Two Pastoral Approaches to Politics and the Pulpit
In these troublesome times, I've noticed that pastors are taking two very different directions when it comes to the pulpit and politics. One group of preachers is ignoring the Biblical doctrines preached for thousands of years, turning the Bible into another "living, breathing" document like leftist judges have been doing with the U.S. Constitution. Another group of pastors, recognizing that colleagues are turning away from Biblical principles, are willing to speak out and call evil, "evil;" they are challenging believers to act like Christians in every area of their lives, including the political arena.
Browsing different websites and reviewing the comments sections is troubling because it is obvious that some people actually troll Christian articles in order to make mean-spirited and angry comments. They feign outrage whenever anyone states unequivocally that something is a sin, and they post remarks about the overarching dominance of God's love and mercy. These types of comments play the cards, "I'm only human" or "Nobody is perfect." Similarly, there are pastors who water down their theology to fit today's "anything goes" and non-judgmental culture.
Those advocating the above-mentioned points of view hold very strong views about so-called "separation of church and state." They seek to keep preachers from expressing their opinions or preaching on anything that is remotely connected to politics -- thus, many pastors refrain from addressing moral or Biblical issues lest they be accused of being "political" and broaching the barrier between "church and state."
In recent years, some pastors have spoken openly about the importance of preachers being able to speak publicly from their pulpits about those issues that are Biblically based, even when they are controversial issues associated with political platforms or pivotal in a political campaign. The initiative advocating for preacher's' rights was called "Pulpit Freedom Sunday" and over the past few years, the effort has gained momentum and influence.
This year, on October 7, nearly 1,500 pastors participated in "Pulpit Freedom Sunday" and preached about Biblical truths as they relate to campaigns and political platforms. About 2,200 attorneys are behind this strategic plan. They seek "to restore the right of each pastor to speak Scriptural truth from the pulpit about moral, social, and governmental issues - as well as other topics concerning his congregation - without fear of losing his church's tax-exempt status."
In San Diego, the Reverend Jim Garlow of Skyline Church voiced his plans to vote for Mitt Romney and gave the reasons for his support. He told CNN they're "wanting to reclaim which is ours constitutionally based on the First Amendment-freedom of speech and freedom of religion - which American pastors enjoyed for 166 years of American history until Lyndon Baines Johnson got his Johnson Amendment passed with only a voice vote."
The Reverend Shane Idleman of Westside Christian Fellowship in Lancaster, California, bluntly stated his view of what's transpiring around the country. "I'm sick and tired of the passive, lukewarm, cowardly church doing nothing and saying nothing because it offends people. Yeah, it's a hot button, absolutely. But if the truth doesn't come from here (church), where does it come from?" He also touched on legislation in California which banned therapy for sexually confused minors and New York's ploy to distribute the morning after pill to girls as young as age 14.
The Reverend Tony Evans of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas, also said in an interview, "You cannot read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and go through too many chapters that are not involving politics. So it is not a minor issue or a marginal issue. It is a central issue." Evans believes the most important issue is the right to life, followed by family and then the church. He declared, "God operated the world by covenants. Those covenants have specific jurisdictions and responsibilities, not to be infringed upon by another covenant. That's where the redefinition of marriage comes in - God has a family covenant and He has a family definition. So if you don't understand how God operates the world then you make up your rules as you go along and find pretext verses to make you feel better about it."
The Senior Legal Counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, Erik Stanley, stated, "Pastors should decide what they preach from the pulpit, not the IRS." He went on to say, "It's outrageous for pastors and churches to be threatened or punished by the government for applying Biblical teachings to all areas of life, including candidates and elections. The question is. 'Who should decide the content of sermons: pastors or the IRS?'"
It's interesting that 87 percent of Protestant pastors are against endorsing candidates from the pulpit according to LifeWay Research. Are they cowards? Are they too worried about what people in their congregation and elsewhere will say about them as Idleman asserts? Are they simply taking the "conventional wisdom" at face value and not thinking through their legal rights?
Perhaps pastors should read John 4. In verse 4, it states,: "You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God." Verse 17 is also clear,: " If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them."
Many people thought the Tea Party woke up a sleeping giant. Perhaps those who initiated "Pulpit Freedom Sunday" and those courageous pastors who are speaking out about Biblical principles from their pulpits are the real giants who have been awakened. Their sermons, the Word of God, spoken with authority and conviction have the potential to awaken Americans all around our great nation to the Biblical dimension of controversial issues in the 2012 Presidential election.
1015 Fifteenth St. N.W., Suite 1100
Washington, D.C. 20005
Phone: (202) 488-7000
Fax: (202) 488-0806