Culture At Large

When politicians go to church

Andy Rau

Christian leaders who step out in the world of politics--whether it's Bono, Pat Robertson, or the Pope--have been drawing a lot of attention in recent years. If you're like me, you've spent much of the last few years alternately cheering and cringing as Christianity has been linked to causes all across the political spectrum.

And so I think the general idea that Christian spokesmen need to be very careful in the way they represent the Church in politics has started to sink in. But there's another aspect of the church/politics relationship that has always made me nervous, and which the folks over at In the Agora are discussing this week.

I'm talking about the common practice of politicians making campaign appearances in churches. The article cites just two examples; but these are by no means the only two politicians who have taken up position behind the pulpit during a tight political race:

After swaying gently to the hymn "God Will Take Care of You," Ned Lamont went the pulpit and asked congregants at the Messiah Baptist Church to break from a three-term incumbent and support his bid for U.S. Senate.

A few miles away, Sen. Joe Lieberman urged those in the Iglesia Cristiana Buen Pastor parish to vote in the Aug. 8 Democratic primary for someone they like and trust.

(The article doesn't specificially state whether these campaign appearances occurred in the context of worship services or not, but the mention of hymn-singing suggests that they did.)

A few questions to think about:

* Has a politician running for office ever addressed your church in this manner?

* Is this a good way to directly address a local, voting Christian community, or does the thought of a politician in the pulpit set your teeth on edge? (I fall into the latter camp, but if you feel otherwise I'd like to hear your take on things.)

* If "pulpit campaigning" took place at a church but not in a worship context and accompanied by a disclaimer that the church didn't necessarily endorse the candidate, would that change your opinion?

* Is there a place for the church as a "neutral territory" in political debate? Would you like to see churches become active in hosting open political debates, politician speeches, and town meetings, or is that venturing into dangerous territory?

Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church, News & Politics, Social Trends