I will not endorse a candidate on this blog, or any other setting – it’s not something I’m free to do as a pastor, and nor do I think that the “pulpit” is a place where pastor’s should stump for candidates (this is, in fact, where I think Jeremiah Wright was absolutely wrong and crossed the line). I would like, however, to look at the theological implications of a recent statement made by Senator Clinton regarding Senator Obama’s refusal to disown his pastor – even to the point of criticizing that his pastor was “family.”Here is the quote in question (published here):
“He would not have been my pastor,” Clinton said. “You don’t choose your family, but you choose what church you want to attend.”
Now, I have no problem saying that people can switch churches as a matter of conscience (so long as they talk honestly with the leaders of the church they are leaving honestly). What I object to in this passage is the idea that a pastor cannot be family because you “choose” them. When I heard that my immediate response was to say, “Oh my gosh, that the world I live in – she just summarized why being a pastor is so lonely!” People “choose” pastors, and so they apparently “aren’t family.” It doesn’t how many deeply personal events a pastor is part of in people’s lives: births, deaths, funerals, weddings, baptisms, relationship difficulties and triumphs – pastors are simply “employees” who provide religious “goods and services.” Commodities to be used and discarded when we are no longer of value.
Here’s the thing, I’d love to have a few people who are so committed to the covenant of our church relationship, and the bond they have with me in Christ that they could honestly tell me, “I have to go against you here, I think you’re dead wrong” and yet still say, “But you are family to me and nothing will change that.” In fact I have a couple of people like that and it’s a joy to me because I know they will tell me what they think no matter if it disagrees with me or not. Frankly, I find that better than just fading out of a church as though it diddn’t matter.