Jesus lived as a political person

Friday, Sept. 14, 2012 10:31 PM

Politics. In some gatherings it is a hot topic to be avoided at all costs. In other settings, especially during a presidential year, it is the topic of discussion. The same may be said of our churches as well. In some denominations pastors link doctrine so closely with political rhetoric that they think it is part of their responsibility to tell the faithful how to vote. In others there is little a pastor could do that would elicit the ire of his or her membership more than to broach any topic that might be interpreted as smacking of politics. And yet, we are political. Each and every one of us ... as was Jesus.

Politics — a word that comes from the Greek polis, that ancient Greek city-state and that city’s body of citizens. Polis refers to “a people” and politics is the way we organize that peoples’ common life. It is how we participate (or don’t) as part of a society. Even those who might live in a cave with little human contact are making a statement about their relationship to other humans and are, therefore, being political. Politics are part of the human condition.

We often try to compartmentalize this political aspect of our selves. We act as though it can be separated from the rest of who we are. While Jesus may never have said, “I am a political person,” he lived as a political person. His life was deeply engaged with his social context. His teaching and his actions spoke to the powers of his day. They spoke of how he understood God’s will — especially for the poor and marginalized. He drew together “a people” and taught them to live within their culture a life that was different from that culture.

Today we call this “people” the Church. But the way Jesus and the writers of Biblical scripture used the word, Church did not mean a gathering for worship as we so often mean it. It meant a public gathering to deal with community business. When you and I gather at Church in Jesus’ name, we do so to find out what it means in this place (Montezuma County), at this time (Fall 2012), to put into practice this different way of being, of relating, and of living that Jesus embodied.

We who claim to follow Jesus are called to be “salt for the earth” — salt that prevents decay and rot. We are called to be “light for the nations” — light that dispels darkness and reveals our underlying unity. Those of us who claim our place in the community of the Church and strive to gaze on our country with the eyes of Jesus, along with all our other fellow citizens, are blessed with a voice. We call it the vote. With each of our fellow Americans who longs for his or her life to have meaning — whose hope it is to live out our days in peace and harmony and leave a world of potential for our children — let us not hesitate to speak out. Let us not delude ourselves into believing that we are not political. Let us use the voice we have ... our vote.

Leigh Waggoner is priest at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church. She can be reached at 565-7865, or