I overheard an interesting conversation while grading papers at a cafe this afternoon.
Two well-dressed businessmen are having coffee, my ears perk up (involuntarily! what is it about people talking about faith in public places that always draws my attention?) when one tells the other that he is Catholic and his wife regularly attends a Catholic church. He says he would too “if there was a good priest. But this one,” he lowers his voice and surreptitiously looks around, “this one is a homosexual, a blatant homosexual. And he’s always going on about how we should be on the side of the immigrants, always so political! He’s always preaching politics, which have no place in the pulpit.”
He sees me looking at him (I can’t help but look!) and lowers his voice further, I look away, pretending not to have heard. Later on I hear him say “You know, a good priest is worth his weight in gold.” I repress my desire to say “The priest you’re talking about sounds like a very good priest to me.”
How interesting that people have such set-in-stone views about the role of church, what it is about, what it means to preach “good news,” the gospel. I wonder sometimes if these people have actually ever read the Bible, have actually ever realized how political the gospels are. There really is no getting around the fact that Jesus’ admonitions that we feed the poor, liberate the oppressed, free the captives, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, aid our neighbour – even if that neighbour is very different from us, are all actions that carry political weight these days. To be on the side of those who most need help is political, no matter how you try to frame it.
To be clear, I’m not saying that we ought to do-away with the separation of church and state or anything like that, what I am saying is that to call oneself Christian is to recognize that there are certain issues one ought to take a very political stance on. I’m also not advocating blindly following every political assertion a minister makes from a pulpit – I say this as a minister who regularly stands behind a pulpit – but I do encourage everyone to think critically about how what you believe relates to how you live your life, in all of it’s aspects, personal, political, and banal included.