Written by Don Byrd

On Meet the Press Sunday, a panel of three religious leaders – Bishop T.D. Jakes, Pastor JoAnn Hummel, and Rabbi David Saperstein – engaged in a compelling discussion about the close relationship between religion and politics. All three emphasized that a central challenge is to refrain from using the pulpit to espouse personal political views, while still maintaining a prophetic voice to confront issues the emerge from living out one’s faith.

Rabbi Saperstein elaborates:

CHUCK TODD: I know some synagogues have made the decision to become sanctuary.

RABBI DAVID SAPERSTEIN: Indeed. And many churches as well.

CHUCK TODD: Synagogues and churches. So, and that’s a big political statement for a synagogue to make and some congregants view it as, “Oh, you’re taking sides.” What do you say?

RABBI DAVID SAPERSTEIN: That’s the paradox, because when we’re feeding hungry people in our food programs and we’re sheltering homeless people in our homeless shelter programs, and we are welcoming the refugee, the stranger, that the Bible tells us we should treat as ourselves in providing shelter to them, in sanctuary to them, we are living out our religious ideals.

We have pastoral responsibilities to our members. And regardless of their politics or ours, we have to not compromise ourselves in a way that would undercut our ability to do that. But we’re also teachers and leaders and the one who exemplifies how to apply our traditional values to the world about us. That’s a difficult tightrope to walk, but we have to encompass both responsibilities.

Later in the discussion he explains the importance of maintaining the wall of separation between church and state as a means of protecting religious liberty.

Rabbi Saperstein will be the featured speaker at the Baptist Joint Committee’s Religious Liberty Council Luncheon in Atlanta on Friday, June 30. You can find out more about the event, and purchase tickets, here.

I strongly recommend the full panel discussion from Meet the Press, which you can see below: