Faith and Politics

“We’re trying to tell you that the entire planet is about to be destroyed!” 
  • Kate Dibiasky

That’s a quote from Jennifer Lawerence’s character in the 2021 Netflix movie “Don’t Look Up.” If you haven’t seen the movie, Kate and Dr. Randall Mindy (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), two astronomers, go on a media tour trying to convince government officials, and the world, there is a comet approaching the earth and if we (the collective we) don’t act quickly this comet will destroy the entire planet.

In the movie the problem is quite clear, at least to some. There are those who deny there even is a comet (hence the title “Don’t Look Up”), others argue over how this problem should be addressed and maybe there is a lighter, funner side of this story, to which Kate replies, “Maybe the destruction of the entire planet isn’t supposed to be fun. Maybe it’s supposed to be terrifying. And unsettling.” Oh, and then there is the capitalistic play. A character who seems to be a blend of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, views this as an opportunity to make money. In disgust Kate responds, “They’re talking about letting a comet the size of a mountain hit the planet to jack up a cell phone company’s stock!”

Watching this movie was both entertaining and wildly frustrating. At points I wanted to scream at the TV, because though it’s not a comet hurling at our planet (that I’m aware of … … …), there do seem to be other blatantly obvious things that are destroying our community, our country, and our planet. Sometimes satirical movies just hit a little too close to home! 

I was reminded of this movie the other day when I saw excerpts from Jennifer Lawrence in a recent Vogue interview. I have yet to read the full article, but one of the excerpts I read made me think not only of the movie, but also the work we are doing through Church and Society (if you are unfamiliar with the work of Church and Society in the UMC, check out this link). The Jennifer Lawrence quote that count my attention was, “I can’t f*** with people who aren’t political anymore… You have to be political. It’s too dire. Politics are killing people.” It’s wasn’t the vulgarity that caught my attention, rather the honesty and accuracy of her statement.

For far too long there has been a notion that faith and politics should stay separate. And, often those who sit in seats of power and benefit from the status quo are the ones making such statements. The reality is faith and politics have always intertwined. From the Hebrew people enslaved and oppressed by Pharaoh in the Exodus narrative, to Jesus being put to death as a political revolutionary by Roman officials in a colonized Israel. Politics have affected people of faith and people of faith have influenced politics. 

The question isn’t should faith and politics be intertwined, rather how are faith and politics intertwined? 

While many of us in mainline denominations have argued over whether or not church has become too political, others are fully supporting Christian Nationalism and pushing toward the United States becoming a full on theocracy (I wish that was an exaggeration). Again, it’s not should, but how are faith and politics intertwined? 

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, I invited y’all to join me in the Parlor of White Rock UMC to discuss how this was affecting you and our community. We had a great conversation. Not all of our politics were in agreement, but our faith united us. At the end of the conversation, I told all gathered that we, as a community, would continue to be involved politically. That our faith in fact calls us to be political. To follow the example of Jesus, who “not only called for change in individual hearts but also demanded sweeping and comprehensive change in the political, social, and economic structures in his setting in life,” (see Obery Hendricks Jr.’s book The Politics of Jesus: Rediscovering the True Revolutionary Nature of Jesus’ Teachings and How They Have Been Corrupted for more on this) we would continue to strive for personal transformation and social justice, in our community, in our state, our nation, and in this world.

The other thing I said, that I want to reiterate, is the work we do will be focused on policy, not politicians. Said differently, we will be political, but not partisan. Thus, we will support neither Republican, nor Democrat, rather policies that support basic freedoms and human rights, as our Social Principles also affirm.

One of the core principles and policies we will advocate for is the right to free and fair elections. Note only is voting a right, it is essential for a democracy to thrive, and that includes our representative democracy. Thus, in partnership with Texas Impact, the North Texas Conference Board of Church and Society, and many other faith communities in North Texas we are co-sponsoring Faith in Democracy this Sunday from 2:00-5:00pm at St. Paul UMC. This gathering will be an opportunity for people of faith to connect, learn, and mobilize around voting and civic engagement in our community.

I hope you will join me on Sunday at St. Paul UMC, you can register here. And if you can’t join me on Sunday, but want to engage in justice ministry and/or discuss politics and faith you can email me (pdieke@wrumc.org). This is ever important work. Not only for you, and for me, and for our community, but also for those who Jesus called “the least of these.” Our faith and our politics are deeply intertwined, how will we, as people of faith, follow in the footsteps of Jesus? No doubt it will be an uphill battle. Who knows what we’ll be able to accomplish. Regardless, I look forward to journeying this together. And, in the end we’ll join Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence’s character) saying, “I’m grateful we tried.”

See you Sunday.

-Rev. Phil Dieke

P.S. An immediate way you can get involved is making sure you are registered to vote. You can check that and see who all your elected officials are by clicking here
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1 Comment


Mike Davis - September 10th, 2022 at 10:42am

You'll never guess whose front yard is displaying a "Beto" sign. So much for "The other thing I said, that I want to reiterate, is the work we do will be focused on policy, not politicians."

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