Culture At Large

Preaching politics from the pulpit?

Andy Rau

Via the Out of Ur blog, a story of pastors engaging in civil disobedience... against the IRS. Last Sunday, a group of pastors endorsed a specific political candidate from their pulpits. Doing so violated a long-time ban on political endorsement by churches—and jeopardizes those churches' tax-exempt status.

I'd like to get your reactions to this. Here are a few of mine:

  • I dislike political stunts, particularly when there's no life-or-death issue at stake. If these pastors really hate the ban on political preaching, why not work (as private citizens) to change the law? Getting your church's tax-exempt status revoked because of your oh-so-bold act of defiance has financial repercussions that will affect everyone in the congregation.
  • Why not just preach the fundamentals of Christianity and encourage your congregation to apply those—using their own prayerful discernment—to the voting process? Why does a pastor need to officially endorse a candidate? What exactly is gained (apart from a bit of fleeting notoriety) by affiliating your church with one side of the political spectrum? How is that not like planting a big sign in front of the church saying "Democrats [or Republicans] need not apply"?
  • How does the kingdom of Christ benefit from introducing politics to the pulpit?

I've always liked to think of the church as a refuge from the constant political chatter and arguments that dominate so much of American life and media. In the real world, where no candidate is going to perfectly embody every "Christian value," is it really wise to go down this road?

If it's not obvious already, I think this is a bad idea. But I'd like to hear your thoughts. Is the ban on political preaching an inappropriate intrusion by the government into church life? If you're a pastor, do you chafe beneath the government's restrictions on political speech from the pulpit? If so, are you willing to put your tax-exempt status at risk over the issue?

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