A Real Pastor Is Not Just Another Political Operative and a Real Church Is Not Another Political Rally

Cosmic Cliffs of the Carina Nebula NASA/James Webb Telescope

“Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.”― Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection.


I do not discuss partisan politics on this blog, much to the dismay of many. I have my own carefully thought out political views, which have changed and developed over time. I will not discuss those here. The subject matter for this post is an overview of politics and the church, not specific political issues. I ask that you refrain from using this opportunity to push your favorite candidate or party. That also extends to whatever channel or political podcast floats your boat.


In my former Southern Baptist Church, I saw something that stunned me. One of the pastors, I’ll call him Fred, would regularly hand out “Fred’s List” to his large Sunday school class. This list included the names of everyone he thought should receive the “good Christian” vote in the coming election. I had never seen anything like this before. Except for the abortion issue, which was primarily separated from politics, I had never heard a pastor do anything like that. I mentioned it to another pastor and leader or two and was told that “Fred always does this.” I was brushed off when I said this was possibly a violation of the law. It seems I didn’t understand the rules of the game in this church in more ways than one.

The law on the politicking of the church

In 2012, Reuters posted Hundreds of pastors back political candidates, defy tax rules.

Baptist Pastor Mark Harris stood before his flock in North Carolina on Sunday and joined hundreds of other religious leaders in deliberately breaking the law in an election-year campaign that tests the role of churches in politics.

…By publicly backing candidates for political office from the pulpit, Harris and nearly 1,500 other preachers at services across the United States were flouting a law they see as an incursion on freedom of religion and speech.

Under the U.S. tax code, non-profit organizations such as churches may express views on any issue, but they jeopardize their favorable tax-exempt status if they speak for or against any political candidate.

…Critics say the movement threatens the U.S. constitutional principle of separation of church and state and makes pastors look like political operatives rather than neutral spiritual leaders.

“When the church further divides the country, where’s the win in that?” asked Reverend C. Welton Gaddy,

Are pastors political operatives or neutral spiritual leaders?

From the above article: Such politicking from the pulpit makes pastors look like “political operatives that than neutral spiritual leaders.” Christianity Today posted Hot Takes Don’t Belong in Church. It was subtitled, “Crafting public political statements can detract from the church’s true call.” Pastor Chris Nye authored it. From CT:

Chris Nye is a pastor in Silicon Valley, a doctoral student at Duke University’s Divinity School, and the author of several books, including A Captive Mind: Christianity, Ideologies, and Staying Sane in a World Gone Mad (Wipf & Stock, 2022).

As an aside, I have been seeing some really good things coming out of Duke University Divinity School over the years

For a number of years, I have been a member of an LCMS church and have listened intently for any signs of political bias and have heard none, which has been a delightful surprise. They pray for the elections, and they pray for the leaders. They pray that those running our country will be filled with humility and wisdom. I have not heard one peep about specifics. My husband says it is the one place he knows he will not be bombarded with “If you vote like Fred, you will be a righteous voter.” That doesn’t mean we will never vote like Fred. We might have voted for some of the same people and initiatives, with or without Fred’s list.

Are pastors supposed to be public relations representatives of the church? What about the mystery?

Nye claims times have changed in the church. Fifteen years ago, he was expected to keep politics out of the pulpit, but now he is asked to speak to the “issues of the day” from the pulpit. I love what he has to say here.

Pastors often function as mediators of the Word for the lives of their congregants. But this has been twisted. In a time of political obsession, pastors and churches are no longer “mediators” of a mystery but public relations representatives for the American church.

He speaks of a pastor being the “mediator of the mystery.” Recently I have been listening to podcasts by a man who has become Greek Orthodox. He talks about the mystery of communion. That Jesus is present in the communion (Lutherans hold to such a view.) How it is a divine mystery. Isn’t this what pastors, preachers, and priests ought to be discussing? Instead, we have the likes of Robert Jeffress, who called those who didn’t vote for Donald Trump “morons.”

“These ‘Never Trump’ evangelicals are morons. They are absolutely spineless morons, and they cannot admit that they were wrong.”

Before those who didn’t vote for Trump got all excited, similar aspersions were also cast in the opposite direction. Those who voted for Trump were “morons.”

Is this politicking and calling people names now the role of the pastor? Is the church supposed to be like a business with its PR department releasing a statement to show just how “correct” they are? From the CT Post:

we hear “what the Chipotle founder has to say about gun violence” or about “Bass Pro Shop’s commitment to anti-racism.”

And to be an equal opportunity offender, I can highlight Mike Lindell, who supported President Trump and got booted off Twitter for his election fraud statements.

Is this what we want our churches to look like?

The pastor differs from the celebrity in that he or she is a teacher of God’s Word, a steward of a mystery (1 Cor. 4:1–2). The pastor is there to pass down what has been told to him or her (2 Tim. 1:13; 2:2; 3:14). Pastors are not in churches primarily to “offer some thoughts” on any given subject; they are there to announce a message that is not their own.

Pastors do not get to “say what we think” about any given thing or present a new idea we’ve been contemplating. We declare something we have heard (1 Cor. 15:1–4). We communicate an idea that did not originate in our brains or online but on the highways of Judea. That is, the primary mode of a pastor is “delivery” or “witness” (1 Cor. 11:23; Acts 1:6–8). The PR firm massages their message to make it palatable. The pastor takes the message and hands it over with as few blemishes as possible.

