I've never really been the “box o'religion” sort. You know them. They attend church,
can quote scripture (sort of and selectively). But then they go out into the “real”
world, where they live the rest of their lives, where the demands of religion are
difficult. Predatory business practices become moral on Monday. Theft is okay as
long as it is done legally under the appropriate “Terms and Conditions.” All that
messy stuff about love and justice fits in the “religion” box. Business is business.
Politics is politics.
For me, my faith is part of every single aspect of my life. Do justice, love kindness,
and walk humbly can be challenging out there in the “real” world, sometimes making
life a little harder. But then again, we bring the tools of faith, hope, and love with us.
Jesus and the entire Israelite prophetic tradition demand that we live our faith in the
I began my active ministry 15 years ago this spring, and recently celebrated thirteen
years as an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament. For all of that time, I've stood
in pulpits and challenged congregants to go live their faith in the real world, to
change the world through their political and economic activity, to be “boots on the
ground” for justice. I focused on church stuff, my congregation, my denomination, as
well as ecumenical and interfaith partnerships. Now, someone has called my bluff
about living my faith out there in the community. I've been asked to run for City
Council and agreed to do so.
Some may be uncomfortable with this decision, preferring that I stay in the “pastor”
box. It is an oddity of white Mainline Protestants that they interpret the appropriate
separation of church and state as a separation of faith and politics. After all, the
gospel comes uncomfortable close to our privilege. Fundamentalists, the Roman
Church, and the Black Church have never had qualms about political engagement.
Senator Warnock is also Pastor Raphael.
Of course, I'll keep good boundaries. You won't hear me campaign on Sundays. I'll
just stick to what I've always done, reminding the good people in the pews that God
is good (and mysterious), and that we can make the world a better place by hearing
and responding to the challenges of the Word, Jesus and the prophetic tradition that
informed his ministry, and our own unique location on that trajectory, the Social
Gospel movement in the Protestant, Reform, Congregational, and United Church of
Christ traditions. Then again, maybe that always was just a little political...