Thursday, May 27, 2010

When Politics and Worship Intersect

If you read my last blog post, you know that we had a...let's call it interesting...corporate confession at my church Sunday. Here's the text, for those who did not read my last post:
Now is the time for fasting and prayer begging our Father's forgiveness for destroying his creation with our carelessness and greed. We are all guilty. Have mercy on this country, O Lord. Free us from our addiction. Restore your ocean. Amen.
Honestly, I was dumbfounded, and I'm still processing it, four days later. The more I meditate on it and pray about it, the more troubled I feel. I think what concerns me most about this incident was the way it was sprung on the entire congregation in the middle of our service, replacing the confession printed in our bulletin, and incorporated as part of the order of worship, in which everyone in the church was expected (per tradition) to confess it jointly.
I welcome dialogue about political and social issues and have frequently engaged in such discussions over dinner and in small gatherings, and regularly do so on social websites like facebook and twitter. But is a formal worship service the proper venue for introducing such a polarizing political subject to the church? Did anyone ask if this was an appropriate subject for our corporate confession? And who answered? Where is the opportunity for dialogue? In this case, it felt very much like a political agenda was being thrust upon the entire congregation, without regard for the fact that probably half of that congregation disagrees with the conclusions made in the confession at hand. There was no room for dialogue except after the fact, and that seems a little late, for me.
We were informed at the introduction to this confession that a member, moved by current events, penned it. I say bravo for their ability to articulate their raw emotions and opinions concisely and pointedly in what they may well consider a heartfelt prayer to God. But who decided that this confession was appropriate for the entire body?
Does this mean that the rest of the church's members are also at liberty to write confessions for our body, based on what moves us individually, and are free to present these confessions for corporate prayer? Should we expect everyone else in the congregation to share our convictions?
I am aware that our particular body represents a broad spectrum of political and social opinions. Some I personally agree with, and some I don't. But until last Sunday, I never once felt that any particular opinion or agenda was being endorsed by my church. That has suddenly changed.
Before I close, I would like to make clear that I have a great deal of respect for my church's leadership. They have always struck me as the type of leaders who put a great deal of forethought and consideration into every decision. Perhaps that is what makes this incident all the more disconcerting.
I would love to know your thoughts on this.

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