Sunday, April 19, 2009

Could we please leave politics out of Sunday School?

Baby Peter and I are in Sunday School; the lesson is on the law of consecration. I'm sitting next to a friend who's had a hard time feeling like a part of the ward; the Hillary Clinton bumper sticker on his car hasn't helped things. And then, the lesson being about the law of consecration, someone brings up "Spread the wealth" in a negative manner.
I find myself thinking of the society in 4th Nephi--a pretty much perfect society, with no poor (which could just mean that everyone was industrious and had work)...and no rich. No rich sounds like there's definitely some sort of (perhaps voluntary) spread the wealth thing going on...
My better judgment prevailed, however, and instead of pointing to 4th Nephi and continuing the politics in church thing, I turned to Mosiah 4 (give to the poor even if you think they don't deserve it, because we're all beggars before God). The conversation turned to not judging others, and away from politics.
Afterwords I mentioned to my friend that I hate it when politics is brought up in church. He agreed, noting that it happens frequently.
I believe this is a serious problem. It's hard to feel like you belong at church when it seems like everyone else embraces a different political party. Unfortunately, too often we keep our mouths shut, and the ward suffers because of it.
It's not just politics. I remember at BYU when a student discussed in testimony meeting how happy he was that a class he was in didn't discuss evolution (as his biology class had). A few minutes later, our Sunday School teacher became my immediate hero when she said, at the beginning of Sunday School, that she didn't see a conflict between evolution and the gospel. Then she taught her unrelated lesson.
If I'm teaching, how do I handle things when politics, etc. is brought up? If I'm a class member, how do I handle things?


Mommy Bee said...

I agree with you...I just don't know what to suggest.
It does bother me, especially when someone makes a political statement with the "of course you all agree with me" attitude, because a lot of times I don't agree with them. In my experience, a lot of church members get the idea that certain political views are (more or less) official church policy, you know? And that's just messed up. Official church policy is that we should do our own research and use our brains to make our choices...

So, yeah, I don't know what the answer is. It sounds like you took the high road today (I probably wouldn't have), but I don't know what to recommend, other than interjecting "this really is getting off the text of the lesson, can we please go back to the manual..."

John Robinson said...

It seems to me the important thing is that true doctrine be taught. If a class member wanders off into opinion about anything, politics included, I think it's the teacher's responsibility to recognize the contribution of the comment, affirm the true doctrine taught (if any) and progress with the class in a spirit of love.

If a new convert raised their hand and made an inappropriate and slightly incorrect comment you would try to guide everyone back to the truth in as gentle and tasteful way as possible, I think the same treatment should apply to people who confuse party politics and the gospel.

It's definitely annoying, but through meekness, gentleness, and through love unfeigned perhaps they can gently be taught their mistake.

Tim said...

I'm thinking more and more that some kind of comment, something like "many good members feel otherwise," or "I feel otherwise," is needed. Something to demonstrate that 1. It's not doctrine, and 2. those who believe otherwise but are too shy to speak up know they have support.

Tim said...

I think one other factor is the person making the comment. Our ward includes a huge area of downtown Cincinnati, and so we have a number of people in our ward that are a bit off. I don't think that there's any need for the teacher to say "that's not doctrine" if everyone knows the person who made the comment isn't playing with a full deck of cards, or if they're a new member or an investigator. If it's a life-long member who should know better, however--I say stick it to them.

Cougarg said...

Our lesson yesterday was on the same subject. I was happy to note that politics didn't enter the discussion, though they certainly could have.

I don't know how to do it real well, but I think it is so very important to acknowledge people's opinions in the course of a lesson at church. It is when we patently reject someone's viewpoint that problems in a ward start to arise. Shields Up! Arm Photon Torpedoes! Set Phasers to Maximum!

That's the root of all the problems in the world from the beginning of history. One or both parties in any situation is unable or unwilling to acknowledge the viewpoint of the other party. It doesn't matter what the other says, they are wrong because they are the other. If you aren't with me, you are against me. When we close ourselves off from others we invite antagonism. This doesn't mean that if we respect others that they WILL respect us back, but at least the invitation has been issued.

Woodine said...

I think John's comment is spot on. I have been in situations where it has been my responsibility to correct and redirect and sometimes there may need to be a mention such as "yes, there are a lot of different opinions out there on that subject". Or some such thing. And sometimes you acknowledge anything that was doctrinal and move on with the lesson. One problem teachers face is more people wanting to comment on that comment, and that is when, as a teacher, you note that we will be moving on, and maybe even avoid taking comments until you are on a different subject. The core of any gospel teaching is the doctrine (I too dislike when politics get mixed in) and so I think a good teacher restores that doctrinal focus.