Of course, there are times when we must speak to issues that affect the church. We must stand against abuse, racism, human trafficking, and violence. We must help the poor, the differently abled, and the marginalized. This should come as no surprise because Jesus spoke to similar issues.

Recently I have been listening to a series on the works of St John Chrysostom. (Don’t I sound spiritual ?) In particular, the series dealt with his exposition on the Good Samaritan. Luke 10-25-37 NIV.  Oddly enough, I heard this preached at church and even written about on a website I consulted about something else. I think it applies to this subject at hand.

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

The church is not a PR firm. The pastor isn’t some celebrity calling the faithful to vote “Yes” on Question 2 on the ballot. We are to be peculiar people. To be more concerned for the beggar beside the road than for the latest political leader promising to lead us into the latest promised land.

Let me leave you with this example from my church. They offer first aid training for those interested in helping the church respond to natural disasters. When you read of a hurricane or flood, most likely, you will see a team from my church. They also offer a class on how to use a chainsaw properly. I think I’ll stick with the bandages.

Let me end with the final sentence of Chris nye’s post at CT.

It is from this posture of communion with God and our congregation that we take seriously our call of discipleship. Our churches need instruction for how to respond faithfully. But this takes so much more work than a statement.

This involves teaching, leading our people in collective prayer, and exhorting them toward righteousness and humility as a way to respond to the terrors of this world.


Comments

A Real Pastor Is Not Just Another Political Operative and a Real Church Is Not Another Political Rally — 76 Comments

  1. Well, churches ARE allowed to endorse the kinds of things that end up as referenda, initiatives or constitutional amendments (depending on the state). What churches are not supposed to do is endorse candidates. But to be honest, when Heckin Huge Megachurch over in Phoenix rents out its entire property to a political action group, and the political action group brings a major political candidate to town, it is very, very clear who they’re endorsing, even if Pastor **** ******* doesn’t actually do it from over the pulpit.

    I’d like to point out that there is another problem where pastors are not accepting reality and they’re leading their flocks astray. After the last presidential election, there were a lot of pastors and prophets who did not accept the results. They were very vocal about it and about how they would not accept the winner. Even after January 6 they insisted God was going to overturn the results of the election. I protested a church near my house for several weeks (November-January) because the pastor insisted as a prophet that God was going to put “his man” in. I was rather vocal that what they were doing was wanting the overthrow of the government and I asked bluntly about obeying the law of the land. No answer, these guys didn’t like me out there on their sidewalk. Eventually their prophet/pastor gave it up, but others did not. I predict this is going to be even more of a problem in future elections, but I hope I am wrong!

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  2. My interpretation of the trajectory of church and politics over the past 50 years has been that the churches (evangelical and perhaps also Catholic, though I have much less familiarity with them) felt that they were losing their prior position of cultural hegemony, and this frightened them.

    If your children are exposed to cultural influences that you cannot control, they might be seduced by them and forsake faith for sin, and finally come under wrath at the great day of judgment.

    If one is really worried about this, there aren’t many alternatives — one either tries to control the direction of the culture (and one may be obliged to strive to employ the culture’s methods — political power — as one pursues this), or else one somehow more intensively and exclusively orients oneself toward one’s not-contaminated faith community to weaken secular influence (“The Benedict Option”).

    I think the latter option is better, and hopefully one can preserve enough connections to the wider culture that it is still possible to be “salt and light”.

    The early churches seem to have been able to thrive as a minority counterculture in the midst of a dominant ideologically (and at times physically) hostile culture. Ultimately, they won, though that led to a different set of problems, I think. I don’t see the present-day “redeem the world through christian assertion of political power” approach accomplishing what the early churches accomplished.

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  3. One of my ancestors was told he could not talk in public about freeing the slaves (although that was clearly his constitutional right). He and a number of similar thinking people separated from their church and he spoke about the evil of slavery at the pulpit.

    I generally agree with you , but the constitutional “separation of church and state” is supposed to prevent the establishment of a state church (like the church of England). It is NOT supposed to prevent churches from endorsing candidates. It is tax law that does the latter.

    But clearly a pastor is not generally wiser than the congregation (we have many exhibits of the truth of that), so when they start telling people that it is more Christian to vote one way or another, they are wrong to do so.

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  4. And that was the nail in the coffin for us to leave our last church. Not the promoting of political issues or even specific candidates, but the pastor explicitly stating, “It’s a defining mark of true followers of Jesus… The true Christian proclaims… There is only one vote that is right in God’s eyes.”

    Yeah, no. Christians follow a messiah who persistently refused to get drawn into the political machinations of his day. While I think it behooves us to follow our consciouses (aka “the promptings of the Holy Spirit”) when voting, different people are going to see different nuances in issues and candidates because of their education or lived experiences. It’s a little narrow-minded (is there an adjective that better describes someone wearing blinders?) to assume that God’s will aligns with an individual’s particular political will.

