I've got two ideas for posts rumbling around in my brain right now, and they're kind of connected, but I'm not entirely sure how. Bear with me. Or don't. I don't care. :)
As you likely know, churches are tax exempt. This is ostensibly because income that churches make is from their congregation and is meant to serve the community, so taxing it doesn't make sense. Why would you tax something whose sole purpose is to benefit the community. That said, there aren't any regulations on the spending of that money, and the church itself gets to decide what is a benefit to the community. Are anti-abortion protests a benefit to the community? Of course not, I say. Of course yes, say the Catholics. And what about the American mega-churches whose pastors can be paid hundreds of thousands per year, and their outreach is negligible? What of the churches who pretty clearly preach a political ideology? Do any not?
I've heard people saying religion needs to stay the fuck out of politics. Not possible. Literally impossible. Because religion doesn't exist in a vacuum. Our religious beliefs inform our politics. And they should. If my interpretation of my religious scriptures tell me that I must feed the hungry and heal the sick, my only
option to make that happen outside my own personal sphere is political. I must
vote for those who would do that. If my religious beliefs include a love of all people, I must vote for those who would not legalize or keep legal discrimination against those people. If my religion teaches a profound love and respect for the planet, I can't very well go voting for the party who would destroy the land for profit. And furthermore, if I were the minister, preaching the sermon each week, making the scripture relevant to what is going on today is going to be inherently political.
I have never, ever, heard a minister overtly tell me which party to vote for. I have heard "vote with your heart, not your wallet", "remember when you vote that the planet was God's gift to us, to live in harmony with, but not destroy", "God loves. Just loves. No exceptions. EVER. Remember that when you vote".
Yes, I know that some do get more overt than that. A clergy member who is a neighbour of mine sent me an email saying "Our Prime Minister needs our help", asking me (and the rest of his email list) to help out Stevil on something. I fired back a retort about how we need HIS help, and if we ever got it, he wouldn't need ours. I'm off the mass-email list. And yeah, I think that's crossing the line. Big time. I'm not sure how to crack down on that.
Churches are charities. They are bound to the same rules as charities. I'm good with that, except that I think there should be tighter rules on spending. Churches and other charities should be required
to spend a certain amount of their income on actual outreach, helping people in some way. And there should be a salary cap on each paid employee. Most decent churches would not have a problem. The ones who would are the ones who are barely afloat. Two things could mitigate their situation: 1) Volunteer work in lieu; 2) lower the percentage on churches/charities with incomes under a certain amount.
Trying to cut politics out of religion just isn't possible. I can't even imagine what a sermon would be, if there were no politics. Bible study? A dubious "history" lesson? Church is where I learned about the solar energy project
at the T'sou-ke First Nation and about the Ancient Forest Alliance
. Sure, I could have learned about it anywhere, but I got a theological perspective on the preservation of the earth out of it that I wouldn't have gotten elsewhere.
And that was the second thing. A theological perspective of environmentalism. The minister talked about the creation stories (and made very clear that they were stories, not history) and what they meant to him as a Christian. Myth can hold a lot of truth without having a lot of facts. He taught that God gave us the earth as a gift, a living gift to love and treasure, not to have dominion over. I'm not entirely sure I agree with that. I'm more of a panetheist than that. I'd say that God permeates the earth. When we destroy the earth, we disrespect God. Destroy God? I don't know. But I do truly believe that we do not own the earth, we are part of it. And that as Christians, we are bound to preserve it.
And our ministers, our pastors, our preachers? Their job is to teach us, lead us, and set an example for us. They must preach conservation. Kindness. That the poor deserve respect. That all people deserve food, water, medicine, shelter, clothing, regardless of their incomes. That all human life has value. That the death penalty is immoral. All those things are political statements.
Paraphrasing a sermon I once heard: If politics and faith don't mix, there is something seriously anemic about our faith, or something seriously suspect about our politics. Vote for the candidate or party who can do the most for your neighbour. Jesus told us to love our neighbour as ourselves. So think about your neighbour when you vote.
p.s. Just read that the minister at my church said of Crusty Clark: Forgive her Lord, for she knows not what she tweets. LOL.