The Reason I Don’t Like Pastors Preaching Politics
A while back, I wrote about pastors preaching politics and my wish that they’d stop. I’ve begun to rethink that position just a bit.
Back in March, I wrote a post entitled, “Don’t Tell Me Who to Vote For! Pastors, That Goes Double!”
I argued that in my mind, the role of a pastor is to teach about Christ, not to suggest which candidate I should plan on backing or, even worse, which political party I should blindly follow without question.
I told the story of checking out a church when I first moved to Charleston almost 10 years ago. At that time, just as is happening today, Hillary Clinton was running for president. At that time, it was still very early in the process, but she was already the presumed Democratic candidate.
I listened to a sermon from the particular church by podcast, and the speaker, who may or may not have been the lead pastor, said he loved his wife, he had no “problem” with women (in general). But he didn’t know “what God would do to America” if America elected that woman, Clinton, as president.
I stayed with the podcast just long enough to see if he followed that with any specific reasons as to why God might “punish” the country for electing Clinton.
That’s why I don’t care for the idea of pastors preaching politics. Too often, it seems, they embrace a party and assume everyone who’s part of that particular party must be nothing short of a saint.
Like far too many people who engage in pointless political debates that almost never seem to actually change anyone’s minds, when it comes to politics, there’s too little substance. I never heard that certain pastor explain a Biblical reason we shouldn’t elect “that woman.” That’s not to say he might not have found one — or even more than one, for that matter. But the problem was this clergyman who’s supposed to be focused on teaching God’s Word seemed to completely abandon it just to slam one political party as if theirs is the only one with all the answers.
Friends, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If one political party had all the answers, there’d never be the need for a different one. If one side was so clearly the side that’s always correct, why would anyone vote for any other side? Logically, it doesn’t make sense.
No one ever said political debate was logical.
But recently, I’ve stumbled onto the writing of a North Carolina pastor named John Pavlovitz. I actually had the pleasure of speaking with John by phone on a number of topics, particularly the notion of “progressive Christianity,” something that means different things to different people. I’ll get around to a post or two on that at some point.
John’s writing online has attracted a lot of readers who feel his take on the Christian faith is a breath of fresh air many of us have been waiting on for quite a long time.
Recently, he wrote about the notion that pastors should stick to the gospel and stay out of politics. In doing so, he quoted a passage from Jesus from Luke 4:18-19:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.
He says the admonition to pastors to stick to the Bible is actually a coded message “which almost always can be translated as, ‘The personal faith convictions which you are expressing publicly are now bumping up against my belief system and this makes me uncomfortable and I want to make you stop.’”
He’s absolutely right.
It’s probably safe to say, based on some of the comments from his critics, many of whom say things unkind enough to make a reasonable person wonder if they even know how to “love their neighbor,” the the “belief system” of which they speak is a political persuasion, not faith.
For some of us, on the other hand, those “personal faith convictions” we hear religious people preach seem to go against faith. They spew the same talking points being heaved into conversations in secular spaces. God doesn’t seem to enter the picture; it’s just that they are extending the same bitter discourse into a place of worship.
That is something I have a problem with, and it’s something I’ll always have a problem with.
If you can’t justify your political views against Jesus’s own words, how can you justify your political views in church? If your candidate, merely because he or she is on the proper “side,” advocates positions that are directly in opposition to beliefs Christ Himself said we should be embracing, why should anyone listen to your “faith-inspired” political beliefs?
I have a family member who occasionally forwards me emails from people with whom he attends church. They don’t mind forwarding emails full of lies and falsehoods that could be easily fact-checked, but they never seem willing to do that extra bit of work. One of the Ten Commandments specifies we should not bear false witness, yet they do that very thing to get their political view across.
When I wrote that I was tired of hearing pastors (and even church members) preaching politics rather than God, what I was really saying, I now realize, is that I’m tired of hearing pastors preach politics that seems to lie in direct conflict with the Biblical views they’re supposed to be teaching.
For a lot of pastors, unfortunately, that still means I think they shouldn’t preach politics.
For those who can demonstrate political policies that mirror Jesus Christ’s on actions, they’re the ones I’m happy to listen to.