The church and its views and opinions towards politics have always been questioned. The church has been resolving that dilemma in different ways depending on the circumstances and, we have to admit it wasn’t always in a manner that was the best or the most expedient for the church itself. This matter got the status of a taboo a long time ago. Others resolve it for the church and on its behalf and most of the times it is unilaterally to the detriment of the church.
At the times when politics is involved in everything, the church is prohibited from any engagement in politics. It is said: “The church is apolitical; priests cannot be engaged in politics.” Aside the fact that this means taking away from a number of people, in this case the priests, one of the basic human rights that to everyone is otherwise guaranteed.
It would still be alright if that were the true meaning of it. However, with this statement: politics is not for priests, something else is implied. This is to say: politics is not for those priests that do not want to be involved in politics in a way that suits certain political potentates. “If you don’t think the same as we do- then you should not think at all.” Life shows this to be true. Priests that accept the imposed mores of behaviour that fit in everyday political milieu are allowed to be politically engaged. And sadly, they do engage. Truth to be told, their influence and contribution to the political life is insignificant; they are used as decoration, we see them as little black pieces in the political mosaic.
It has always been like this. The rules of the game are the same today as they were yesterday, same here as they are there. It seems to us, people of today, that people of yesterday were allowed more to misuse their designation and their most sublime priesthood. It has been demonstrated over and over again that this everyday political engagement of certain priests had caused much damage to the church. We could not in the past and we cannot nowadays suffer without any consequences those partitions to “mine” and “yours” or “ours” and “theirs”, to political brothers and political enemies. It backfired in the end for those priests as well.
Taking all these unfortunate experiences into consideration, we come to a healthy and expedient answer regarding the question of priest-politics relation. It is negative. Not under any circumstances nor for anyone’s account should the church tear its body apart; not one priest can have a reason to split and divide the field that was given to him to cultivate or the herd that was put into his care. The church is above politics. The only politics of the church is to reveal and to witness the truth of God. That truth is to be told and to be opposed to all other politics.
The problem is though that even when the priests abstain from politics the politics does not leave them alone. Many politicians, depending on their needs and interests, want to have them as their very much needed allies and to use them. Those politicians accept the church to the extent to which it can serve their goals. Whether they declare themselves as religious or not makes no difference for the church. They all try to impose their strains and limits to the church. The conflict is inevitable when the church resists the strains. Then, they all aggress the church, of course from different positions. Very often a priest finds himself in between, in the gap, coloured both, black and red. The Left attack him because he’s leaning too much to the Right; and the Right attack him because he’s leaning too much to the Left. And he is usually in the middle, neither Left nor Right, and that’s his trouble. The clever and the definite get protected, while the others are left to be. An honest priest is always exposed to the attacks. If he were seen with the Left, the Right would never forgive him; if he were found with the Right, the Left would agonize him. However, he has to be in peace with all. There are no prototypes. Many “virtuous Serbs” and “proud Orthodox Christians” have made and still make lives of many honest priests difficult, grab their chest and attack them cruelly.
Both, the Left and the Right, try to disable the church in its most important mission, by dividing people into the “suitable” ones, which the church at their will and permission can contact and work with, and the “not suitable” ones, to which the access to the church should be prohibited. Even though the church lets all political groups have their internal right to create their own programs, to include or exclude people according to their interests and opinions those political groups do not let the church have the same right. It is really unnecessary to prove that it is fatal for the church to subordinate to any political group and to narrow down its activity only to the supporters of that political group.
“Those who are well have no need of a doctor, but those who are sick.”(Matthew 9:11) was Jesus’ answer to Pharisees’ accusations because He was in the company of those with whom, to the Pharisees’ standards, He shouldn’t have been seen. If, for example- which is absolutely not true- the Right were the healthy ones then that should not be the sole reason for not approaching the Left. Like its founder, the church is guided by the designation that it is needed to call sinners and not the righteous ones to penitence. (Matthew 9:12). The church has not completed its task on Earth yet; it is required to fight for every human soul. If it is deprived of communication with souls for which it exists, then it is as if a noose was put around it. All of those who impede the church in completing its task, regardless of what they present themselves to be, they are getting the results that are in favour of the enemies of the church. The church is obligated by Jesus’ example of the shepherd that left 99 sheep in order to look for that one and only that was lost, and when he found it he was happier to see that one than all of the others that were not lost. It is not the will of God that one of the human souls should perish. (Matthew 18:11-14)
The church invites us all to the feast; whether we come or not is up to us and it is our responsibility. Woe to those who have not entered and have impeded those who were entering. (Luke 11:52)