By Tom Ehrich
Let’s make up a preacher joke.
A Southern Baptist preacher stands in the pulpit, waves the American flag, excoriates the President, and calls for constitutional amendments banning abortion and same-gender marriage.
“Alleluia!” his people shout. “Let ‘em have it!”
A black AME preacher speaks forcefully against oppression of minorities, income gaps in America, and begs his people to “get out and vote.”
“Preach it, brother!” his people shout.
An Episcopal preacher calls for justice, honesty in campaigning, voting rights for all citizens, and an end to scapegoating.
His people leave church tight-lipped. Then the emails start. “How can a man of the cloth bring politics into the pulpit?” “How dare you call yourself a preacher or a Christian!” “Politics has no place in the pulpit.”
So where’s the joke? That’s a good question.
Jesus, of course, was all about politics. He said nothing about sex. But he spoke constantly about power, wealth, justice, and forgiveness among enemies. I doubt Jesus would say to any of these preachers, “Keep politics out of the pulpit.” Rather, I think he would say, “If you aren’t preaching about power, wealth, justice and peace, you should sit back down.”
Why, then, do some mainline constituents get apoplectic when their preachers do what Jesus did? Clearly, some don’t want to hear any views that call their own views into question.
Some want to draw a line between faith and life – between Sunday and Monday, if you will, or between Gospel and home front.
Some, especially in the middle class, want to perpetuate the illusion that they have control and power, and don’t want to see their lives represented in a call for justice.
No one reason, but a steady drumbeat of outrage when preachers do the very thing Jesus said to do. Maybe it’s time we examined our outrage. What are we protecting? The sanctity of the pulpit or our own comfort?