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  5. David:
    I generally agree with you , but the constitutional “separation of church and state” is supposed to prevent the establishment of a state church (like the church of England). It is NOT supposed to prevent churches from endorsing candidates. It is tax law that does the latter.

    I am genuinely curious how many churches or religious educational institutions would, if push came to shove, be willing to give up their tax advantages to be more explicit with political endorsements. On either side of the aisle.

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  6. Dee,
    what hurts the whole Church is that, in Christianity, the sacredness of life has got itself prostituted by some in the Church for political gain in this way:

    the ways to work towards ‘ending abortion’ have politically made the issue far more a test of who is willing to end ‘the problem’ at the ballot box rather than as a work of faith, hope, and charity within the workings of the Church which has great concern also for the life and well-being of the mother,
    something some of our politicians have ignored blatantly and in ignorance of the complications of a pregnancy that is ‘at risk’ affecting the mother’s life.

    The Church is deeply involved in promoting respect for human persons, for life, for the good of those who are helpless. But when ‘the Church’ turns its back on its JOB to use the fruit of the Holy Spirit in this work, and instead decides to ‘short cut’ by political means,
    the Church loses credibility as ‘washing its hands’ of the problem once one has ‘voted’ for certain candidates who will deliver justices that will ‘overturn’ that which, at least, tried to offer some consideration for the well-being of women’s health, along with all that was unspeakable. . . .

    and abortions haven’t stopped,
    and certain political entities know this and don’t ‘care’ about the back-alley slaughter or the ‘punishment’ of allowing a toxic pregnancy to put a mother at death’s door . . . political power was ‘the goal’, not the ‘end of abortion’

    I ramble, but we can see the ‘gap’ now in the misogynistic statements of ignorant politicians who have no medical training and only ‘used’ the issue of abortion for their own political gain, aided by some of our ‘shepherds’ who know better but looked for a ‘short cut’ in a battle that will always be hard work if it is to succeed in welcoming new life.

    When the Church speaks, let it be a voice of grace, not of abdication to political means of getting ‘results’ that do NOT ‘end’ abortions and do NOT welcome new life in our nation.

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  7. A church we attended back in 2008 distributed a “Christian Voter Guide” clearly written to favor one party over another. When I emailed the pastor about why they promoted one party over another he responded by saying the other party didn’t have any voter guides. (BS!) I asked that if I found a published voter guide from the other party would they distribute it equally?
    Crickets!
    They went downhill from there.

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  8. David: I generally agree with you , but the constitutional “separation of church and state” is supposed to prevent the establishment of a state church (like the church of England). It is NOT supposed to prevent churches from endorsing candidates. It is tax law that does the latter.

    If churches want to endorse candidates, then they can pay taxes. It irritates me to no end that I pay far more in property taxes for my townhouse than Heckin Huge Megachurch in Phoenix with properties totaling full cash value of $95,821,200. They pay ZERO but they can play footsie with the tax code by renting out their property to a PAC which can then invite a candidate in to speak.

    For the record, I’m an equal opportunity offender in this area. I think large churches should have to file Form 990 and candidates really shouldn’t be stopping at religious organizations in general. And, for the record, the largest churchy property owner in my city is believed to be sitting on $100 billion. (Yeah, that’s a 1 followed by eleven zeroes.) They don’t file Form 990 either.

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  9. Dee, it’s my understanding that it’s not exactly against the law for pastors to endorse candidates (First Amendment), but under the Johnson Amendment the church would be at risk of losing tax-exempt status.

    In October of 2012, shortly before the election, my former pastor told us at a diaconate meeting that he was planning to preach something political the following Sunday. He and other churches had been approached by Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly Alliance Defense Fund) and they were promoting a “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” where pastors would deliberately cross the political line, thereby forcing the hand of the law into confrontation. And, in my opinion, providing opportunity for Alliance Defending Freedom to rush to the re$cue.

    At the meeting I strongly advised our pastor not to do that, and later resolved to take a “sabbatical” from First Baptist if he crossed the line. Thankfully, he did not, and preached a more general sermon concerning Christians and voting. I thanked him for that.

    I haven’t heard much about ADF since. But this seemed worse to me than those lawyers we call “ambulance chasers.” This seemed more like encouraging someone to jump out into traffic, and get injured, so ADF could rush to the legal defense.

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  10. Wild Honey: Christians follow a messiah who persistently refused to get drawn into the political machinations of his day.

    It’s intriguing to me how Jesus’ responses to the wishes of the different groups in Israel is ambiguous (“why will you not tell us clearly?”) and situation/context dependent (in John, he refuses the crowds that want to make him king at an earlier stage of the public ministry, but in the synoptics in the ‘triumphal entry’, he enacts a kingly prophecy and accepts public acclamation as king).

    To some extent, it might be valid to regard Jesus’ superficially apolitical posture as a necessity to avoid premature execution. It’s apparent that he was being watched by different factions in Israel, and presumably the Roman overlords were keeping an eye on him too. There are multiple reports in various gospel accounts of Jesus evading capture by people who intended him harm.

    At some point (certainly no later than the events reported in Mt 16, and possibly much earlier — perhaps as early as the wilderness temptation or even earlier), Jesus seems to have formed the conviction that it would be necessary for him to die at Jerusalem, and at the hands of the Romans, and by the means that the Romans customarily used to punish serious offenders. This would be necessary to “ransom many”.

