Canadian Preachers and Politicians

Whether it comes from the pulpit or podium, whether it is heard in auditoriums or championed in churches, whether it is before a room full of reporters or before the world via satellite, both Senator Barack Obama (politician, running for President of the world’s greatest power) and Rev. Jeremiah Wright (preacher, Obama’s ex-pastor) share one thing in common: they sure can talk.

And Canada, along with the rest of the world, is reading, watching and listening. Both of these men are educated and knowledgeable orators. Both can keep your attention when they speak. They are colorful, intelligent, masterful communicators.

However, that appears to be where the similarities end. The last few weeks have been marked by Senator Obama’s distancing of himself, and his campaign, from the very controversial remarks of his former pastor. It remains to be seen whether Rev. Wright’s opinionated views of the world, called Liberation Theology, will affect the outcome of the Senator’s race for the White House.

I don’t know about you, but I struggle listening to politicians speak. I have lived long enough, studied long enough (I have a degree in political science), and voted enough to know the difference between what a politician says and what he can actually do. Look at their record four years later.

I have also struggled listening to preachers, and I am one. I am constantly amazed at the fact that anyone would come out to hear what I have to say. But, I have lived long enough, studied long enough (I have a degree in religion), and attended church enough to know that there is often a difference between what a preacher says and what he can actually produce.

As long as we remain a democracy, we will have politicians and preachers. I, for one, am grateful for the freedom of the press, the freedom to assemble, the freedom of religion, and for the freedom of speech. Our nation’s laws support the right for both politician and preacher to speak their personal convictions, whether you agree with them or not.

Unfortunately, in reality, the playing field is not all that even. Politicians fare much better in terms of their freedom to voice their positions without prejudice. Preachers are often maligned and marginalized. It seems that the podium of the press is an acceptable venue for the politician but that the preacher should keep his remarks within the four walls of the church.

Obama is applauded when he separates himself – politically, maybe intellectually, and even, physically – from his former pastor, Rev. Wright. It is possible that was the right thing to do. But, what if the pastor felt strong enough that he needed to separate himself from a politician’s views? Would he be applauded?

There is a place for politicians – they have their national assembly (parliament), their legislatures, and they are given opportunity on a daily basis to convey their personal and regional convictions.

There is also a place for preachers – they have their solemn assembly (church), their legislature (prayer rooms), and they too have an opportunity on a daily basis to express deep religious convictions. And they should! One cannot separate their personally held moral views from corporate moral responsibility.

Is it possible that Canada has lost some of its moral conviction because preachers have remained silent on the issues behind the pulpit? Is it possible that our society has devolved rather than evolved because the Church has been gagged when it comes to their voice into social justice?

Look out Canada – the tide is turning. The Voice of the Church is beginning to emerge out of years of silence. And, trust me, our nation will be the better for it.