of our society. It has something to do with how we love our neighbor.
Church, we are called to a work that transcends partisanship. We are propelled by a vision of a Kingdom that is more expansive than any nation. We are rooted in a story that predates the Constitution. We have all the necessary tools to be the change we hope to see.
If we want a different kind of politics, let us change the wind…and start today.