Thursday, August 15, 2013

Politics, pulpits, and priorities: Sorry, I'm just not on board with the latest "religious liberty" cause

The pulpit is sacred space. It is to be used for a sacred purpose: the faithful proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The preacher in the pulpit enjoys the greatest freedom this side of New Jerusalem: the freedom to proclaim the Word of God to the people of God. With that great freedom comes great responsibility, namely, the responsibility to be faithful to Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Apostles as revealed in Scripture and affirmed through 2,000 years of consensual tradition. The preacher abdicates that responsibility if he uses the pulpit, or allows it to be used, as a forum for partisan political speeches or the endorsement of candidates for political office.

To put it in less magisterial terms, don't count on my support for the latest cause celebre on the "religious liberty" front.
A coalition of church and ministry leaders is calling for legislation that would end the ban on political endorsements from the pulpit.

The chairman of the group says the current law stifles the speech of pastors who fear losing their churches' tax-exempt status.

The report specifies that tax-deductible donations during worship services would not be spent on political campaigns.

Opponents to changing the law say there's no need to further intertwine religion and politics.
I find myself, oddly enough, on the same page with C. Welton Gaddy, my old campus minister from my days at Mercer University. Gaddy, to my recollection, is a quite gifted preacher but I haven't often agreed with him on issues. In this case, however, he is absolutely correct.
“My concern is what that kind of change would make to the integrity and the unity of the church itself,” said C. Welton Gaddy, president of The Interfaith Alliance. “It’s about the sanctity of the religious voice in the context of worship and to compromise that authority would be devastating to religion in America.”
The freedom of the preacher to proclaim the Gospel is a freedom which cannot be abridged, undermined, or abolished by any human government--no matter what laws may ostensibly regulate speech or expression--because no human government is ultimately free from accountability to the Gospel's eternal claims. Every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (cf. Philippians 2:10ff). That is the message which ought to be proclaimed from every pulpit in every church. That some churches and some preachers would surrender the great freedom to proclaim that message in favor of a far lesser freedom to endorse candidates for petty political offices suggests a serious misappropriation of priorities.