Should Pastors Endorse Political Candidates from the Pulpit?

Posted: September 25, 2008 by Rick Hogaboam in Politics, Sermons
Tags: ,

A bunch of pastors are planning on endorsing a presidential candidate this coming Sunday in churches across the country as a way to protest against IRS laws that forbid non-profit organizations from publicly supporting or denouncing certain candidates. See link for fuller story:

There’s a few things that need to be noted. The Gov’t isn’t censuring churches from endorsing political candidates…they can do so, but would jeopardize their non-profit status. I guess it is a mild form of censuring. The Gov’t expects organizations that are given preferential treatment in the tax code to be non-partisan and neutral when it comes to politics. The reasons for this are understandable in my opinion. A so-called “non-profit” organization could publicly seek to elect candidate “x” and serve as a fund-raising front, able to grant contributors with receipts that can be used for deductions on their taxes. I therefore support the IRS position on this issue.

At the same time, it is no secret that many non-profits have a stated preference for particular political issues and candidates. They are too many to list. The IRS apparently does nothing.

Laying aside the legality of endorsing candidates from the pulpit, my questions is whether it should even be done if it is okay with the IRS?

Let me answer that with a few points:

1. A pastor, who is administering the sacrament of the word on Sunday to the people of God, to the citizens of heaven, should be “trans-partisan”, above it. The fact is that people in the pews have differing allegiances to differing political causes and candidates. The pastor should transcend that and seek to make lovers of King Jesus, not a particular candidate.

2. I also think that a pastor is a earthly citizen and should engage society with brotherly love and concern. This will inevitably involve the realm of politics. A pastor should therefore involve himself in such a realm, but with the clear demarcation that such engagement is as an “earthly citizen” seeking the overall welfare of neighbor irregardless of political and religious affiliation.

I endorsed Mike Huckabee on my blog because it simply reflected my personal opinion. I would never do such a thing from the pulpit. Also, I didn’t support Huckabee just because he is a Christian, but rather because he supported policies that are dear to MY heart. I would never presume that my conscience and preference should speak on behalf of all my congregants.

3. In summary, I am opposed to political engagement on the Lord’s day, other than praying for our leaders as we are told to do. We gather as heavenly citizens, not as earthly citizens. We are entering the heavenly Jerusalem and seated in the heaven-lies, where there is only one Lord, and only one allegiance. I am convinced that the people of God desperately need this sacred time in their week where they spend time with God in a way that transcends politics, burdens of vocation, financial struggles, etc. They need to see God, not Barack Obama or John McCain.

At the same time, I believe that the pastor, as an earthly citizen, should whole-heartedly engage issues in the community and seek the betterment of society. I believe Christians should involve themselves on school boards, city councils, etc. As much as is possible, such engagement should not be polarizing, but unifying. As an earthly citizen, we are certainly servants of God, but we are also civil citizens, seeking the overall welfare of neighbors that we may disagree with on a number of issues.

Anyhow, just my take on this whole news item about pastors touting their candidates of preference this Sunday. I wish that such pastors would exert more energy in displaying the eternal glory of Jesus Christ as Lord of lords and King of kings.

  1. joelmartin says:

    I’d leave it up to the pastor to do as he wishes about endorsing or not endorsing. What I do think is totally wrong is the state telling a church what it can or can’t do. This means that we in effect have a super-bishop or a super-creed that rules over us in the form of the state limiting what we can say in church.

  2. kari says:

    the state isn’t telling the church what to do…. its simply saying that a pastor cannot get in the pulpit and say “vote/don’t vote” for so and so……

    that’s it…. that’s the entire debate. and if a pastor MUST say those words…. he can. he just can’t be tax-exempt and do it.

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