By ELIJAH CORBITT Staff Writer
Tensions continue to rise as November draws near on both sides of the campaign trail. Insults are constantly hurled and the media continue to enflame this kind of rhetoric leaving many Americans feeling as if they’re only in a position to choose between the lesser of two evils. With two presidential candidates who seem unfit to lead the free world, many people are seeking sound advice to help them decide in whom they should cast their vote.
One place people gather for guidance is a place of worship. Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3) puts churches at risk of losing their tax-exemption status if they publicly endorse a candidate. However, I do not find it appropriate for pastors to be endorsing candidates from the pulpit. The pastor’s job is to speak strictly from the Bible, and the Gospel cannot be diluted.
If a minister chooses to use anything besides the Bible as a source of preaching, it is simply not preaching. Even if it is Christian-themed, inspirational, or even morally sound, anything less than a biblical sermon is a speech. When preaching, touching on political hot topics or moral statements is inevitable. For example, if a sermon is based on Psalm 139, you can’t help but affirm the sanctity of life. Many pastors today use a style known as expository preaching which is a form of preaching that details the meaning of a particular scripture. When using this style, pastors must be wise enough to let the scripture guide the sermon, and trying to incorporate political talking points would be spiritual malpractice.
It is quite amusing when certain groups on the right of the political spectrum want pastors to “speak up”. What they want is for pastors to endorse a specific candidate. Of course pastors are speaking up, just not about a particular candidate or political hot topic. Many people are quick to say pastors are being too passive, but are even quicker to forget that congregations have many different political affiliations.
“If a minister chooses to use anything besides the Bible as a source of preaching, it is simply not preaching.”
Churchgoers and leaders on the left and right of the political spectrum must realize that the Bible cuts both ways. 1 Corinthians 7 is a concrete example of the Bible supporting traditional marriage between a man and a woman, and Jeremiah 1:5 validates life at all stages of production. Many people on the right will take those verses and say all Christians must vote republican. However, that train of thinking is wildly incomplete. You will find many scriptures on justice, caring and taking care of the poor, along with the treatment of immigrants. I often hear many republicans say, “The left is in opposition to everything they stand for as Christians.” I find that ironic because Jesus’ main antagonists throughout the Gospels were the Pharisees and they would be considered the religious right of ancient times. Pastors should never bow to any political party or their talking points.
“The way the message is carried and who carries the message will influence what people think about the message,” Pastor Nate Howard, senior pastor of Living Faith Alliance Church eloquently says. “If we align ourselves too closely to someone like Donald Trump, people will interpret it through what they see in the life of Donald Trump.” This isn’t Trump bashing or Hilary Clinton praising, but what he is saying is there’s no room for the Gospel to be politicized.
Of course churches should engage in culture and the important issues of the day, but the engagement must be an outgrowth of the sanctifying work of the Gospel. This isn’t about shying away from endorsements because of the IRS, but because Jesus Christ must be at the center of every sermon.