Here Are 3 Reasons Why It’s an Emphatic ‘No’
First, partisan politics is not an appropriate subject for church services. Second, pastors who preach politics from the pulpit are short-changing their congregations. Third, preaching politics from the pulpit can have dangerous consequences.
Before we delve into these reasons, let’s take a step back and look at where faith and politics stand in the United States.
Evangelicals’ Love Affair with Conservative Politics
America’s white evangelical churches have become immersed in conservative politics during the last half century. All too many pastors and congregations openly take sides and help conservative candidates win elections. Some extremists even turn violent. But more about that later.
Churches were created to be houses of worship, not places where preachers spout politics and congregations devour every word. Christians should use churches to draw closer to God through prayer, learn from the Bible and experience fellowship with other Christians, and grow as Christians. There should be no time or room for anything else.
To sully a church with politics is sacrilegious.
How Did Churches Become Politicized?
The politicalization of America’s white evangelical churches began about 50 years ago. It has been a complicated and ugly process.
Let me explain by going back to the 1970s. Republicans were still recovering from the Watergate scandal in the mid-to-late 1970s. They lost the presidency to Democrat Jimmy Carter and failed to win either house of Congress in the 1976 election. This situation was unacceptable to the GOP, and party strategists decided to find a new issue that would attract conservative voters.
Race was the key to winning over many voters, especially in the South where I live. It’s a shameful situation, but it’s reality. Racism has sullied American politics since before we became a nation.
Republicans realized they could quietly use the race issue to attract angry white Democrats. They also discovered during the 1978 mid-term election that the abortion issue would help their cause.
In that election, anti-abortion Catholics voted in large numbers for GOP senatorial candidates in Iowa, New Hampshire and Minnesota. To nearly everyone’s surprise, those candidates won. Catholics and anti-abortion evangelicals joined the Republican party in droves, and politics began to move into their churches.
My Patheos post called “Abortion, GOP politics & Political Expediency” goes into more detail. Read more here.
An Unholy Alliance
Since America’s unholy alliance between religion and politics came into existence, some church services have come to look more like political rallies than religious services. Subjects such as grace and salvation, heaven and hell, and Christ’s death and resurrection have taken a back seat to politics.
Congregations hear heated sermons on the evils of COVID vaccinations, angry denunciations of the 2020 election and disagreements over which candidate is more pro-gun. Preachers may also drive home racial hatred in fiery tirades.
Why Shouldn’t Pastors Preach Politics?
Pastors should not preach politics in the pulpit for a number of reasons. And it doesn’t matter whether the politics lean right or left. Let’s look at three of the reasons:
- Partisan politics is not an appropriate subject for church services.
- Pastors who preach politics from the pulpit are short-changing their congregations.
- Preaching politics from the pulpit can have dangerous consequences.
Politics Isn’t an Appropriate Topic for Church
People should hear the Gospel in church. I’m not saying Christians should avoid politics, only that church is not the appropriate place to discuss political issues. We have plenty of opportunities to get politically involved in the secular world.
For many of us, Sunday morning is the only time we think about God. Can’t we give God our undivided attention for those one or two hours a week? Don’t you think we might grow in our Christian faith if sermons were about Christ?
If you don’t think you can learn anything new, think again. I’m a 72-year-old cradle Christian, and I’m still learning new things from the Bible in Sunday School and church. One rule my Sunday school made long before I joined was to keep politics out of their lessons. Likewise, the two pastors I have had at my current church never mentioned political issues. Come to think of it, I don’t recall any of my pastors preaching politics, and for that, I am grateful.
In separating my church activities from my political interests, I’m trying to follow the example of a man who said the house of God should actually be a holy place of worship.
If you’ll recall in Matthew 21:12-13, Christ “entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overtured the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. He said to them, ‘It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.’”
I’m certainly not equating myself with Christ. I’m merely trying to follow his teachings as I understand them.
Political Diatribes Short-change Churchgoers
“Christianity Today” reports that half of Protestant churchgoers in America prefer attending church with people who share their political beliefs. A little over half say they already do so.
Yet, bringing politics into the pews and pulpits of America’s churches shortchanges churchgoers. The time we spend talking politics is time we lose with God.