    Jesus’ ‘political method’ was a highly paradoxical (and unfamiliar — never before or since) combination of complete righteousness and self-sacrificial weakness, rather than pursuit of power over others. This was a major misunderstanding on the part of the apostles, who seem to have understood Jesus to be intending to become a more conventional “might is right” kind of king.

    It’s disappointing and a bit jarring to see the choices being made in political christianity in our day.

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  11. Ted,

    It’s not against the law but a church could conceivably lose its tax exempt status depending on how it is done. But, and I. didn’t want to get into this, there are some churches on both sides who push the envelope without any response from law enforcement.

    Did you read the first link. It discussed Freedom Sunday.

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  12. Ted: astor told us at a diaconate meeting that he was planning to preach something political the following Sunday. He and other churches had been approached by Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly Alliance Defense Fund) and they were promoting a “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” where pastors would deliberately cross the political line, thereby forcing the hand of the law into confrontation. And, in my opinion, providing opportunity for Alliance Defending Freedom to rush to the re$cue.

    ADF is based out of Scottsdale. If they weren’t resident in a soulless office park backed up to the 101 and didn’t keep regular business hours (i.e., 8-5, my usual hours), I’d picket their outfit frequently. Unlike the ACLU, which takes on clients, even the most odious, the ADF is very picky about who it represents. And no, they don’t care that minority sects or religions are being stomped on by the majority. That’s the *point*.

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  13. dee: Ted,

    It’s not against the law but a church could conceivably lose its tax exempt status depending on how it is done. But, and I. didn’t want to get into this, there are some churches on both sides who push the envelope without any response from law enforcement.

    Just to point out, it’s not a criminal act to violate the Johnson Amendment. And the only enforcement arm is the Internal Revenue Service, which, IMO, has its hands full with various types of tax scofflaws. I’d love for the IRS to smack down on this behavior across the spectrum but I’m realistic enough to know it ain’t gonna happen.

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  14. Nobody can reasonably object to any religion having something to say about the issues of the day, including economics, poverty, justice and so on.
    The trouble is churches are pushing what are the issues of the day in a limited way to the exclusion of other issues. What I find utterly bizarre is single issue voting on these select issues regardless of what else the party you vote for will do. I think this does damage to the churches as well as damage by the parties they vote for.
    Surely any intelligent adult will weigh up a party’s whole policies rather than voting on one only. In the UK that’s how we ended up with Brexit, that a small number of people with various strong views or grievances skewed the vote and messed it up for the majority.

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  15. Samuel Conner: This was a major misunderstanding on the part of the apostles, who seem to have understood Jesus to be intending to become a more conventional “might is right” kind of king.

    A “misunderstanding” that has become SCRIPTURE to a lot of today’s Christians.
    “GIVE US A KING LIKE ALL THE OTHER NATIONS! OUR OWN PUTIN! OUR OWN XI!”

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  16. IMHO, the consequential nexus where politics and beliefs (values, religion, Christianity, church, Evangelicalism, Jesus following) meet is in how we love our neighbors. Jesus said to love our neighbors as ourselves. That, I believe, was/is Jesus’ politics without naming parties or candidates.

    One example:

    Beth Allison Barr (The Making of Biblical Womanhood) writes of the maternal imagery of God in the Bible. At Baylor where Barr teaches, in chapel, Kaitlin Curtice said, “the work of telling women that we do not matter as much as men do in society is dehumanizing. It is damaging to the soul…”. Some students responded saying Curtice was a speaker with “pagan sympathies”.

    Perhaps these students follow John Piper/DGM who teach: “God has given Christianity a masculine feel”, diminishing the role of women in church and society. Women are about 50% of the people in our neighborhood on this planet.

    This hypermasculinity that supports some of the evangelical empires mentioned in Dr. Beth Allison Barr’s work, is a tool-to-rule from the playbook of authoritarian autocrats as researched by Ruth Ben-Ghiat in “Strongmen”. Dr. Ruth Ben-Ghiat (at NYU) researches and writes about the political realm of governance.

    Overall, love our neighbor as ourselves addresses misogyny, CSA, racism, ableism, violence, greed, etc. In our free society, Love our neighbor as ourselves supports both our social contract of the Common Good and the social order of equal Rule of Law – two of the pillars of the founding of the USA (the Constitution). All of these can be fully unpacked and discussed in church, from pulpits, without reference to political parties and candidates, but with reference to Scripture.

    In the above example, Dr. Ruth Ben-Ghiat and Dr. Beth Allison Barr both research and enlighten regarding women in society. One from a biblical perspective, the other from a political lens. Their work is mutually supportive.

    (Some have noted: There is crossover with the Inerrancy or Literal Interpretation of the Bible folks and the Inerrancy or Literal Interpretation of the Constitution folks. This may have more to do with interpretation and inflexibility than inerrancy. Outside the church and away from the pulpit, the nexus and crossover could be unpacked without bringing politics into church. There are many opportunities in Academia for scholarly and civil discourse. Academics have beliefs, too, and they do research, like Dr. Beth Allison Barr and Dr. Kristin Kobes Du Mez.)

