Preaching politics

The definitive answer to why pastors should not endorse candidates from the pulpit was given yesterday in my pastor’s sermon on rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s(Matthew 22:15-21). The sermon focused on the latter part of that statement: “what is God’s.” The short answer: our faith. We give our taxes and our votes to our secular caesars, or the equivalent, but we must not give them our faith.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://amusedmomma.blogspot.com PaulainColorado

    Our pastor used that text for his sermon as well. He touched on how Christians have become used to the government fulfilling a role that was tradtionally the church’s through the ages — that of helping our neighbor. He reminded us that perhaps like the church of 2 Thessalonians we are enduring hardships, but that is no excuse to abdicate our vocation as a Christian. And pointed us to a resource from synod called “Just in from the Hill.” I hadn’t heard of that before.

  • richard

    On a TOTALLY different subject: how about that article in the Washington Post on Marilynne Robinson! http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/10/19/AR2008101902106.html?referrer=emailarticlepg
    A world-class author–who is a John Calvin fan! May her tribe increase.

  • Joe

    My pastor preached this text as well. The most profound aspect of the sermon related to the portion of the text where Christ asked whose image and inscription were on the coin. The answer of course is Caesar’s. He then asked us all, well if the coin is Caesar’s because his image is on it and his inscription is on it, then what belongs to God?

    Answer: Us; our whole selves. We are made in God’s image, God’s name was written on our heart in baptism. We are what is to be rendered to the Lord.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Wow Joe. Sounds like you heard my pastor’s sermon.
    Le’ts hear it for our pastors who preach Christ and not issues, no matter what silly season we’re in.

  • Billye

    It goes back to ‘what are people putting their faith in’–The promises of the Savior or the promises of politicians? The choice is clear.

  • The Jones

    I have been saying for a while now that many times, bringing together politics and religion does not raise politics to the level of religion. It lowers religion to the level of politics. One of the worst evangelical encounters I ever had was when somebody told me that they weren’t a Christian because they hated Republicans.

    Republicans? What? In any other time other than now, that would be a ridiculous statement. Can somebody call Caesar? I think he took some of God’s stuff.

  • CRB

    I would like the opinion of whoever would care to reply to this question: Do you think it would be “crossing the line” to make this article available (with permission, of course) to my congregation, perhaps as a church newsletter?
    http://steadfastlutherans.org/blog/?p=337
    Thanks!

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    John Stossell just did a 20/20 special called “The Politically Incorrect Guide to American Politics.” He even called the unfounded hope in the candidates “idol worship.” My favorite part was a couple of clips that were interspersed. He showed Obama making claims that bordered on the supernatural, followed by Charleton Heston as Moses.

    Part one can be found here:

    (Obama/Moses comparison starts at 2:28.)

  • Jonathan

    Jones @6, is it really strange that someone who hates Republicans might also reject Christianity? I think it happens more often than we think.
    For many years, the GOP has so co-opted American Christians that regular commentators on this blog say this year that it’s a SIN to vote for the Democratic nominee for president. (A sin!) In fact, one commentator here constantly refers to the Democratic Party as “demonrats,” with the silent approval of all.
    Moreover, while every rumor about Barack Obama has been cussed and discussed on this blog, no mention ever is made of provable Republican failings, e.g., the report that found that Sarah Palin had behaved unethically as governor.
    Thus, the impression I have is that this is as much a pro-Republican (or anti-Democratic) blog as it is a Christian blog. Indeed, I suspect that I would get much less of a reaction here if I blasphemed Christ (God forbid) than if I attributed moral blame to the GOP.
    I’m sure you’ll disagree, but I am persuaded that many American Christians, by demonizing the Democratic Party (particularly while tolerating, if not defending, the same or greater moral failings in the GOP), have given nonChristians every reason to think that they cannot believe the gospel without also believing in the GOP.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Psalm 118:9 (ESV)
    It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in princes.

    Written by a prince.

  • WebMonk

    Jonathan – “silent approval of all”?

    No, we’ve just gotten tired of it. He’s been at it for quite a while and there have been a good number of posts calling him on it. It hasn’t changed anything, and the arguments about it were a long time ago.

    I think you’re sort of new, or at least I don’t remember you commenting before the last couple weeks, but we’ve had long, Long, LONG, discussions about McCain, Palin, Obama and stuff. There has been a LOT of criticism of both McCain and Palin; not as much as about Obama, but most commenters here seem to think there is more bad stuff about Obama than McCain, not that McCain is good.