An article in “The Atlantic” online magazine called “How Politics Poisoned the Evangelical Church” tells of a Michigan pastor who begins his sermons with what he calls a “diatribe.” His congregation eagerly awaits his words each week.
According to the article, the preacher “does not mention the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, or the life everlasting. Instead, he spouts misinformation and conspiratorial nonsense, much of it related to the ‘radically dangerous’ COVID-19 vaccines” for a good portion of the sermon. Read more here.
The story makes me wonder, “Where is God?”
Politics & Religion Can Be a Dangerous Mix
As similar scenes take place in churches across the country, far-right extremists become increasingly powerful and violent.
“The number of terrorist attacks by far-right perpetrators rose over the past decade, more than quadrupling between 2016 and 2017,” according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Read more here. The center conducts policy studies of global political, economic and security issues.
CSIS points out that most Republicans and Democrats “loathe terrorism.” That said, most perpetrators of right-wing attacks are white supremacists. A number of factors drive the attacks, namely the growth of the internet and social media, the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States and the rise of Donald Trump.
And right-wing tirades in many of America’s churches are not helping the situation. An article called “The Seeds of Political Violence Are Being Sown in Church” tells about a town meeting held earlier this year in Colorado. It was sponsored by FEC United (Faith, Education and Commerce United) and featured various GOP candidates and conspiracy theorists.
The article appeared in “The Dispatch,” a conservative, American subscription-based magazine.
As the meeting progressed, one man accused an elected official of election misconduct and said, “If you’re involved in election fraud, then you deserve to hang. Sometimes, the old ways are the best ways.”
It’s also noteworthy that many insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, chanted “Jesus is my savior and Trump is my president” and carried signs saying “In God We Trust” as they broke past barriers and entered the building, according to numerous news reports.
These so-called Christians even erected makeshift gallows and searched Capitol halls for then-Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others they threatened to hang.
Seven people died in the insurrection and dozens more were injured including 140 police officers. The attack also caused about $1.5 million in damage to the Capitol, according to officials.
UnChristian Beliefs in a “Christian” Nation
Christianity in the U.S. is becoming almost unrecognizable in some ways. In an article called “It’s Time to Talk About Violent Christian Extremism,” the news magazine “Politico” says that in some segments of Christianity, “one’s belief is based less on scripture than on conservative culture….
“Christians who subscribe to those teachings believe the United States has a covenant with God, and that if it is broken, the nation risks literal destruction – analogous to the siege of Jerusalem in the Hebrew Bible.” Read more here.
God help us! It’s easy to see how these radical beliefs can lead to violence.
Where on earth do people get these ideas? I fail to see any evidence of God making a covenant with America. I also doubt the existence of such a covenant because we aren’t the Christian nation we pretend to be.
We have a history of worshipping money and power above God, and our past and present are filled with incidents of blatant hatred, bigotry and hypocrisy.
Our greed led us to write slavery into the constitution because the southern economy depended on it. It also led us to drive Native Americans from lands they had occupied for centuries. By taking the land, white Americans could expand westward and enjoy new economic benefits.
The U.S. also exhibited blatant racism when we sent innocent Japanese-American citizens to internment camps during World War II. We were at war with Germany, as well as Japan, but we didn’t round up German-Americans and imprison them.
I could go on about our sins as a nation, but I won’t. Let’s just say that it’s false advertising to place our nation on a pedestal and declare to the world that we’re God’s new “chosen people.” God knows better.
A Few Final Words
Dr. John Neufeld, a Canadian theologian and author, has a few strong words for Christians in the U.S. and Canada in his article, “Should Pastors and Churches Be Involved in Politics?” for the Back to the Bible website.
He has pastored churches in Saskatchewan, British Columbia and California and has taught numerous religious seminars throughout North America. His work has given him insight into the state of religion and politics in both countries.
Dr. Neufeld says that “Satan would gladly give Christians a victory in the polls on election day if it would mean that a great many would no longer listen to the proclamation of the good news of Jesus.” I’m sure he’s right.
He concludes the blog post by saying something that all Christians should take to heart: “Ours is the role to proclaim Christ and to allow nothing but nothing to subvert that message.” (The emphasis is mine.) Read more here.
Maybe The good, clear-headed Christians in this country should listen to him.