There are three things we don’t talk about in church. Or, maybe I should say: there are three things we don’t talk about very often or very well in church.
The first is death. To be fair, we don’t talk about death very well anywhere in our society. It’s easier to avoid death until you can’t avoid it anymore — like when someone you love is very ill, or when you go visit a friend who has lost a loved one. We have gotten so good at dancing around death that there is an entire website devoted to the many, MANY ways we have of talking about death — without ever actually using the word.
The second thing we don’t talk about in church is sex. Again, we have reasons for this, and some of them are good. One, it’s difficult to preach about it when there are people of all ages in the congregation, including teenagers and kids. Two, it can be awkward and personal — kind of like sex itself.
And the third thing we don’t talk about is politics. Now in some churches this isn’t true. They jump into politics very quickly and regularly. (The truth is: some churches also talk about sex and death regularly, too.) But politics can get a preacher into trouble pretty quickly — with good reason.
In other words, some of the more personal and intimate areas of our lives are the ones we are most likely to avoid in church. It is much easier to talk in flowery generalities and abstract theories. It is more challenging to speak about the realities that hit closest to home.
But should it be that way? Should we avoid these things?
For example, what about politics? Should church be a politics-free zone? Well, yes and no. I believe that church is not the place for us to preach in favor of policies and procedures and laws. No one coming to worship should be told that all true Christians vote one way, or support one particular political party. Our goal, especially in worship, is to point people to Jesus, not a flag, or a political figure, or an ideology.
Even so, not preaching politics is not the same as not being political. For the truth is: we are all political. The root of the word, politics, is the Greek word for “citizen,” or “city.” To be alive and human is to be political — to be a part of a community of people seeking the common good. And that we should preach — that we as followers of Jesus are called to be political (small p), while being careful not to be consumed by the Political (capital P). We have a responsibility to be faithful citizens of our communities, state, country, and world — recognizing that we can do this while also holding different Political views.
What about sex? Can we talk about that? Well, if we are going to talk about the life of faith, and how Jesus transforms people from all walks of life, then church must be a place where all of life is discussed. And sex is certainly a part of that. In fact, if the church isn’t talking about sex, then how will our kids learn a healthy view of sexuality? From Instagram? Or Hollywood? Yikes! For that matter, if we don’t speak about sex, how will married people, or single people, or those widowed, or divorced, or with same-sex attractions know how to find God in the midst of their sexuality? If we aren’t honest about sex, how will we point to the hope of healing for those who have had abortions, or struggle with porn, or have been abused?
And then there’s death. As for the question: Should we talk about death in the church?, I would give an unequivocal “yes.” What seems like such a downer, and certainly a conversation-stopper, should, in fact, be something we don’t hesitate to discuss. Because, if you live long enough, you will die. And not talking about it doesn’t make it any less likely to occur, or any less painful, or push it off even one more day.
For, the truth is, we should be talking about all three of these — faithfully, thoughtfully, and honestly.
As for me, though, I’ll start with the easiest. This Sunday I’ll be talking about death. (Which, I guess you could say, is the whole point of this blog: to make preaching on death seem like a walk in the park. And, compared to sex and politics, that’s what it is. A walk in the park — a park with lots of granite.)