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ELECTION 2012: Preaching Politics from the Pulpit

By Yve-Car Momperousse
October 17, 2012

When I am working on multiple projects and feeling stressed, I often listen to gospel and spiritual preachings to keep me calm. Sunday, for me, is a sacred day. I relish coming to the office as there is complete-unadulterated-tantalizing-silence. There are no incoming phone calls, impromptu meetings or collegial niceties to derail me from achieving the pressing goals de jour. This Sunday, in an online sermon, the preacher said something that stopped me dead in my tracks: “You don’t need to care about who wins the election. Don’t worry if the black man wins; put your fist down. Don’t be scared of Romney; you serve a God that is strong.” As a social proselytizer and missionary, statements of the sort cause a kerfuffle in my brain – shout out to the Big Red Toastmasters for making kerfuffle the vocabulary word of the day – excuse my digression. Unintentionally, the preacher negated the critical role the church should play in civic participation. I am fervent about this issue because so many Christians are conflicted about the church’s role in socio-political-economic issues.

Yve-Car Momperousse - Copyright © 2012. All rights reserved

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The scripture and history clearly support the church’s place in these matters. As Michelle Obama and my pastor like to point out “Jesus did not limit his ministry to the four walls of the church.” In an article titled The Church’s Role in Politics, Dr. Jim Harris highlights that in the bible “Daniel becomes a leader in Babylon, Amos and other prophets speak into political and social matters in Israel, Judah and the surrounding nations. Both John the Baptist and Jesus refer to the political concerns of their day. In both the Old and New Testament God’s representatives spoke out against abuse of political power and sought just use of power. This surely, is what being “salt and light” means. Hence participation in politics does not detract from spirituality; in fact, a spirituality that is unrelated to politics is questionable.” As a Haitian-American, I whole-heartedly understand those who believe politics is a dirty word. After all, my people have lived through several dictatorships, political coups, international meddling and policies that have crippled our beloved Haiti. However, I can’t ignore the fact that during the 2004 Gonaives flood, I received a $10,000 grant from former Governor McGreevy because a local council woman told him of my work with the New Jersey Haitian Student Association and NJ Immigration Policy Network. In 2010, I helped to raise $300,000 for the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti through the Haitian Professional of Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Mayor’s Office, Senators, and several politicians, churches and community organizations helped raise funds and 7,000lbs of supplies. Politics can be about saving lives. All of us, particularly the churches, have a moral imperative to be politically and civically engaged. To be clear, I am not encouraging faith-based institutions to get into partisan politics; nor do I think people should blindly place their hopes and dreams in politicians. Still, to impact our community, our finances, our businesses, and our future—the church has to leave the religious bubble, encourage congregants to be informed, and for God’s sake, to vote!

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You know, times like this, I miss MLK. Dr. King understood his charge as a civic and spiritual leader. He said “If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.” This is what most churches are today; irrelevant with antiquated philosophies that oppress its constituents. Spiritual leaders have a profound impact on people and should take great care to uplift and empower with every word that is articulated. Dr. Jim Harris said it well “Principled leaders guide a nation into responsible action… The church has to be bold and forthright, constructive and innovative.” Despite my shock at the sermon I heard on-line, I have great hope for religious leaders. Rev. Ed Baker, Rector of All Saints Church, has a great video posted on the Huffington Post urging communities of faith to be political but not partisan. “Spirituality without action is fruitless” he posits. “Our faith journey isn’t just about showing up on Sunday for a good sermon and good music and a good meal,” said Michelle Obama to a congregation of 10,000 at an AME church. There are way too many societal ills plaguing our nation for our institutions of faith to remain silent, or worse, inartfully (à la Mitt Romney) discuss politics from the pulpit in a manner that deters folks from getting involved in their future.

Yve-Car Momperousse - Copyright © 2012. All rights reserved

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