Pastors defying the IRS by politicking from the pulpit

More and more pastors are endorsing particular candidates from the pulpit, purposefully defying the IRS law for non-profit tax-exempt organizations.  So far the IRS is ignoring the violations, but the pastors are goading the agency by sending it tapes of their sermons.

Is this a violation of Romans 13?  Also, under Romans 13, shouldn’t churches just pay taxes, thus preserving their ability to preach whatever they want?  Or can you make a case for this kind of civil disobedience?  There is also, of course, the theological issue of what is supposed to be preached from the pulpit–namely, Christ and Him crucified for sinners, as opposed to worldly powers and principalities.  Or can you give a theological reason for preaching about political candidates? [Read more...]

Back to the social gospel

Hillary Clinton cited her commitment to the “social gospel” in a speech to United Methodists.   That goes back to the 19th century when many Protestants said that instead of emphasizing the gospel of eternal salvation in Heaven through Christ, they should emphasize a gospel of building the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.

The social gospel, which inspired all kinds of social reforms and progressive political activism,  became the hallmark of liberal theology.   After World War II, even in liberal theological circles, neo-orthodoxy reacted against the utopianism of the social gospel, though in the 1960s it came back with liberation theology.  Conservative theologies, of course, rejected the social gospel, but today there is arguably a social gospel of the right. [Read more...]

Pulling back from the culture wars?

Church historian Martin Marty discusses how conservative Christians are pulling back from the culture wars.  He cites the leadership of Pope Francis for the Roman Catholics and Russell Moore for the Southern Baptists.  An additional factor is the increasing secularization of the conservative movement, citing the Tea Party’s general indifference to moral issues the church has been concerned with.  (He might have added the active atheism and hostility to Christianity of the hard-core libertarian followers of Ayn Rand.)

Read what Dr. Marty has to say–and what I have to say about what he says– after the jump.   [Read more...]

Prayer and Protest

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the civil rights protest that featured Martin Luther King, Jr., giving his eloquent “I Have a Dream” speech.  The Washington Post printed a number of accounts from people who were there.

Raymond S. Blanks tells about meeting at his Baptist congregation and holding a prayer service before getting on the bus to Washington.  He describes marchers singing hymns and listening to sermons. “Before noon,” he recalls, “the Mall was transformed into a place of prayer, protest and pride.” [Read more...]

From Moral Majority to Prophetic Minority

Russell Moore–identified as one of those mythical “Lutheran Baptists“–is the new spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention on social issues. He is taking a different approach from the conventional political activist on the “Christian right.”  He says that Christians have lost the so-called “culture wars” and that the loss of Christian cultural dominance may actually be good for the church.  He says that Christians need to stop thinking of themselves as “the moral majority.”  Instead, they have to see themselves as the “prophetic minority.”

After the jump, excerpts from a Wall Street Journal piece on Dr. Moore by the outstanding Christian writer Naomi Schaefer Riley, who interviewed him for her story. [Read more...]

Letting churches endorse candidates?

A commission is recommending to Congress that churches and other  501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations be allowed to endorse political candidates without losing their tax-extemptions.  Here is the report.  Details after the jump.

I decry the politicization of churches.  And yet I also decry the federal government using the tax code to squelch political speech, which seems to me to deserve particular protection under the 1st Amendment.  Which also protects religious liberty, and some religions do emphasize political action, whether from the right or from the left.

What do you think about this? [Read more...]


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