    Maybe those discussions took place before you got here, but they’ve taken place, ad nauseum. Aside from cranks like Mr Demonrat (who’s not so bad outside of political junk), most people here are pretty disgusted with the Republican party and have no trouble with (rightly) ascribing all sorts of horrible things to it. You should have been here during the Republican primaries if you wanted to hear bad stuff about the Republicans!! It’s just that the Democrat party is generally held in even lower regard.

    It’s election season. The discussions are mostly about elections. Big surprise. Come back at just about any other time and you’ll see very similar discussions on other topics. Just ask Michael the Little Boot and fw how some of the discussions about theology have gone. I’m not sure what the record is, but I think I remember seeing one of those go on for over 300 comments. 100+ comment threads on theology isn’t exactly rare. You’ve come in during election season, so obviously you’re seeing all the election stuff getting the focus.

    Stick around. This really isn’t intended to be a Christian blog, if that is meant to be a blog just focusing on “Christian stuff”. It’s a Christian blog in that it’s run by a Christian (Lutheran flavor) and is aimed at discussing life, the universe, and everything with the view of Christians. (the answer is 42, but no one here believes me)

    The blog started as more of a cultural discussion blog for a magazine, and it is still largely aimed at achieving that. Right now, the culture is very heavily engaged with the election, so the blog is too.

  • WebMonk

    Sorry, correction: the record (so far as I can find) is 231 comments.

  • Jonathan

    Webmonk @11, thank you.
    You’ve been here much longer than I, so it appears I have mistaken the purpose of the blog. I stand corrected. Maybe it’d be best if I came back after election.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Right, Jonathan, and thanks, Webmonk. I post what interests, me, of course, which includes lots of things. I am interested in the election, but mainly for bigger cultural issues. I am no blank check Republican. I am not a fan of McCain. You will notice that I even asked about Third Party alternatives. My political theory is on the conservative side–free markets, decentralized power, individual freedom, mediating local institutions such as the family and local governments, etc.–which I feel the Bush administration has more or less betrayed. Obama worries me for his possible radicalism and his messianic aura, though I said good things about him when he was running against Mrs. Clinton. I do like Sarah Palin, populist that I am. OK: She was found guilty of trying to get her brother-in-law fired, though I believe she has been misused in that investigation and by the media. I am something of a single-issue voter, because with me being pro-life trumps just about everything, so, yes, I will vote for McCain because of what the post below explains. So, yes, I tend to vote Republican, and I am a Christian, but I believe in the doctrine of Two Kingdoms, which means one mustn’t confuse those two with each other.

  • WebMonk

    Stick around all the time! Too often Christians (any group) will get into yes-yes parties if there’s a lot of agreement and will tend to start spinning off into all sorts of, um, interesting? issues.

    Obviously, all the non-me people around here are sadly mistaken in their opinions, and I am of course the only one who really understands thing rightly. Right?

    :^)

  • FW

    I would really like to see all of us hold our side to the same standards we hold the “other side” to. I try my best to do that. It is still ok to be partisan. but I think we christians should demonstrate a higher standard in that way. I hope my own posts reflect that idea at least in part….

  • Anon

    What is there which does not rightfully belong to God? Is there some other god for those other things? I think not. There are two kingdoms, one of each hand, but there are not two gods, nor is a divided life spirituality courtesy of pietism an orthodox, Biblical view of things.

  • Carl Vehse

    Jonathan, the reason it is a sin to vote for a pro-murder-by-abortion political candidate, no matter which political party, has been explained several times on this blog, including here.

    What hasn’t been explained is why you, Jonathan, decided to make such an untruthful assertion that the claimed reason voting for a pro-abortion presidential candidate is a sin is because the GOP has co-opted American Christians.

  • TK

    Johnathan,

    Excellent defensive of your opinions! I tend to agree with you on this point. While I can’t blame or fault Veith’s blog (it is pretty tame and balanced, really), I agree with you about the horrible impression American Evangelicalism has left on the GOP. I pray for the day when libertarian Republicans finally spin them off! They weren’t always there, though most can’t remember a day when they weren’t.

  • WebMonk

    Vehse, this is getting back to the old, rehashed argument. By your argument it’s also a sin to vote for McCain and most of the other Republicans running for office. If it’s not a sin (just based on the abortion stance) to vote for McCain, then it’s not a sin to vote for Obama.

    Bother.

    I had a response to the rest of your stuff, but you’re making such ridiculous statements that even the response to them sounds silly. So I deleted it. Some things (like your false claims about Jonathan) really aren’t worth a response.


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