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Posted by on Sep 10, 2008 in Politics | 5 comments

Politics Has No Place in the Pulpit

[This is a piece I just submitted to The Logan Daily News, the local paper in the community I serve as pastor. It’s part of a continuing series to which local clergy are invited to contribute. It is overtly Christian, not, I hope, as a means of pushing my faith down people’s throats, but to (a) let non-Christians see that many–I believe most–Christians do not believe that the Church should be a political institution and (b) assure other Christians, forced day after day to watch as some Christian voices hijack public perceptions of our faith, that they aren’t alone.]

Several weeks before the war in Iraq began, I heard from two different pastors who had differing views of the impending conflict. One argued that followers of Jesus couldn’t possibly support the war. The other claimed that it was the moral duty of followers of Jesus to do just that.

Both of these pastors were sincere followers of Christ. But their conflicting opinions show the difficulties that arise when members of the clergy decide they know how Jesus wants us (or our members of Congress) to vote.

“Christianity,” C.S. Lewis once wrote, “has not, and does not profess to have, a detailed political [program] for [application at every] particular moment.”

Christians, I believe, should be interested in politics. And I hope that committed Christians run for political office. But no pastor or congregation can claim to know God’s partisan or political preferences, if in fact, God has any. Instead, preachers and churches should focus on other things.

Jesus once said, “…when I am lifted up from the earth, [I] will draw all people to Myself” (John 12:32). Jesus wasn’t only talking about His being lifted up on a cross here. He was also saying that when followers of Jesus lift Him up for the whole world to see, in our words and in our lives, others will follow Him. That, in turn, will affect how they live their lives as citizens and politicians. If God wants to guide them in their voting, God will do so without the meddling of preachers or Christian organizations.

Preachers and churches are to keep sharing Jesus Christ. We’re to trust that as we lift Jesus up, at least some in the world will come to see Jesus in our lives and believe in Him.

Except in the face of horrific evil, like slavery, racism, or prejudice, social issues that must be addressed politically as well as in other ways, politics has no place in the pulpit.

[This has been cross-posted on my personal blog. The piece addresses what has become a hot topic in central Ohio.]

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  • JSpencer

    Thank-you Mark for posting about this important topic. I know many devout Christians who view the separation of church and state as a healthy and necessary principle, and it is my hope that most Christians feel this way. There are so many great quotes from founding fathers on this subject, including Jefferson, Franklin, and Madison. They understood why this country would never realize it’s full potential if it wasn’t protected from the dangers of a theocracy, and I for one am not about to try second guessing those great minds. This principle also protects the rights of people to worship as they please without government interference, so it works both ways. If these people want to preach politics from the pulpit then they need to lose their tax-free status. Even then, I believe religion has no place in partisan politics. Btw, I’ve been a C.S. Lewis fan since the early 60s.

  • SteveK

    Mark, I agree with what JSpencer said. I can only add that this agnostic (me) didn’t see anything “overtly Christian” in your words. Many Christian concepts and beliefs can be, should be and are more-often-than-not beneficial to all. 🙂

    Thank for posting this well thought, well written article.

  • I wholeheartedly agree. I know that the pastors of my church are very, very good men, but that’s all they are- men. Not God. They have the same failings that I do, and their opinions should not be taken in any way to represent God’s policies. I happen to believe that separation of church and state is essential. Theocracies are no better than any other kind of government, and frequently, are worse. I don’t think that Pat Robertson can make better decisions than I can simply because he is a minister.

  • archangel

    bless you Rev Mark.


  • DLS
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