Yes! Pastors Should Preach “Political” Messages
I’m a major advocate of pastors talking about “politics” from the pulpit. It has nothing to do with the fact that I’m a pastor, or that I’m a political junky. It has to do with my belief that at the core of every Christian is a theology that orders his or her worldview. That worldview dictates daily actions and interactions. For this reason it is critical that pastors address “political issues” from the pulpit.
Now, I want to make sure we are on the same page. When I say “political issues” I don’t mean that pastors should talk about the IRS, or the FCC, or whether our current foreign policy is working, or the state of our military. Those are not the “political” issues I have in mind.
When I say pastors should discuss political issues from the pulpit I am referring to issues that are, in fact, biblical moral issues that have been hijacked by our highly politicized culture.
Issues such as abortion, marriage, sexuality, and gender roles are not political issues; these issues are biblical moral issues that demand attention, clear communication, and biblical grounding.
At the heart of these issues is a theological position that will inform a person’s worldview. That means a person’s view on sexuality has, at its core, a theological positions that dictates how that person view sexuality each day. So, for example, a person that believes sexuality is a fluid, flexible extension of his personality will be more inclined to support homosexuality, transgenderism, and other forms of sexual expression.
But, a person with a view of sexuality grounded in the biblical teaching that God created each person male and female, fixed at birth, biologically determined and unalterable; he will be less likely to support any position or view that deviates from that belief. For this reason it is imperative that pastors address these critical issues from a biblical position with their congregations.
Why do we have an entire segment of professing Christians supporting LGBT rights, same-sex “marriage,” and other positions that are clearly against Scripture? Certainly one contributing factor is a lack of clear, theologically based, biblical teaching in our churches. And what ends up being the dominant picture of the “Christian position” is folks like Westboro Baptist because others are refusing to stand up and speak clearly.
Some pastors are concerned with becoming too political and creating walls to the very people they are seeking to reach. I get that. I think such a concern is valid, to a degree. Even Russell Moore of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission acknowledges that a pastor, if he is not wise in handling these biblical moral issues facing our society, will indeed end up becoming a political stumper rather than a preacher:
“What typically happens [in] really, really overtly political churches, they tend to become churches that aren’t taken seriously either politically or theologically because if your people start to get the feeling that what you are really doing is just taking your political issue and you are kind of using the preaching of the word in order to get to that political issue, then they are going to become cynical, and they are going to say this is just somebody who is trying to sell me a product.”
Those are wise words. Pastors must stand firmly planted in the Gospel aspect of each of these issues and show the intrinsic Gospel strand that runs through each one. If a person has an erroneous view of sexuality it will be hard for her to understand the biblical teaching and how it ties into the Gospel. If a person believes it’s normal and acceptable to change genders, he will fail to see the image of God in human creation and how it ties into the Gospel. In reality, these issues, if not properly addressed will become barriers to the Gospel.
Other pastors are concerned that if they get too political that the IRS will come calling and they simply don’t want to have to deal with the government. Hey, no argument from me. No one wants to go head to head with the IRS if they don’t have to. But as Matt Barber of Liberty Counsel explains, there is really nothing to fear at all:
“No churches have lost their tax exempt status in the United States due to political action…The reason is that there is no legal mechanism for the Internal Revenue Service to take away a church’s tax exemption. Churches are ‘inherently tax exempt’ or ‘tax immune,’ just by being a church. They do not need permission from the IRS.”
So if churches are inherently tax-exempt, where does the fear of the IRS come from? Barber explains:
“There is a law, the ‘Johnson amendment,’ named after President Lyndon Johnson, that forbids churches from endorsing candidates. This law was added to a bill when Johnson was a U.S. senator and was in retaliation against some churches in Texas that opposed Johnson at the time. But even that law is ‘toothless,’ because it would be declared unconstitutional if challenged in court and the IRS will not enforce the law because IRS officials do not want it to be challenged in court.”
The fear of being targeted by the IRS for political speech is not based in fact, law, or reality. It’s an irrational fear contrived by those seeking to silence the voices of pastors. Each year the Alliance Defending Freedom challenges the Johnson Amendment by hosting Pulpit Freedom Sunday.
On Pulpit Freedom Sunday pastors around the country preach “political” messages and record them, send them to the IRS, and wait. To date, after more than five years and thousands of messages, not one pastors or church has even been contacted by the IRS. Why? Because the IRS relies on fear and leaving a worthless law like the Johnson Amendment in place and doing nothing is more valuable than actually trying to enforce it and seeing it struck down as unconstitutional.
The bottom line is that our country is at a critical time during which we need leaders to stand up and share the truth of God’s Word regarding pressing issues. Pastors have the tools, the training, and the time each week to do just that. If pastors continue to ignore the many biblical moral issues facing our culture we can only expect to see more deception as church members stay uninformed.