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Politics in the Pulpit

Posted by Matt Postiff November 14, 2017 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Theology  Society 

Today I received a couple of questions about pastors talking about politics in the pulpit. The questioners' native tongue is Spanish, so I reproduce some of their questions here in the original language:

Que opina que los pastores expresen públicamente su preferencia política? Mi pregunta es si es lícito que un pastor manifiesta públicamente su intención de voto. Te enfocarias en los temas valoricos solamente? Es decir, fijarse sólo en los temas de valores como aborto, matrimonio, etc. Cómo enseñas eso? Diciendo en qué fijarse para votar?
Translation: What is your opinion of pastors who publicly express their political preference? My question is whether it is permissible for a pastor to publicly state his intention to vote. Would you focus on the value issues only? That is, to look only at issues of values ??such as abortion, marriage, etc. How do you teach that? By saying which way to vote?

My short answer is this: A pastor should not speak about his political preferences from the pulpit.

Obviously the question demands a longer answer. First, note that I answered the question about political preferences. Those have no place in the pulpit if all they are is personal preferences, that is, matters of indifference to God. The pastor's preferences are no more valid than the next church member's preferences. The pastor should be occupied with preaching God's word, not man's word.

Second, we must recognize that the Christian faith touches on every area of life, and that includes those areas also touched by politics. Let me say that again, in more modern terms: the Gospel of Jesus Christ affects how we vote. It affects how we think about all kinds of issues. It is not just the good news that Jesus died for our sins. It also expresses the bad news that there are sins--things that are wrong to do or be involved in--and we must repent of doing them!

There are many issues that are not preferences. That is, God cares about these issues because they touch some moral principle. Upon these matters, we can and must preach the whole counsel of God in order to give guidance to God's people in the church. The people need leadership, lest they be like sheep without a shepherd. And yes, they will go off in every direction if they are not taught.

Third, in the United States at least, we are not permitted to preach or campaign for a particular candidate. To do so would be a violation of our non-profit tax exempt status. This situation was created by the so-called "Johnson amendment" which has the effect of limiting the influence of religious non-profits in the political process. But while candidate advocacy is limited, issue advocacy is strongly supported and upheld in our political system.

So, fourth, we should have an influential voice in the political process, by being strong advocates for righteousness in the public square. For example, pastors should preach against abortion, and against supporting those who support it. We should preach against gay marriage and transgenderism because those are rebellion against God. And we should call those who support it to repent and believe in Christ. We should preach against lawlessness, and in favor of the rule of law so that God's purposes for government will be carried out instead of frustrated (Romans 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2:12-14).

We should preach against the endless accumulation of debt because it ignores important principles in God's word, namely that we must live humbly within our means, and know that the borrower is servant to the lender (Proverbs 22:7). If we are in a society that has property slavery, as we had in the United States in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, we should preach against such slavery, based as it is on man-stealing (Exodus 21:16, Deut. 24:7) and vile treatment of fellow humans created in God's image (Acts 17:26). We should preach against political and financial corruption in society and government.

Here is another example: we should preach against divorce and sexual immorality. John the Baptist did just that, and it cost him his life (Matthew 14:3-12).

Fifth, we can encourage our people to get out to vote. That is part of their responsibility as good citizens of the secular state.

Christians and others in society can be influenced by the preaching and teaching of pastors. We should make use of every opportunity to preach the righteousness of God, and the need for salvation in light of the evils of the society. We must also preach the glorious kingdom of Christ, which will clean out all the evil of our present societies and set up a perfect culture in which righteousness reigns.

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