    IMHO, preaching political parties and candidates from the pulpit instead of preaching love and values, is shallow, lazy, and overreach. It is dehumanizing to the listeners. Citizens can and should figure it all out themselves with critical thinking along with their own personal prayer, Bible reading, and listening to the Holy Spirit – like Jesus did.

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  17. Ava Aaronson:
    Muslin, fka Dee Holmes,
    “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,” Jesus advised.

    “CAESAR IS LOOOOOOOOOOOORD!” is what’s getting preached.
    After all, a CAESAR on Our Side is what will WIN the Culture War!

    Look at Putin in HOLY Russia! NO Abortions! NO Homosexuals! NO Trannies! No Woke! The Church is Strong and Powerful! Enemy of Our Enemy Is Our Friend! “AVE, CAESAR DIVINUS! ZA PUTINA!”

    Jesus didn’t overturn Roe v Wade. Or keep those Homos and Trannies away from converting Our Children. Or stop The Woke (and their Deep State Cabal). And in 2016 Christians found a New God and Messiah who WOULD. And DID.

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  18. christiane: the ways to work towards ‘ending abortion’ have politically made the issue far more a test of who is willing to end ‘the problem’ at the ballot box rather than as a work of faith, hope, and charity within the workings of the Church which has great concern also for the life and well-being of the mother,

    And the CHRISTIAN way is to OUTLAW Abortion and bring all the Power of the Godly Christian State to PUNISH! PUNISH! PUNISH! PUNISH! PUNISH! PUNISH! PUNISH!

    In this, they are conformed into the image of their God of Wrath, Omipotent but NOT Benevolent. Omnipotent POWER and nothing else. A God on a hair trigger, always ready to destroy the world and cast us all into Eternal Hell in a Divine Temper Tantrum. (Don’t do anything that could possibly set him off…)

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  19. Muslin, fka Dee Holmes: But to be honest, when Heckin Huge Megachurch over in Phoenix rents out its entire property to a political action group, and the political action group brings a major political candidate to town, it is very, very clear who they’re endorsing, even if Pastor **** ******* doesn’t actually do it from over the pulpit.

    PLAUSIBLE DENIABILITY – like Doug Phillips ESQUIRE and “I Did Not Know That Woman In The Biblical Sense” (i.e. No Tab A in Slot B, so it wasn’t really sex).
    With some overtones of “Let Bubba Do It”.

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  20. Old Timer:
    Thank you, Dee, for your comments re church and politics. Like your church, mine regularly prays for the mayor, representatives, etc. for wisdom to govern us well. No names are mentioned. We are told to prayerfully study the issues and go out to vote. I am so grateful for that.

    Sounds like an older established Mainline denom.
    If not an even older Liturgical church.
    With historical trace and institutional memory.

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  21. Ava Aaronson: Love our neighbor as ourselves supports both our social contract of the Common Good and the social order of equal Rule of Law – two of the pillars of the founding of the USA (the Constitution).

    I think that one other pillar is The Rights of Man (Thomas Paine).
    Prior to Paine and other thinkers of The Enlightenment, there was no such thing as ‘The Rights of Man’. You (generic you) were at the whim and fancy of autocrats, both here on Earth and in the Heavenly realms.
    This tension is with us today, how do Christians reconcile God’s allegedly absolute rule with the idea of Government by consent of the governed?

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  22. Ava Aaronson,

    “Overall, love our neighbor as ourselves addresses misogyny, CSA, racism, ableism, violence, greed, etc”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    captain obvious, here, when i say where people land on the biblical spectrum is highly variable.

    biblical is a logical impossibility.

    you go high on one principle at the expense of another principle. like politics, it comes down to priorities based on values.

    there’s a little regret in what one has to let go of (or, seems to me there should be), but that’s of necessity. you have to land somewhere in order to reach conclusions and make decisions.

    my theology comes down to “love our neighbor as ourselves”. seems to have been Jesus’ highest value. it’s my highest value. (although i didn’t need Jesus’ example for that).

    it’s a simple ‘algorithm’ for me in sorting out where i land on things theologically.

    but even that algorithm is fluid and people land in different places.

    all to say, the captain obvious cape means “my” portfolio of perspectives (and certainly ‘Fred’s List’) is not the ultimate right one. no one’s is. we all do our best.

    “I would encourage” Fred and all the Freds to leave people alone to do their best.

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  23. Muff Potter: how do Christians reconcile God’s allegedly absolute rule with the idea of Government by consent of the governed?

    Again, I believe it’s by agreement on the Common Good & the Rule of Law, etc. in a pluralistic society.

    The agreement is work. We watched “The Most Hated Man on the Internet”. It took a while for the Rule of Law to catch up with the Internet, and with Hunter Moore. But the law got there and put him away for a time. Didn’t take the church but maybe those who worked on the case were church people.

    The most prolific FBI profiler of sex crimes was Roy Hazelwood, a churchgoing guy.

    At church we figure out our values in light of God. In our pluralistic democratic society, outside of church we figure out how to live with others who may not share our God but we can agree on the Common Good. Lots of things are legal that we don’t do ourselves.

