A Pastoral Letter on Politics and Abortion
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” --John 18:36 The Church has always had a strange relationship with the State. On one hand, Christ is Lord of all (2 Corinthians 4:5). On the other, Jesus has no desire to take political control of the world (John 18:36). The New Testament variously sees the government as something to obey (1 Peter 2:13), something to disobey (Acts 4:18-20), something controlled by God (Romans 13:1), and something under the dominion of evil (Luke 4:5-7).
The modern American political climate is especially difficult. Politicians use and abuse religion. Both parties use god-talk when it’s convenient, and both appeal to Christian values. God’s people are manipulated for votes and money. Things that Christians historically care about (care for the poor, protection of human life, peace, justice, care of creation, freedom of religious practice, etc.) are parceled out among the various political factions.
Often, Christians disagree about how to live out our faith in the political sphere, and what policies best convey our beliefs. We believe in caring for the poor, but is that best done through lower taxes on employers or in extending welfare coverage? We believe in peace, but should we support military intervention in a particular conflict or not? There is rarely a perfectly Christian answer to a political problem.
Unfortunately, a number of churches and denominations have been co-opted by political parties and factions. Church leaders, seemingly wishing to serve the cause of Christ, have made common cause with political groups. Generally speaking, this has not worked out well. Our witness has too often been compromised.
It is the policy of Church of the Redeemer not to allow ourselves to be compromised in this way. We do not support candidates, parties, or factions. We do not hold political rallies, we do not distribute political flyers. This is not because we are afraid of violating a law or an IRS code. Rather, it’s because we genuinely put the Gospel first and do not wish to champion secondary issues. We never want to be a Republican church or a Democrat church. We want to be Christ’s church.
I was recently approached by some good people in our congregation. They asked if I could share some information regarding a vote that is coming up, a vote that seeks to amend the Tennessee State Constitution. If this vote passes, it is possible that the state legislature might be able to restrict abortion more than it is presently restricted. I told them I would not allow the distribution of materials, or a meeting about the matter, but I would write a pastoral letter. I do not ever want someone to walk into our church, see a flyer or a poster, and think “this church is for Republicans” or “this church is for Democrats.” Political information, no matter how well intentioned, will almost always give this impression.
Now, to the specific matter. Abortion is a moral evil. In fact, the taking of any human life is a moral evil. Sometimes, such as in self-defense or war, taking a life is better than the alternative. It is better to shoot a violent attacker than allow your child to be killed. Other times, such as in the case of abortion or euthanasia or the death penalty, it is almost always avoidable.
Abortion is sin, but it is not an unforgivable sin. In our congregation are women who have had abortions, and men who have encouraged abortions. If you are one of these people, I have a message for you: you are loved, accepted, and forgiven in Christ. I accept you, and I believe our entire congregation accepts you. You are more than welcome here—you are dearly loved.
As a Christian and a representative of the Church, not as a Republican or Democrat, I would prefer that there be less access to abortion in our state. I would prefer there be no abortions in our state. I would also prefer our state end the use of capital punishment, do more to fight hunger and homelessness, better educate our children, encourage adoption, and a whole host of other things. The Church should help these things happen as well.
You might disagree with me about something I say in this letter. That is your right, and I respect you. The only thing members (not visitors, who can believe whatever they wish!) of our church must agree on is the Nicene Creed. The Creed has very little to say about most modern political conflicts.
All that said, I think this “Amendment One” is worth considering. Voting yes on this amendment might help curtail abortion in our state. I think that is a good thing. If you would like to learn more, I found a completely non-partisan website on the issue. On this website, you can find links to what both sides are saying, as well as other interesting information. Here is the link: http://goo.gl/8zwnam
I encourage every Christian, and every member of our congregation, to consider their political opinions in the light of our religious beliefs. I encourage everyone to engage in the political process, especially if you can find a way to do it that benefits the cause of Christ. Prayerfully consider each vote you are asked to cast, and do what you believe you are called to do.
Peace in Christ, our one and only King.
The Reverend Thomas McKenzie Pastor, Church of the Redeemer