Preachers and Politicians

I have been both a politician and a preacher, but not at the same time. The Sunflower Chalice is a personal blog. It’s a place where I engage the spiritual practice of journaling and write about the spiritual, political and cultural aspects of life and my life. I find these things fascinating. I also find, that as a person of faith that these things can’t be separated. Like body/mind/spirit the spiritual/cultural/political aspects for a person of faith are deeply intertwined.

As Gandhi said:

I claim that human mind or human society is not divided into watertight compartments called social, political and religious. All act and react upon one another.

If I take my faith and convictions seriously they will influence my political views. If I am engaged in my society, I will be influenced by my culture for both good and ill, religiously and politically.

As a religious professional, I agree with (and tip my hat to) my colleague Rev. Matt Tittle at Bay Area UU Church in Houston, TX, who notes in his blog Keep The Faith in a post titled Political Do’s and Don’ts that we must start off with two assumptions:

1. I believe that religious communities should be fully engaged in addressing the moral and ethical issues of our day.

2. I also believe that the rules of non-partisanship required to maintain tax-exempt status are good ones and should be followed.

Not only do I believe that religious communities should be fully engaged in addressing the moral and ethical issues of our day, I believe that we are called/invited/compelled to do so. Our faith as Unitarian Universalists beckons us to engage such issues as the struggle for marriage equality. If we don’t, then the dignity and worth of every person are just empty words, Sunday morning platitudes. Our faith as Unitarian Universalists calls us to engage what has become a battle to save our planet from environmental destruction. If we don’t, then to claim to value the interdependent web of existence of which we are all a part or to claim to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science are again just empty words from an RE class.

Unitarian Universalists have a long and proud history of actively engaging the most pressing ethical issues of the age. It’s also important, however, while engaging in ethical issues, social justice issues to remain non-partisan. Like my colleague Rev. Tittle, I refer everyone to the UUA’s document The Real Rules, as it outlines the IRS guidelines for non-profit organizations and religious organizations being involved in political affairs (lobbying, advocacy, and elections).

Another big hat tip goes Rev. Tittle for pointing to the Texas Faith Network for their Clergy Pledge and their Layperson Pledge. I have minor quibbles with them, but otherwise think they’re worth considering. My minor issues: not all religious beliefs involve God and the phrase “appearing to endorse” in the clergy pledge. If someone disagrees with me politically, they could say, well “Candidate X supports cause Y and so do you, so you endorse candidate X.” The weak logic is apparent, but that doesn’t mean a member of a congregation or a community won’t make such a faulty accusation.

Rev. Tittle’s post and the clergy pledge made me think long and hard. I have been running a widget for a presidential candidate on the Sunflower Chalice (and what makes it more fascinating to me is that it’s been for a candidate from a political party to which I DON’T belong). I took the widget down today. I may still make posts about the election because the election and its issues affect us as people of faith in a mass media culture, but I think it right for the ad to come down. For example, this election season has much to say to us about racism and sexism that we haven’t yet scratched the surface of discussing, just for starters.

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