Keeping politicians out of the pulpit

Keeping politicians out of the pulpit February 7, 2017

I sat in the church as a visitor, invited by a loving friend. I initially felt oddly out of place, but that was dispelled by the warmth of everyone towards me.

The music started and the choir swayed. It seems that everyone in the congregation was swept up. Then the message began. And I was gripped by energy and passion. But then, in the middle, a politician was introduced from the crowd. He was brought to the stage, preacher’s arms draped around his shoulders and he was given the mic.

He then began to enunciate his agenda for the upcoming state legislature with a list of giveaways and considerations, especially tailored for the moment. He was ushered off the stage to grateful applause and beaming faces.

I felt sick.

A proposal to allow churches to endorse candidates

Last week, at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Trump vowed to “totally destroy restrictions on churches’ support of candidates.”

The 60-year-old law uses the tax code, the same one that makes church tax exempt, to disallow houses of worship from “directly or indirectly” participating in a political candidate’s campaign.

I have been going to Evangelical churches my whole life. I have probably sat through 2000 Sunday sermons and listened to another 4000 online through podcasts.

Never once have I heard such an overtly political message in church until this day.

Where is this happening?

For all the talk about the Religious Right, the collective lips of all my pastors have been silent on politics. Sure, they preached about saving life, the importance of family and fiscal constraint – all conservative ideas. But I’ve never had a politician take the spotlight. I’ve never heard a politician’s name or a bill by name uttered, except to implore the church to pray.

I had to go to a mainline church to see politics injected into church.

Sure you can google Jerry Falwell and Franklin Graham and others and their political message is clear. And on the left you can find religious leaders as well. A survey from Pew Research Center said that 9 percent of people who attended religious services last year heard clergy speak out in favor of a political candidate, and 11 percent heard opposition message. The Atlantic ran a piece about black pastors who openly embraced of Hillary Clinton.

And there are group of conservative church every year who dare the IRS to come after them. But it’s been more than two decades since any church was punished.

Can you preach about issues without injecting politics?

Pastors, priests and rabbis all speak to the world around them, seeking to influence congregants to change their lives and keep free from worldly influence. There are varying degrees of influence on that world. Some believe we should run for office, influence the world structure and fight for change. Others prefer to do the work of the heavenly kingdom and trust that will be enough salt and light.

In today’s age, you almost have to speak about issues of life, family, finances, and care for the needy. It’s a real challenge not to place political solutions on those issues. But that’s the hole that many tend to go down — and it needs to stop. Jesus implored us to personal action, not political savvy.

 Who really wants this?

The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty issued a statement saying the repeal wouldn’t help.
“Politicizing churches does them no favors…The promised repeal is an attack on the integrity of both our charitable organizations and campaign finance system.”

It’s also an attack on the integrity of the gospel.

I’m guessing that both conservative and liberal politicians are licking their chops, hoping to find new ways to influence church goers. But we should rise up — Left and Right — and oppose these efforts.

Jesus had just a few comments to say about politics. Mainly, he stated that he wouldn’t involve himself and he didn’t expect us to be concerned about earthly kingdoms.

I’m betting that thousands of faithful ministers are begging out of this discussion, simply wanting to preach what they believe God has told them.

I think there a just a couple of people who have been whispering in the President’s ear.  But over here, I’m shouting. Keep politics out of the pulpit.


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