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  24. Muff Potter: Prior to Paine and other thinkers of The Enlightenment, there was no such thing as ‘The Rights of Man’. You (generic you) were at the whim and fancy of autocrats, both here on Earth and in the Heavenly realms.
    This tension is with us today, how do Christians reconcile God’s allegedly absolute rule with the idea of Government by consent of the governed?

    Muff,
    It does look like ‘autocracy’ with ‘the anointed one’ as dictator ruling over a ‘Christian nation’ a la Putin’s Russia (according to certain ‘pastors’)
    IS PREFERABLE to the Christian extreme far right
    OVER ‘democracy’ which is seen by the Christian extreme far right to be something to get rid of in favor of an autocratic Christian Dominionism form of ‘government’ aka dictatorship.

    I’m not ready for this new Gilead that is coming too fast for the good of many women caught up in medical issues without the ability to get the proper help in some states where physicians are AFRAID to treat problem pregnancies for fear of being prosecuted is the fetus dies. Women are suffering now. The ‘dominionism’ is already begun and democracy is under attack at the grass roots.

    I see ’24 coming at us like a freight train. The ‘extremism’ is OPEN and BOLD and we are looking at Trump-backed candidates who advocate very extreme, un-American ideas.

    If we still want our ‘voices’ to count at the ballot box, we need to act now to make that happen, as extreme forces are now underway to undermine our citizens’ rights to vote at the federal level.

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  25. Ava Aaronson: IMHO, preaching political parties and candidates from the pulpit instead of preaching love and values, is shallow, lazy, and overreach. It is dehumanizing to the listeners. Citizens can and should figure it all out themselves with critical thinking along with their own personal prayer, Bible reading, and listening to the Holy Spirit – like Jesus did.

    Well said!

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  26. Our experience in Lutheran churches, two different synods, has been different than yours, Dee. In both cases while the pastor did not officially endorse any candidate and did some generic prayers for those in power, the sermons made it quite clear that “one” candidate did not support “issue A” and “one” candidate did, and no Christian could possibly support “issue A.” And there you had it.

    Out Jeffressing Jeffress.

    More and more, I am only interested in preaching if it is evangelistic. Your mileage may vary.

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  27. dee: Did you read the first link. It discussed Freedom Sunday.

    Dee, I hadn’t read the linked article until just now, and had only skimmed your blog post. Was in a hurry to get out the door this morning.

    The Reuters article tells it just as I remember it. And it’s interesting that the IRS really hasn’t cracked down, even as some churches push the envelope firmly. It could be that the IRS is taking wise counsel to allow churches (most churches, that is) to self-regulate.

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  28. christiane:
    Dee,
    what hurts the whole Church is that, in Christianity,the sacredness of life has got itself prostituted by some in the Church for political gain in this way:

    the ways to work towards ‘ending abortion’ have politically made the issue far more a test of who is willing to end ‘the problem’ at the ballot box rather than as a work of faith, hope, and charity within the workings of the Church which has great concern also for the life and well-being of the mother,
    something some of our politicians have ignored blatantly and in ignorance of the complications of a pregnancy that is ‘at risk’ affecting the mother’s life.

    The Church is deeply involved in promoting respect for human persons, for life, for the good of those who are helpless. But when ‘the Church’turns its back on its JOB to use the fruit of the Holy Spirit in this work,and instead decides to ‘short cut’ by political means,
    the Church loses credibility as ‘washing its hands’ of the problem once one has ‘voted’ for certain candidates who will deliver justices that will ‘overturn’ that which, at least, tried to offer some consideration for the well-being of women’s health, along with all that was unspeakable. . . .

    and abortions haven’t stopped,
    and certain political entities know this and don’t ‘care’ about the back-alley slaughter or the ‘punishment’ of allowing a toxic pregnancy to put a mother at death’s door . . . political power was ‘the goal’,not the ‘end of abortion’

    I ramble, but we can see the ‘gap’ now in the misogynistic statements of ignorant politicians who have no medical training and only ‘used’ the issue of abortion for their own political gain, aided by some of our ‘shepherds’ who know better but looked for a ‘short cut’ in a battle that will always be hard work if it is to succeed in welcoming new life.

    When the Church speaks, let it be a voice of grace,not of abdication to political means of getting ‘results’ that do NOT ‘end’ abortions and do NOT welcome new life in our nation.

    Cristiane, with all due respect and sisterly love, I think you bash conservatives far too frequently and unfairly on this forum, and that is one HUGE reason why I seldom hang out here anymore. I feel that my political views are not welcome here — even though I seldom if ever voice them.

    As Dee noted, abortion is a separate issue. Some “political” issues impinge on Faith and Morals big-time. And I don’t think Christians should completely decamp from the public square. Au contraire.

    At our little rural Catholic mission, our priest and deacons often present homilies dealing with life issues. Not that bogus “seamless garment” stuff rejected even by the USCCB, but an authentic theology of life that recognizes the right to life as the foundation of all other rights.

