Friday, October 3, 2008

Shall We Have Political Pulpits?

The Alliance Defense Fund made news recently by encouraging pastors to endorse a presidential candidate from the pulpit. Last Sunday, 31 pastors in 22 states did just that. The ADF characterized this as an act of civil disobedience. The pastors in question have risked their church's tax exempt status. That is not necessarily wrong. I know that there is great frustration on the part of many conservative pastors because liberal pastors seem to routinely endorse candidates and even have them in their pulpits. But pastors have no business playing the "he did it first" game.

Mark Galli of Christianity Today has written a thoughtful and clear response to pastors who endorse candidates and party platforms from the pulpit. He writes:

This yearning to tell congregations how to vote arises out of a godly desire to teach how to live daily the Christian life, in political season and out. Politics is nothing if it is not about daily life. Whether it's the place of creationism in the local high-school curriculum, or how many immigrants to welcome into the country, or how much to spend on defense versus welfare — all political decisions affect our Day-Timers or our Form 1040. They influence things like how much our investments earn or what values our children imbibe in the public square.

Pastors are driven by a righteous desire to shape not just church members but also their communities according to biblical standards of justice and mercy.

But these same pastors often hanker to be relevant — and this is nothing but the Devil's third temptation of Jesus. When chatter about candidates and platforms fills the airwaves, when everyone pontificates about the last debate or recent TV appearance, you can seem out of touch with reality or too timid if you don't join in the national conversation and take a public stand. Who wants to go to a church led by an irrelevant coward?

These pastors — and congregations that are egging them on — don't realize that in endorsing political candidates or platforms, they are selling their inheritance for a mess of pottage. . . .

Pastors are right about this much: The election season is a unique moment in a church's life, but not because the pastor has the chance to lobby for his candidate. No, the Christian preacher has the unparalleled opportunity to act as the only sane person in a nation mad for power, the only voice in an ephemeral season filled with lies and half-lies to speak abiding truths — that elections (even "the most important in a generation") come and go, that princes (even "the most gifted in a lifetime") appear and pass away, that nations (even "the greatest in history") rise and fall.

Read the entire article HERE.

This is not to say that pastors should avoid dealing with issues that are dealt with directly or indirectly in Scripture. Pastors ought to speak out on abortion, caring for the needy, homosexuality, racism, and responding to evil doers. Pastors should not be afraid to speak biblical truth to these issues. But pastors err when they endorse a particular candidate or political party. Pastors are heralds of the Gospel of Jesus not spokespersons for politicians.

No comments: