Politics and the Pastor

I’ve been listening to NPR recently, and they’ve interviewed a lot of pastors about their views of the election. I’m always stunned when a pastor confesses who will receive their vote.

Of course, I know who I’m voting for. As a matter of fact, I’ve been volunteering for that campaign, writing a little bit. But the most I will say to my congregation and others is that they should vote. In addition, when I’ve written about the campaign, I’ve written about other people’s views, instead of my own. And I haven’t signed my full name. It just seems coercive if I do.

What about you? What are your limits for discussing a campaign and an election? Do you endorse a candidate publicly?


About Lia Scholl

    As a person in the pew, I would be very upset — and probably angry too — if my pastor announced who s/he supports in any election or if s/he supported any position on a ballot measure, regardless if I did or did not agree. Not only would such an action serve to disenfranchise members of the congregation who disagreed, it could also put the church’s tax status at risk. A pastor’s role is to serve all members of the congregation as best s/he can and expressing partisan views would dimish one’s usefulness to those who don’t concur.

    • Lia Scholl

      I appreciate your point of view, Pamela. Traditionally, it’s been okay to look at issues on a ballot, just not candidates. And if anything is to be done within the congregation, the church has to be, as you say, nonpartisan and show both sides of the argument.

  • Frank

    I think working/volunteering for a campaign or candidadte is the same as standing g in thè pulpit telling your church how to vote. The church watches what you do more than what you say.

    • Lia Scholl

      I’m going to have to give that some thought, Frank. I do believe that a pastor has a right to volunteer in her community, for the things that will make her community better. And as such, I don’t wear a collar when I’m volunteering (metaphorically, of course). I think this election is important.

      • Frank

        Me too but as a pastor you have to sacrifice some things and freedoms that you have to remain in a a place where you can most effectively serve your congregation. You can still serve your community in the ways you are called to but it should not be related to any political organization or candidate. Your church looks up to you and watches (collar or no) what you do and takes their lead from you. Not that this should always be the case or that its fair or right, but that’s what happens. You have a greater obligation and cause than any political one.

  • http://www.design.duvlady.com Darla

    My husband and I are looking for a new Church because of this problem. I just don’t believe the church pulpit should be used for the pastor’s political views and opinions, including the putting down of the current president, under the guise of bringing God back to America.

    • Lia Scholl

      Traditionally, it’s been fine for pastors to speak on issues (consider Prohibition), but not on specific parties or on candidates.

      I wonder if context matters: if your congregation is very conservative, perhaps the majority of your congregation won’t care if you support conservative candidates and causes.

  • http://www.theoillamp.co.uk/ Neil

    As someone who is British I’m astounded from what the media tell me and these blogs about how politicised the US church has become. It just doesn’t happen here (almost not at all). My minister has made it plain who he votes for in the past but has explicitly said we can vote for who we like. Incidentally a high proportion of evangelicals here are moderately left of centre.

    • Lia Scholl

      Perhaps that “moderately left of centre” is the reason it’s not so politicized. There are some evangelicals here who are slightly left of fascist.

      Of course, the United States has a history of separation of church and state, and the pastor speaking of politics in the pulpit can put the church’s non-profit status in jeopardy.

      One other thing… how long are the elections in England? It seems that they are much shorter than our going-on-two-years cycle.