Marilyn Sewell writing for the Huffington Post touches on a familiar, but nagging question. Why do churches feel more comfortable asking their members to give to charity than to advocate for change.
When I became a parish minister, I began to understand why almost universally churches will avoid political action in favor of charitable deeds. For one thing, churches are populated mostly by middle-class people, who are relatively comfortable. And ministers of these institutions value stability more than mission. We professional leaders are reluctant to do anything that would cause conflict or controversy in our churches, fearing an institutional split — or at the very least, a reduction of gifts to the church.
Some church people wrongly believe that churches will lose their tax-exempt status if they take a stand on political matters. But the tax code is clear: churches and ministers may speak out at will on any issue, so long as they do not engage in partisan politics — that is, advocate for one candidate over another.
Other people believe that politics is worldly and not therefore suitable for an institution given to spiritual endeavors. Realistically, however, we must understand that politics determines everything from assuring that we have clean drinking water to deciding when we go to war. And politics determines how the abundant resources of this country are shared — or not shared. These issues, which are decided in the political arena, have moral dimensions which churches can hardly ignore, if we are to be taken seriously as a religious people.
So, are churches too timid in pursuing justice?