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Why Political Speech Is Inappropriate from the Pulpit!

For years now, I have been criticizing the preaching of politics from the pulpit. Why? What's so wrong with talking about issues and can...

Sunday, June 2, 2024

Why Political Speech Is Inappropriate from the Pulpit!

For years now, I have been criticizing the preaching of politics from the pulpit. Why? What's so wrong with talking about issues and candidates in Church? After all, the folks who engage in it point out that they have an obligation to warn people away from sinful behaviors and to support those candidates/parties who support "Christian values." Many of the pastors who preach politics go on to point out that the United States was founded on "Christian principles," and that the U.S. Constitution was intended to keep government out of the Church - NOT the Church out of government. So, what about all of that? Are these political pastors right after all?

First, let's begin with what Christ commissioned his followers to preach. In the Gospel of Matthew, we read that he told them: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you."  (Matthew 28:19-20, ESV) In this context, it is instructive to note that Jesus Christ didn't criticize or talk about the policies of the secular government extant at the time of his ministry. Indeed, the ONLY time they are mentioned by him is to say that people should pay their taxes (Matthew 22:21, Mark 12:17, and Luke 20:25). While submitting himself to the judgment of the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate, Jesus said: "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world." (John 18:36, ESV) Thus, if we are truly following Christ's example, it's hard to reconcile his preaching with the messaging of these political ministers!

Moreover, I would go on to point out that the United States Constitution (however one chooses to interpret its clause mandating the separation of church and state) does NOT trump Scripture! Hence, whether or not that document supports political speech by ministers has NO bearing on whether or not Scripture supports such speech! In other words, it is immaterial to the question of the appropriateness of political involvement by Christians from a Scriptural perspective.

I would add to these considerations that involvement by Christians in the political arena inevitably leads to compromise with the world. The very moral/ethical standards which one seeks to uphold are very often compromised and/or diluted by the individuals we elect to implement and carry them out. Christ once declared that "every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit." (Matthew 7:17-18, ESV) Moreover, we must never lose sight of the fact that we (humans) cannot see the end of all things. Sometimes policies and laws have unintended negative consequences. After all, we must not forget that "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death." (Proverbs 14:12, ESV) In other words, God very often sees things differently than we do (Isaiah 55:8-9). For example, the Pharisees thought that they were implementing God's standards as revealed in the Pentateuch, but Christ obviously thought otherwise (see Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). 

Finally, in an article for Christianity.com (2023), Daniel Darling wrote about Three Reasons Not to Preach Politics in the Pulpit. I must say that I found his reasons to be very compelling and consistent with the Christian faith. He wrote: 1. Our text must be the Word of God, 2. The Bible cuts both ways, and 3. We must never dilute the message of the Gospel. Regarding his first point, the author said: "This sounds like a cliche, but it bears saying: faithful Bible preachers use the text of the Word of God as their preaching source. Anything less is simply a speech, which may be inspirational, moral, or even Christian-themed. But if our basis is not the text, we're not preaching." Darling had this to say about his second point: "I find it fascinating that certain groups on the Right want pastors to 'speak up.' What they mean by this, of course, is to more overtly endorse their preferred candidates and/or moral issues. But what they don't understand is that pastors are speaking up. It's just that what pastors are speaking up about may not be the talking points of the current season. And the Bible cuts against both parties, against all political persuasions." Likewise, regarding his third point, the author wrote: "The Church should be counter-cultural and should engage the issues of the day. But this engagement should be an outgrowth of the gospel's sanctifying work in each believer. In other words, political issues shouldn't be the main thing that characterizes a church. The gospel should be the main thing. The Scriptures should be the main thing. Christ should be the main thing."

You see when pastors enter the realm of politics and give their support to one policy or candidate over another, they immediately cut themselves off from reaching the members of their audience (both believers and unbelievers to whom they are trying to witness) who hold to the opposite view. In other words, how can you hope to reach sinners if you exclude them or make yourself their enemy? I've said it before: Capitalism and Socialism both have some features of Scriptural morality as part of their ideology, but neither of them are representative of God's morality/system! Republicans and Democrats both present some candidates and policies that advocate Christian principles/morals, but neither one of them reflects God's character and will! Likewise, even if we acknowledge that the United States was founded on "Christian principles," we must also admit that it has very often failed to live up to those standards throughout the course of its history as a nation. The book of Revelation (along with other prophetic books) makes very clear that ALL HUMAN governments are patterned after the Babylonian model (glorifying the state, its leader(s), institutions, and military). In short, NONE of the nations of this world represent God's Kingdom! After all, isn't that why Jesus instructed his disciples to pray: "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10, KJV)?

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