Thursday, October 04, 2012

Pulpit Freedom Sunday?

You may have already seen the ads and heard the discussions concerning Pulpit Freedom Sunday. If not, this is basically an initiative to challenge pastors to preach “bold, Biblical truth about candidates and elections from their pulpits on October 7th, 2012.”

Several people I know have Tweeted this out and urged Christians to show it to their pastors and have them accept this challenge. I discovered it when someone sent me the link and asked me what I thought. Here’s what I think:

The major issue at stake here is the tension between Church and State, enabled primarily by the tenuous stability of the 501(c)3 status granted to the Church by the State. If you go to the website for Pulpit Freedom Sunday you’ll get that idea right away.

See, pastors of corporate, tax-exempt Churches in America are fearful of speaking about political issues from the pulpit because, theoretically, it could jeopardize their tax exempt status with the Government. So, the best they can do now is to drop very large hints about which candidate God wants you to vote for, and hope you get the drift.

But, now, thanks to the bold people behind Pulpit Freedom Sunday, you can sign your name to a pledge and go ahead and flat out tell people who to vote for without fear (theoretically) of losing your tax-exemption status.

As an outsider to this tax-exempt reality, I have a different perspective.

See, our house church is not tax exempt. We don’t have a bank account. We don’t issue giving statements. No one receives a salary. We have no 501(c)3 status, and we don’t ever want one.

Not because it gives us the freedom to talk about politics, far from it. In fact, the irony is that our church family has nothing to fear from the occasional hour-long Sunday morning conversation about politics and the election. But we choose not to waste our time on things like this.

Instead, we’ve made a conscious decision to focus all our time, energy and passion on Jesus. When we get together on Sunday morning, or on Thursday evening, we could easily and freely converse about the candidates, argue over the issues, expound on the merits (or lack thereof) of political parties or campaigns, but why would we do that when Jesus is sitting right in our midst?

We want to hear Jesus speak to us, and surprisingly He seems more concerned about our lack of love for one another, or our need to forgive, or the importance of spending time with Him in prayer, or the hardness of our hearts towards the poor.

So, this Sunday, while hundreds (maybe thousands) of Christian churches around the nation will be hearing sermons about why they should vote for the Republican candidate, or why God wants them to re-elect the incumbent Democrat, we’ll be doing our best to hold hands, knit our hearts together in love, and submit ourselves as fully to Christ as possible so that we can hear His voice and be changed into the people He wants to make us into.

We’re fairly confident that God is in control of the electoral process and that He will establish the Government of our nation – and every nation – just as He promises to do in Romans 13. Where we need to focus our attention is on the Governing authority of our own hearts and lives. We need to surrender the territory of our hearts to a King who is able to rule in love and with unlimited power.
We must not become distracted by who is governing mere nations “out there” for the next four years, but become fully obsessed with the King who lives forever and who will rule our hearts forever.

People, I believe, are fully capable of deciding for themselves who to vote for, or not to vote for, or if they should participate in the process at all. Telling them what to do is not my job. It's not your job. But, as a Body, our mission is to surrender everything to Jesus and allow Him to have His way in our lives.

The best thing we can do for this nation, as followers of Jesus, is to humble ourselves and pray and repent of our own sins, and to seek His face. The fate of this nation is not in our hands, it's in God's hands.

I am Keith Giles and I approve this message.







Arthur Sido said...

Very well said. I am glad to see so many people raising their hands and asking some hard questions about this. The hypocrisy of demanding that Caesar give us tax breaks and then getting outraged when Caesar demands a say in how we operate is clear to everyone except Christians. Little wonder people don't seem interested in hearing about Jesus from us when we seem more interested in protecting our tax breaks and talking about politics.

Anonymous said...

I think I respectfully disagree.

Politics is a part of our culture. As Christians, why do we think we should try to make a positive difference in

all other aspects of life, except for politics?

I think part of loving our neighbors is engaging in culture, including politics, to try to improve conditions for

everyone, even though we all realize government is obviously just a temporary solution.

Also, the system of government in the U.S. was set up so that several freedoms would allow the people to provide

accountability to the government: speech, assembly, religion, etc. In terms of religion, this means churches have

the responsibility to critique governments when they are immoral. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is a good

example of this.

Next, there are examples in the Bible of God's people engaging in politics to make a positive difference. One of

the best examples is Joseph, who rose to the #2 spot in Egypt, the most powerful government at the time. God used

him to help people weather the long famine.

Finally, I would say voting and politics does matter for no other reason than to try to save as many unborn lives

as possible ("the least of these"). In the 2010 midterm election, voters elected a large number of pro-life

leaders to office. As a result, dozens of new pro-life bills passed in the following 2 years that will

undoubtedly save many unborn lives.

It is good to focus on the Gospel message at church, of course, but how does that apply to our lives? I believe

the pastor should help us to take Jesus' words and work out how we can best live that out in our culture.

Keith Giles said...

I'd love to hear more about the "dozens of new pro-life bills passed in the following 2 years that will
undoubtedly save many unborn lives."

Really? Can you tell me what just 6 of them were and what they accomplished?

What I see is that the Republican part uses this as a hot button to get votes, but (starting with Reagan) did/do nothing to actually move towards over-turning abortion laws on our books. Why? Because if they actually overcame this and ended abortion in our nation they would very little left to motivate Christians when they needed their votes.

We've had 2 years of Reagan, 2 years of GW Bush, one term of George Bush, and a majority Republican Congress during those years (off and on) and did any of them really take advantage of this and make abortion a priority? No. Other than rhetoric, there was no significant attempt to overturn Roe vs Wade...and there never, ever will be.

Keith Giles said...

ALSO: Why do we need the Pastor to help us figure out how to vote? Are we really that incapable of thinking for ourselves? Does he need to help us figure out everything else that's right or wrong? If so, we're following a man, not our Lord.

Anonymous said...

Hi Keith. I'm not an American citizen but I fully endorse what you have written. In South Africa we don't have the choice of voting in a president only a political party which are at times too many to count. The party that comes into power by majority vote then elects its own president by majority vote. And even within that party there is not consensus. It is clear logic in our country which party will rule as I'm not part of that particular majority. When & if I vote, I vote according to my conscience not because of some religious leader's biased frame of reference. In the meanwhile we encourage the believer to live by His life who indwells us. And as we live by His life so He will guide our hearts in all matters of faith. As we live out His life we demonstrate that we are citizens of the Kingdom of God & therefore trust that this citizenship will influence others to change their earthly citizenship to this heavenly one where we serve a King who demonstrates true justice, true righteousness, compassion for all & who has brought reconciliation to all peoples by the offering of Himself in death. Our allegiance & hope lies with & in Him & most definitely not in any president or political party. Keith Mclachlan.