Thomas McKenzie
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Why I (Rarely) Mix Religion and Politics

Over the past few days, I have posted on Facebook and Twitter about my opposition to an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees coming into the U.S. (and, yes, the ban on that group specifically is indefinite). I also wrote a blog post, which I emailed out to my personal mailchimp subscribers . 

As I suspected, I have received both positive and negative feedback. I received one e-mail from a man I love who goes to our church. He was concerned that I am being divisive and potentially damaging the congregation. I take that very, very seriously. It is my desire to lay down my life for my church. So, I wrote him back. I thought what I said might be helpful, so I'm offering it to you.

Dear friend,

Thanks for reaching out. I deeply value you, and your feelings and thoughts on this. I also agree that there will be other folks in our congregation who are unhappy but who won't, for whatever reason, feel like they can reach out. I hope you know that I am always, always, open to people expressing their opinions on anything.

I agree that politicizing the church is a bad idea, and quite dangerous. That is why I keep any political opinions I have out of the church. Even in this refugee issue, which I don't see as about politics, I haven't used the church communications to advance my concerns. You won't see me e-mailing the church, posting on the church's Facebook account, putting up posters, or anything like that. 

I have all kinds of political ideas, 95% of which I keep to myself. But, sometimes I feel like it's necessary for me to take a public and personal stand. So, a few days ago I posted my opposition to abortion. That drew some heat, of course. But, the Church position is that abortion is a moral evil. And when I say "Church," I don't mean simply Church of the Redeemer. I mean the world-wide Christian Church.

On the issue of refugees, I hear you when you say you are feeling that it is, at its base, about politics. I can assure you, my concerns about Syrian refugees have nothing to do with political parties. For me, this is an issue of the way I practice my faith. I have always preached about our need to be hospitable, to do justice, and to serve the poor. This is part of the Gospel. 

Now, can someone disagree with me about the President's position and be a Christian? Of course! Can they disagree with me and still serve the poor? Absolutely! You are a great example of this. You certainly serve the poor, more than most people, and you disagree with me.

In the Church, people will disagree. And I think that's OK, it's part of the dynamic of a living entity. I think the Church should stand apart from politics, but it can't stand apart from public moral discourse. As a Christian, I sometimes feel it is my duty to voice my Christian opinion. And, you may know, that major leaders of the Roman Catholic, Reformed, Evangelical, Mainline, and Southern Baptist denominations in the U.S. have all taken a similar position to mine. 

I think that there is real danger in America right now because we are so politically divided. People just yell at each other from behind their barricades.  I think the Church can serve an important function. We can disagree with each other, even publicly, and still love each other well by being respectful, merciful, and tender with others. I hope I've demonstrated that on-line and in person. If I haven't, I am truly sorry. 

I'd be happy to talk to you about this, or continue the conversation electronically, any time.

Many blessings to you,

Thomas+

Thomas McKenzie