It’s happening again. Churches are being encouraged to get involved in politics by using their worship space as the venue in which worshipers can sign petitions that speak out for, or against, certain governmental policies.
In April 2012, prior to November’s General Election, the Roman Catholic Church in Washington State, and other statewide mainline Christian denominations, held petition signings during their worship services in an attempt to shoot down Referendum 74 which was drafted to acknowledge marriage equality between men and women who chose to marry someone of their own gender. Politics invaded that worship space, thus blurring or obliterating the line that separates spiritual church practices from government policy.
Earlier this week, a local Seattle area church capped off their worship service by offering Letters to the President for church members to sign supporting restrictions regarding gun control. Today, President Obama announced the formation of a commission on gun control and encouraged the American people to help change the current gun laws in an effort to reign in gun violence, and to focus on improving access to mental health services. You’ll hear no argument from me on that effort – I might sign any worthwhile and well-thought out petition that is not being promoted by any religious leader and not being made available in any church organization’s worship space. In today’s statement, however, the President asked for the help of mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers, Pastors, and the like, to be a part of this effort because he can not do it by himself. It is my hope, however, that these efforts will not be cloaked in the trappings of religious beliefs or precepts. Standing at the pulpit trying to persuade church attendees to support more rigorous gun control measures – or to not support such measures – is an abuse of the pulpit.
Surely there are other non-pastoral men and women who can provide the same well-thought out petition signing opportunities centered around gun control and mental health issues in more public and civic settings.
Retail locations, libraries, city and county government offices, and – dare I say it – school campuses – come to mind as more appropriate locations for such efforts. Those close to me know that I am a well-read, spiritually sensitive, and globally aware human being. I’m outspoken and painstakingly fair in what I believe and in what I support, but on this issue I can not back down: anything politically motivated must be separate from all that is housed within the walls of ones worship space. You don’t have to believe as I do, that’s your right. I am simply, yet passionately, proposing that any efforts such as were introduced today, not be cloaked in the vestments of religion.