Saturday, September 27, 2008

Silly Pastors, Tricks Are for Kids

Faith and politics often collide, but this time massive legal fallout seems imminent. Tomorrow, a group of 30 uber-conservative pastors backed by the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal organization, will endorse Republican Presidential Nominee John McCain from their church pulpits. Jerry Falwell is smiling from the grave.

What is their goal? Is it to drum up support for one candidate in a tight race? Is it to guide their congregants to a more educated decision come November? No. Their stated goal is to incite a court fight with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulation which forbids tax-exempt entities like churches from doing such things. (See "Pastors Buck Ban on Pulpit Politics" for the full story.)

Perhaps the IRS regulation is unfair or unconstitutional. Perhaps not. Regardless, this surely isn't the best way to engage the issue. As a Church-loving follower of Christ, I am disturbed for a couple of reasons. 

First, this stunt is stupid. I wish I could think of a more eloquent way to say it, but I think "stupid" works well. The actions of these pastors put their churches in jeopardy of losing their tax-exempt status. If that happens, they will rob their congregants of the tax break that they would have earned from their contributions.

Even beyond the stupidity, this stunt runs contrary to the ministry calling. The call to ministry is a call to unite, not divide. And it is a call to engage all who need the Gospel. Don't we want to minister to Democrats or only Republicans? By endorsing Senator McCain from their pulpits, these podunk pastors slam the church door in the face of all the Democrats in their community. 

This self-serving, self-glorifying stunt is a not-so-subtle reminder that there is still a cohort within the church that aligns itself with a particular political party and alienates those who don't fall in line. These people act with utter disregard to the message of the Gospel, the ministry of Jesus Christ, and the consequences of their actions within the community. Sad.

What do you think?


Albert said...

haha Love the - " First, this stunt is stupid "

Good post...

hadsell said...

I couldn't agree more. I watched a few clips and heard pastors suggest that there was "no way a Christian can vote for Barack Hussein Obama". I had hoped that this sort of bigotry was far removed from Christ's body... I was sadly wrong. This is honestly heartbreaking, regardless of who one supports for President.

brett tilford said...

I completely agree. Specifically the part about endorsing a particular candidate and shutting the door to all the democrats in that community. Stupid is the right word.

Christine said...

Funny, too. If the whole point is to just stir up the whole IRS thing, then it shouldn't matter at all "who" they are endorsing from the pulpit.

Oh ... wait ... I forgot they're going with a whole "stupid" theme here! :)

Chance said...

Politics should be kept out of the pulpit. Christians should be just as free as everyone else to think and speak for themselves. That being said, we should stand-up for freedom that is increasing being restricted in this country in the name of political correctness. Thought from the political right seems to be the ideas that are attacked more than any other.

John (The Cautiously Outspoken Semi-Anonymous Timber Embracer) said...

Stupid execution perhaps. Having a mix of pastors (some pro-Obama, some pro-McCain) would have been a better way to go, but there is an important principle at issue here.

Was MLK "stupid" for engaging his church in political activity? If "tax-exempt status" becomes our god, the prophetic voice of the Church is muted for 30 pieces of silver.

Why play games with "you know what to do" sermons? If a pastor thinks there is a biblical issue worth voting for, he or she should have the freedom to say so (without fear of the IRS).

Maybe these weren't the best frontline prophets (or maybe they were . . . I haven't heard any of the sermons) but they took a courageous stand that may prove important for all Christian voices in the future.

BTW, great blog Jonathan. Feel free to comment at again.

(Full disclosure: My pastor took a pass, but noted the effort in a bulletin piece and offered support for the principle generally.)

Anonymous said...

I believe the action of a church to support or endorse one candidate or the other is simply wrong. However, it's not because of the unconstitutional laws and regulations that are in question regarding the IRS and the precious tax exempt status that is sought by many's the signaling out any one group, person, candidate, party, race, or anything.

As I said on a recent post myself, I believe the reason our country is in the sad state that it is today, is because we (the Church) have not been living up to our part of God's Kingdom that is present here among us today. We don't pray for our leaders! We rejoice when a "Christian" is in a position of power and forget to support that position in prayer. When a leader rises into position that is against the things of the Kingdom of Christ, we protest and picket - but forget to pray for God to give them the wisdom they need to govern the people.

In essence: Voting is not our Christian duty. Praying is our Christian duty.

Whoever would win this election makes relatively no difference if those who seek first the Kingdom of God neglect our responsibility to PRAY for those in authority over us, regardless of their political, cultural, ethical, moral, & economic views.

