As I said last Sunday, I started going to my church’s Sunday school class. I decided to do so for a variety of reasons: to learn, to become integrated more into the church, and also because it is a new class. The Sunday school class recently finished the Book of James, and, last week, it started its class on the United Methodist Church’s Social Principles.
I liked how the church did Sunday school, for a variety of reasons. A lot of these reasons have to do with my introverted, socially-anxious tendencies. The pastor gave us a lot of history about the Social Principles, as well as facts about the United Methodist denomination. That resonates with me, as one who goes to class to absorb information. Also, because people in the Sunday school class stayed after and talked, and I was listening to what they had to say, I missed part of the passing of the peace element of the service.
Some people after the class were expressing skepticism about arriving at any consensus about the Social Principles. The Social Principles express the United Methodist Church’s official stance on a range of issues, from climate change, to weaponizing space, to health care, to abortion and homosexuality, and the list goes on. As the pastor said, no one agrees with every item of the Social Principles. The Social Principles strike me as rather left-wing, except on homosexuality. Someone in the group was saying that he favored private labor unions, but was more critical of public sector labor unions, and the Social Principles favor both. It will be interesting to listen to the discussions that will take place about these principles. Some in the group may have conservative ideas in areas, but I think that I will be more comfortable in this group than I have been in past groups, where most of the people were politically and religiously conservative.
I said in the group that one thing that took me aback about the Social Principles was that they took explicit stances on political issues. The pastor went on to clarify that the Social Principles are not about supporting or being coopted by a political party, or ideology, but, still, in my eyes, the document does take stances on political issues: climate change and what to do about it, jobs, etc. How do I feel about that? Good question. I do not want to suggest that there is a “Christian” perspective on political issues: I believe that Christians can arrive at a variety of political stances, but that, if there is a part of their ideology that is Christian, it should be a desire for the well-being of people. I am not one who believes in just focusing on preaching the Gospel to save people from hell, for I do think that Christians should be concerned about what goes on in their world. The pastor was talking about John Wesley’s support for schools and opposition to slavery. Should a church, in seeking to ameliorate the problems of the world, primarily focus on private charities rather than taking official political stances? Well, I think that a church should be involved in private charities. On whether it should take official political stances, let me just be honest here: I don’t mind if the stances are my stances, but I do mind if the stances are not my stances. Overall, though, I would prefer for the worship service itself to focus on God and loving others, while leaving political issues to the margins—-to be addressed in another setting, like Sunday school, or at meetings.
Anyway, this will be an interesting Sunday school class.