Faith Matters: Warning: I talk religion and politics

  • Rev. Heather Blais of the St James Episcopal Church in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Rev. Heather Blais of the St James Episcopal Church in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Rev. Heather Blais of the St. James Episcopal Church in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Pastor, St. James Episcopal
Published: 8/19/2016 10:43:13 PM

(Editor's note: The following is a submission to The Recorder's weekly column titled “Faith Matters.” Each Saturday, a different faith leader in Franklin County offers a personal religious perspective in this space. For information on becoming part of this series, email religion@recorder.com or call 413-772-0261, ext. 265.)

By REV. HEATHER BLAIS

Pastor, St. James Episcopal

People do not know what to do with me at a party. And not just because my jokes are pretty lame and I insist Birkenstocks remain the latest hot fashion footwear. The real reason is because my two favorite topics are religion and politics. I loved them so much that I spent my entire time in college taking as many politics and religion courses as possible before heading off to seminary. Much to the horror of hosts everywhere, I believe these two topics are inherently related and therefore cannot talk about one without talking about the other. Yet before you cross me off your party lists forever, let me explain.

Jesus calls his followers to live out our faith in the world. One of the ways we do this in the Episcopal Church is by making a promise at our baptism to “strive for justice and peace, and respect the dignity of every human being.” This means we believe that political participation is good stewardship. After all, the leaders that we will elect on Nov. 8 will have great power and authority in decisions surrounding civil rights, creation care, hunger and homelessness — all matters that have been near and dear to the Jesus Movement from the very beginning.

As followers of Jesus, we are called to vote and engage in the public square. Maybe you are enthusiastic about one of the presidential nominees and are ready to cast your vote this November. That is awesome — I hope you will work hard to get out the vote and help new voters to register to vote.

Or maybe you are feeling dissatisfied and disenfranchised by our political leaders. If you are feeling disaffected, I would urge you not to duck your head into the sand. The only thing that happens is your voice ends up not being heard at all. Even worse, unfavorable laws could get passed or unfit politicians could take office. Our community and nation is worse off without your voice and vote. Your voice matters.

Another important part of our promise to “strive for justice and peace, and respect the dignity of every human being” is engaging in civil discourse. There has been far too much hateful rhetoric in the current presidential election and it is only August. As followers of Jesus, we have to lean into our faith and find the courage and strength to advocate for leaders and public policy that will help bring healing and reconciliation to God’s world. We do this by respecting the dignity of every human being as we engage in civil discourse. We can disagree and still engage in a hearty, civil dialogue. In fact, our faith demands that we must.

Jesus once told his followers, and a rather unwieldy crowd, “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded” (Luke 12:48b NRSV). We have been given a great deal of freedom as citizens of the United States. We have also been given unconditional love, forgiveness, reconciliation and hope in our relationship with God. We cannot ignore these gifts. Instead we are called upon to live into our civic duties as American citizens, and to engage in the public square through voting and civil discourse as part of our stewardship as Christians. It is part of our responsibility as both Americans and people of faith. More importantly, it is the place where we can work to bring healing and reconciliation to God’s world.

I hope between now and November, you will break all the social norms that ask us to avoid talking about religion and politics at parties. In fact, I think it might be imperative that we begin to talk about these things a bit more with our neighbors and friends. Come Nov. 8, I hope I will see you at the polls. Now, as for that footwear …


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