    We are never told whom to vote for. But IMHO it’s pretty obvious whom NOT to vote for. 😀

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  29. The redoubtable Mr Grudem in his book, Politics According To The Bible, says this “ Is it right for the Internal Revenue Service to prohibit all recommendations for or against specific candidates in all elections in all circumstances? Should such a decision be made by the government, or should such decisions be left to individual churches and pastors to decide according to what they think is wise in each situation? The Alliance Defense Fund has recently begun to question the validity of this IRS policy because they have concluded that the policy is actually an unconstitutional violation of freedom of speech and freedom of religion. ADF attorneys believe the Johnson amendment is unconstitutional”
    (section entitled Political Advocacy by Churches and their Tax Exempt Status””)
    He then quotes their main arguments against the IRS.
    His final chapter is a lengthy statement on media bias.

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  30. quote

    I have been a member of an LCMS church … They pray for the elections, and they pray for the leaders. They pray that those running our country will be filled with humility and wisdom.

    unquote

    Christian leaders with bad consciences in the 1970s to 1990s discredited prayer, providence, gifts and eschatology.

    Politicians are busy.

    We should pray for their consciences to be awakened and kept awake.

    Also for them providentially to come across true knowledge of phenomenology and sound critique of “pragmatism”.

    But, above all, we should pray that God will send good angels to jog their elbows away from anything wrong and towards what is good.

    They will turn round to us and ask us why we didn’t believe God has good angels to send to them.

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  31. Lowlandseer: The redoubtable Mr Grudem in his book, Politics According To The Bible

    You mean “WAYNE GRUDEM GO WAYNE GRUDEM!”?

    And “politics according to the Bible” is simple:
    No Constitution or Laws except BIBLE! (Just like Talibanistan and their KORAN!)
    And God’s Anointed Ones in Absolute Authority. (Just like the Ayatollahs of Iran.)

    “HE SHALL RULE THEM WITH A ROD OF IRON! AND HIS KINGDOM SHALL HAVE NO END! NO REBELLION WILL BE TOLERATED!”

    And after a generation or two of such a Godly Christian Nation, the name “Jesus Christ” will acquire the exact same baggage as the name “Adolf Hitler”. (Except for God’s Anointed at the top of the pile, of course.)

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  32. Muslin, fka Dee Holmes: For the record, I’m an equal opportunity offender in this area. I think large churches should have to file Form 990 and candidates really shouldn’t be stopping at religious organizations in general. And, for the record, the largest churchy property owner in my city is believed to be sitting on $100 billion. (Yeah, that’s a 1 followed by eleven zeroes.) They don’t file Form 990 either.

    I’ve long advocated, yeah let them keep their tax exemption, but no longer should they be allowed to not disclose where all that moolah is going.
    And then if people still wanna’ bankroll these guys and allow them to amass huge fortunes, let em’, they deserve each other.

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  33. Catholic Gate-Crasher: At our little rural Catholic mission, our priest and deacons often present homilies dealing with life issues. Not that bogus “seamless garment” stuff rejected even by the USCCB, but an authentic theology of life that recognizes the right to life as the foundation of all other rights.

    Agree. Excellent.

    The right to life settles the issue morally, IMHO. Done.

    However, the question is “life” or human life defined as body, mind, & soul.

    When does a human (with a soul) begin? (Frogs have heartbeats; fish & birds fertilize eggs. Kidneys & hearts are transplanted without the soul being transplanted. So the soul is clearly not a heartbeat, not fertilization, not human tissue or even an organ. The Bible says God created Adam physically first and then breathed Adam’s soul into him, the whole adult body. This is not to say there is not a human soul until actual birth – but when?)

    When does life end? (There are brain dead but heart beating human beings and loved ones make decisions about this.)

    These are questions where medicine, ethics, beliefs, and laws intertwine. Far beyond politics and preachers (meaning preachers who have no regard for experts in their fields like even therapists or scientists or doctors). Politicians and preachers (the Patriarchal ones in particular) running around speaking on platforms like little gods does not work well in civil (Common Good, Rule of Law) society. And it is not love.

    Without practicing euthanasia, families pull the medical support of a family member, lawfully. But this lawful right went round and round in the courts for years as third parties (with ideologies and hero complex) intervened on families’ crises.

    It requires experts in multiple fields coming together as contributing specialists with Common Good and Rule of Law to address these highly complex issues in our day and age. These issues are not for fund-raising, building church empires, selling books, or garnishing votes. These issues are the daily challenges of real people, real loved ones, real lives.

    Re: when does life end? In our family, we have cared for chronically ill and then fatally ill families members to the very end. It was a labor (intense) of love until the last breath. We made decisions on what to do and not to do along the way.

    Re the reproductive part of women: Right now there is a woman I’m getting to know on twitter who has medical issues and she may be denied care because of new laws. She is a very conservative Christian and she is terrified. Her doctors don’t want to lose their licensure. She does not want to lose her life. So, very complex.

    Thanks, TWW and Dee. Here we can ruminate without screaming and offensiveness.

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  34. Catholic Gate-Crasher: even though I seldom if ever voice them.

    Thank you for showing up today. Ever grateful. Your comment is very helpful

    I posted my comment here with some links, in response, so I am glad you gave the opportunity to think about these things. https://wildmustangmall.com/blog/f/the-right-to-life-human

    With regard to my own blog, there is no money in it. I work in my own profession. There’s a book there but the only reason I wrote and published was because I have testified in Court proceedings, and I wanted people to have the book that I wish I had had in that experience. So, publishing to serve. And no conference speaking or book promotions or going on the road. Although I do like some that do – Beth Allison Barr, Kristin Kobes Du Mez, Marg Mowczko, etc.

