I’m feeling yicky, like I’ve done something wrong. And, I guess I have. I walked into the middle of our adult forum at church, where the discussion was about the mixing of politics and religion at a UU church. Hmmmmmm. Where have I heard (read) that discussion lately?
The discussion was prompted, so I’m told, by the eventually anti-war sermon given the week before by a guest minister (not UU, decidedly Christian, but I am unable to divulge any more identifiers about him for fear of him losing his job by preahcing to the infidels, which, of course, is what Jesus did, or so I’m told, but that’s a post for another day). He wanted to talk about the Jewish holiday of Purim, and so he did. And in his sermon he touched on some decidedly political issues. And yet…he never said to us that we should do this, or we should do that. He simply put before us an ancient story, gave it some context, and then related it to our current-day lives. And yes, he made a dig at the current administration, and I believe he did so thinking it would be safe, there, in a house of liberal religion where he admitted he had stretched his own ideas of how he could give a sermon that danced a very thin line between addressing political topics and being political.
But, apparently some people thought he stepped over that line (one which, I will admit I don’t think this particular guest had any idea was there–I think he thought what many of us who live in an extremely conservative area think when we walk into a UU church: these are my people, I am safe here).
And he was safe. It is those of us who invited him who are not.
As I said, I walked into the discussion right smack in the middle, so perhaps I had no real right to speak. But, as a member of the worship committee who had requested the services of this particular minister (who had preached in our sanctuary on many occasions before, including that Sunday in September 2001 when our entire country was still shaking and quaking in sorrow and in shock), I felt I needed to at least ask: what about that sermon did you find political?
And an answer came, and then I ranted in response to it. Or maybe I vented. Or maybe I just went on for way too long. It’s hard to say from this vantage point of hours later. But there’s more to the story: our own minister had stood in the pulpit only a few weeks before, talking about the war and our need to end it. So, it was like a double whammy, and some people didn’t think a sermon advertised as being about a Jewish holiday could be an anti-war sermon. Go figure. (Note to self: offer World Religions as Adult Religious Education forum once again.)
So what am I feeling bad about: I’m not sure. Probably because I was loud and strident in making my case, but mostly because I did so with very little knowledge of the discussion that had been had before. I could have stepped more carefully, asked some people how the discussion started before I launched into my diatribe.
I cannot think of a greater religious statement to make though: war is wrong; this strategy isn’t working, let’s find another. As one woman said, with more angst than even I could muster: “If you are planning to offer time for a pro-war sermon to balance the scales, please, let me know because I will most certainly NOT attend.”
Is that the answer? To offer equal time? I don’t think we UUs can afford to do that right now, offer up an opportunity to say that this war, right now, is and was the right strategy all along. And I just don’t understand, don’t know that I ever will understand, how someone can stand up and recite the Affirmation of Faith and then walk out on a sermon because it offended their desire to compartmentalize what happens in that room from what happens outside it.
And that’s my trouble: I can’t keep segments of my self from spilling into the others. I can’t keep my religion from informing my politics and even vice versa. Doesn’t mean I always act the right way. Doesn’t even mean that the other people are wrong (though I think they are), but I can’t–nor do I want to–divide my religious sense of what is right and wrong in the world from dictating a need to respond to the rights and wrongs in the world. And I expect, nay, I DEMAND that the person in the pulpit challenge me to not only think difficult thoughts, but to act upon them–even when we disagree thematically and contextually.
Perhaps that’s the difference here, not so much religious or political idealogies, but that some people can segment their lives and live happily in that balance, while others mesh it all together, happily and unhappily. I don’t know. I know I just don’t want to belong to a religious body that can stand up for this particular war as it has played out. And I’m content that I do not. Do I need to make room at the table for people who feel differently? I suppose I do. But do I need to make room in the pulpit?