Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Should Pastors Make Political Endorsements

This is an election year. This year, as every election year, will determine the President of the USA and the direction our country will be heading. Should a pastor, should I, be political? Should a pastor make a political endorsement of certain candidates?

This year on Oct. 7th several hundred pastors are going to make a political endorsement from the pulpit of their church in defiance of the IRS code that specifically forbids non-profit organizations from making a political endorsement(read here). The supposed penalty for making that political statement will be a loss of non-profit status. This means that contributions made will not be tax-deductible for those making the contribution.

I think this is wrong. Even if it is allowed and was legal, I don’t think a pastor should go so far as to endorse particular candidates.
I think this is an issue of wisdom and priorities. Let me break this down into a few different lines of thought: offense of the gospel, Biblical issues inform political ones, and shepherding people from all parties.

#1 The offense of the gospel.
A pastor and church should never shy away from the offense of the gospel. The gospel will offend. That is a non-negotiable. But, we must be careful not to offend with things that are optional. My making an endorsement of one political candidate or party, we run the risk of offending those people who are for the other guy or other party. A pastor needs to make sure that the gospel is the first priority, not an election. The good news of Jesus is the primary proclamation that should come from the pulpit of a pastor. Everything a pastor chooses to say is also excluding something else he could be saying. To be overly political runs the risk of lessening the gospel of Jesus Christ.

#2 Biblical issue inform political ones
Don’t get ahead of me yet. While I think it is unwise of a pastor to endorse a particular political party or candidate from the pulpit this does not mean that he should not address issues and values. A pastor absolutely has a responsibility to preach the whole counsel of the Word of God. The Bible gives believers many mandates that are relevant to modern social issues. A pastor should never shy away from faithful proclamation of the Biblical view of these social positions.
For example, it is critical necessary for a pastor to preach sound Biblical messages on the horror that is abortion. The Bible is unequivocal on this issue. We can’t let politics hijack our courage from preaching the Biblical truth that abortion is wrong. Obviously, that Biblical position should be used by the wise Christian to guide us in who to vote for.
I think the wise course of action would be for a pastor to defend the sanctity of life without saying, “Don’t vote for Obama, you must vote for Romney.” Preach the Biblical truth unashamedly, but don’t mandate a particular vote. This is true for other important issues of the day that are addressed by scripture: the sin of homosexuality and same-sex marriage, the sin of abortion, and many others.

#3 Shepherding All
The pastor must shepherd, minister, and teach all different types of sheep and church members. Some are more mature in their faith, some are not. Some are from one political party, some from another, some from no party affiliation at all. The church is not an arm of the Republican National Convention. It is the body of Christ. As a pastor I lessen my leadership ability by being overly political from the pulpit. Teach the Biblical issues and lead the people no matter what party that they might prefer. It is my opinion that this philosophy is the wisest course for a pastor.
I do not think that this means a pastor cannot have a personal opinion. He does, and he does have a vote. I will not endorse a candidate from the pulpit, but if it comes up on a personal level I have no problem voicing my political opinions.

The Jesus' Wife Fragment, or Watch Out For All The Manure

Watch Out For All The Manure
The Lost Art of Truth Detection
The Jesus' Wife Fragment

(The true scholars have weighed in. If you haven’t heard the headline, a Harvard professor has discovered and published a report on a papyri fragment that mentions Jesus had a wife.
If you want the scholarly rebuttal, read the always venerable Dr. Al Mohler.)

Here is my take:

Reason, rationale, logic, common sense…does anyone remember these things anymore? People have forgotten the importance of critical thinking skills. Even the back-wood-country-boys use logic and reason; they just call it something different… “good sense”. (among other more colorful descriptions).
Critical thinking is even more important in an information age. We are bombarded with information like never before. This makes it more necessary to employ critical thinking and reasoning than ever before. And yet, it seems, the opposite has occurred. While more and more information is spewed less and less reason is applied to evaluating that information.
Do you need some examples? How about POLITICS? I don’t care which side you are on, political information is in desperate need of a critical thinking filter.
Another example, the recent discovery of the “Jesus’ Wife Fragment”. Karen King, a liberal Harvard Divinity professor, supposedly found a fragment that mentions Jesus’ wife.
Since the news broke, serious scholars have weighed in to debunk this bit of fiction reported as fact. It seems Karen had an agenda, the fragment is from over 300 years after Christ, and it is the size of a worn out business card.
But it doesn’t take a scholar to recognize something as bogus. Let’s apply some simple country good sense to our information filters. If it smells like cow manure, looks like cow manure, it is probably cow manure. It doesn’t matter how it is packaged or described, it’s still cow manure.
We have a biblical mandate to employ the brain that our Creator has given us. There is another good biblical word for this: wisdom. We must use wisdom as a filter for the information that is ever flowing from all types of sources.