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  35. I recently heard a family member say that they don’t believe in the separation of church and state, and that the nation was created to be run by a church. You can imagine how disappointed I was to hear that. This is someone who often says they believe in their own autonomy, but seems to have a lower view of the autonomy of others. But I think that belief is on the rise in evangelical circles.

    I am pretty open about my political philosophy, but it’s very simple: Unless we learn to compromise with one another, I don’t think humanity can survive.

    How exactly that works when the media gets more ads and $$ for showing the most extreme and attention-getting behavior, I don’t know. I think a lot of people only see the next few months or years, including many political leaders, and it may just lead to our downfall.

    I do think it’s time to remove a lot of the tax exemption and financial privacy protection of churches. It’s too easy to start a church and hide financial abuse from members.

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  36. ishy: I recently heard a family member say that they don’t believe in the separation of church and state, and that the nation was created to be run by a church.

    You saw a secular version of that in the USSR fanboys of the Sixties and Seventies. They KNEW the After the Revolution, THEY were going to become The Party Commissars giving the orders and destroying all Enemies real and imagined.

    Not that different from the Resurrected Author Self-Inserts in Left Behind: Volume 13.

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  37. ishy: I recently heard a family member say that they don’t believe in the separation of church and state, and that the nation was created to be run by a church. You can imagine how disappointed I was to hear that. This is someone who often says they believe in their own autonomy, but seems to have a lower view of the autonomy of others. But I think that belief is on the rise in evangelical circles.

    That’s Christian nationalism. A Christian trend that has less to do with Christianity and more to do with white supremacy and ensuring the status quo is maintained. I call it the great white temper tantrum.

    It’s as radicalized as anything the Taliban can put out and will likely be a source of domestic terrorism in the near future.

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  38. Catholic Gate-Crasher,

    I accept your criticism in good grace as something valid to your perspective and important to you.

    I do stand by my ‘opinions’ as mine, but they are my OWN opinions and much subject to evaluation, criticism, disagreement, and sometimes distain by other readers . . . and I am okay with the criticism as I accept responsibility for my own actions,
    although so often what it intended may not ‘translate’ to someone else’s perspective.

    I think we have to try to communicate respectfully. If I have failed to respect ‘conservatives’, perhaps it is that I no longer see the Republican Party as it once was. . . . what I am seeing is a ‘change’ that frightens me because we DO NEED a solid two-party system in this country to function as a democracy. We NEED people of integrity in both parties.

    Catholic Gate-Keeper, that you come here and express your own view is something to celebrate in my opinion: that you CAN speak here and be heard.

    As for my ‘criticism’ of ‘conservatives’, in all honesty, I do think ‘trumpism’ is as far from conservative as the sun from the moon. ‘Conservative’ to me still recalls honorable people who served their country and respected its norms, its rule of law, and who upheld the right of its people to free speech within the civil discourse as well as the freedom of American citizens to have their voices heard AT THE BALLOT BOX.

    Since the time of Trump’s pronouncement of ‘good people on both sides’ during the Charlottesville horror,
    I have known that ‘something has changed’ . . . . and not in a ‘good way’, no.
    So I speak to that, yes, because someone must. If not me, who? If now now, when?
    I am human and my voice is not that of a perfect person, no; so if I over-step, I with good grace trust Dee and her advisers to moderate my comments,
    and that, believe me, is something that keeps me in hope that I will not be a ‘problem’ to this blog’s work, which is something I believe in and support heartily.

    Thank you for speaking to me honestly, Catholic Gate-Crasher. We see things differently. And for me, that’s okay. I hear you. I hear your voice. That’s important. 🙂

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  39. Catholic Gate-Crasher: Cristiane, with all due respect and sisterly love, I think you bash conservatives far too frequently and unfairly on this forum, and that is one HUGE reason why I seldom hang out here anymore. I feel that my political views are not welcome here — even though I seldom if ever voice them.

    Lol, I backed off from commenting here because I felt it was a bit too conservative. I’m a full on socialist.

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  40. Jack’s now primarily over at Wondering Eagle, counter-trolling their regular Righteous troll Seneca. (Remember him? Used to be this blog’s regular troll. Hasn’t changed, still “Dryly” commenting putdowns and siding with the Godly Abuser against all his victims.)

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  41. Christiane–just want you to know that while you and I agree on some things, disagree on others, and stand together I believe as totally pro life, I treasure the witness you have been to me on this forum and others. Because of your calm, rational stating of your beliefs I opened up a bit to learning a bit more of the RCC since my dh was raised RCC. And while I don’t think the RCC would be a good fit for me, I have found many things to love and incorporated a bit of RCC faith and practice. Thanks, faithful online friend, even when we disagree radically.

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  42. John Berry: Obviously human life on this planet has to end when the sun burns out but I think we’ll do it first. I’ll give us thirty years at the absolute most.

    And be assured the Christians will Rejoice.
    End Times and all that.
    “This World Is Not My Home. I’m Just Passin’ Thru…”
    “It’s All Gonna Burn.”

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