It is my commitment to never preach politics from the pulpit. I believe the decisions people make for the interest of a better society are, more often than not, cultural manifestations of creating an ordered society.
Preaching politics from the pulpit will often divide faith communities — not unite them.
In my Christian tradition, this effort for oneness does not happen because everyone thinks the same way or has the same world view. The oneness of the Christian church comes from the source of all things, and that source for me is the All Powerful Being in pursuit of compassion.
For Christians, our greatest commandment, says our Lord and teacher Jesus Christ, is to “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’“
Karen Armstrong is an author and commentator on religious studies. Her work focuses on what unites religions and she has found that the one thing of utmost importance to all major religions is the act of compassion or “the Golden Rule.”
In 2008, Armstrong helped launch a Charter of Compassion in order to “restore not only compassionate thinking but, more importantly, compassionate action to the center of religious, moral and political life.”
This charter states “The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honor the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.”
I do not preach politics from the pulpit. I do preach compassion.
It is my firm belief that it is out of our worldview, our faith, and our sense of morality that we make our decisions. As an ordained pastor of the United Methodist Church I have taken vows to preach and teach the Good News of Jesus Christ.
For me, that Good News is that God is a compassionate God and calls us to be compassionate participants in the unfolding will of the Divine, which will ultimately save us from the perils of the world stemming from a lack of compassion.
The Charter of Compassion calls on all people everywhere in the world to “restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion.”
Those who sign the charter are to “make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world.”
As we consider the choices we make in our lives, I encourage you to consider this Charter of Compassion. The thing that unites the major faith communities of the world is indeed the principle of compassion. It is my position that the polarized society we live in can only be united through each and every small or large act of loving God and loving our neighbor.
If preaching compassion from the pulpit sounds like preaching politics from the pulpit, then I suppose I have failed miserably at my professional declaration to avoid those things that divide us. Nevertheless, I cannot keep myself from preaching the Good News.
You can learn more about the Charter of Compassion online at charterforcompassion.org.
• Susan Boegli is the pastor at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Juneau.