I will say it again; Voting is not our Christian duty. Praying is our Christian duty.

Anonymous said...

Your phrase: As a Church-loving follower of Christ....

Might I suggest rather a Christ-loving church attender... :)

Anonymous said...

Might I add one more thought. It is completely unnecessary (and IMO against all facets of true Christ-mindedness) for the church to 'endorse' anyone other than Jesus. However, the church certainly can present the reason and means for a stand it would take on "issues"...and even do so in a matter that stays clear of political banter.

Strictly speaking; the church, by endorsing Jesus would repudiate any form of government as we have today without excluding the very persons, groups, and cultural needs that 'government' is designed to be subject. And therefore in a swing of mass appeal can in fact propel the body to an understanding what is right and what is wrong.

John (The Cautiously Outspoken Semi-Anonymous Timber Embracer) said...

Apparently, at least one of the pastors that Barry Lynn is going after endorsed Obama.

Pray v. Vote is a false dichotomy. Both/and not either/or.

Anonymous said...

Pray v. Vote is a false dichotomy. Both/and not either/or.


I am not suggesting that it is either or. But, too often American Christians neglect the responsibility to pray for our leaders. We need to pray for those we support AND those we don't. Somehow American Christians supercede the responsibility of prayer with the idea that voting is our God given right and duty...

Yes, it is a privilege to vote, but it certainly is not our God given right or duty to do so. There is no scriptural basis for the understanding that it is our Christian duty to vote.

Jeremy D. Scott said...

B-Mac led me to your blog.

While I think the act was rather pathetic and wouldn't have done it myself, I'm not sure the grounds of losing tax-exempt status is reason for stupidity.

I sometimes wonder how much freer the Kingdom of God might be in the US if there were no tax-exempt status for our religious organisms. Yes, we'd lose out on a ton of money (perhaps even billions of dollars on the whole), but it would also help those who are concerned about loving because of love stay focused on love rather than saving some money (either for the organism itself, or the tax return of the individual supporting the organism).

The Kingdom of God is built on love, not money.

Jonathan Merritt said...

Iam4Jesus: Thank you for saying "voting is not our Christian duty." Someone once told me that "If Jesus were alive today, he would be a good citizen. He would vote for the lesser of two evils." Perplexed, I walked away thinking, "Isn't the lesser of two evils still evil?" I like your reminder that Christians are scripturally exhorted to pray, not vote.

Also, I stick by my phrasing that I am a Church-loving follower of Christ. The noun--the "What I am"--is a follower of Christ, not a "churchgoer." However, I have a deep love for the Church...and, coincidentally, so did Jesus (Ephesians 5).

Anonymous said...

Jonathan. Yes - having a love for the church is certainly precious - if the church we mention is the people of God, and not the modern American church - as cloistered and segregated people groups.

Interestingly, regarding the original post: It seems there are some Ohio Muslim mosques pushing a "get out the vote for Obama" campaign. I don't suppose Barry Feld and the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State will be turning these religious leaders into the IRS. No. The IRS won't go within 10 miles of a mosque.


It seems, the only religious group that gets muted those who share the faith and values of many of the founders of this country.

Anonymous said...

"Thank you for saying "voting is not our Christian duty….I like your reminder that Christians are scripturally exhorted to pray, not vote."

You're welcome.

If Jesus were alive today and living in America - he would do just as He did under the Jewish leaders in Roman oppression - not be involved in politics. Rather, he would quietly serve and humbly teach. I don't think He would vote at all. Because His Kingdom IS at hand - and He knew (knows) that God's Kingdom is sovereign.

I believe that the Lord, if we week His wisdom, will lead us for whom to vote. I see my vote as placing God’s stamp of approval on a candidate. He will not approve evil. I do believe strongly that the Lord may direct me to vote for a losing candidate. Because, when I stand before Him on my day of atonement and judgement, He will look at my voting record and hold me accountable for the wrong that may have been done while that candidate is in office. He may have me vote for a losing candidate to protect me from the assumed responsibility of what happens or does not happen during that term of office.

I also believe that no matter whom wins; because I pray; it is the Lord’s will that prevail – even if the “winner” is against everything for which the Lord would stand. I trust the Lord will prevail – even if we can’t vote for Him.

Zack said...

Two questions, Jonathan:

1) Do you believe that it's per se wrong for pastors to endorse a political candidate, whether from the pulpit or in general?

2) Do you believe that churches, (like Cross Pointe, for example), or parachurch organizations, (like Touching Lives), should strive for 501(c)3 status?