What I Will NOT Be Preaching on Sunday

I’m not much of a sleeper, at least not at times when I’m supposed to be sleeping. I stay up too late and hate to get up early.

Oh, I CAN get up early, but I don’t have to like it.

Normally, I do the old fall asleep in the recliner watching the end of a ballgame or The Colbert Report. But Stephen Colbert kept me awake Tuesday night. For hours.

He had a “report” about something called Pulpit Freedom Sunday. I’ll leave you to check out their website or any number of the additional news stories about the event.

(If you don’t care for those links, do a Google search and you’ll find a huge range of perspectives).

Here is a quick overview of the event: A group of pastors–ranging from 538 to over 1500, depending on which article you believe–will preach overtly political messages this Sunday. Some will even endorse specific candidates and political parties. They will record these messages and send them to the IRS.

The goal of this is to force a court fight over a 1954 law that forbids tax-exempt religious institutions and places of worship–since they are, you know, religious–from engaging in partisan politics. Pastors and churches are welcome to engage in political issues, but they are forbidden from making party affiliations and endorsing candidates.

Seems a pretty small price to pay for 250 years of not having to pay taxes on tithes, offerings, and any kind of collection.

Or the tax deductions that all parishioners are legally allowed to take on donations to the church.

Not to mention property taxes that churches do not have to pay. It would be interesting to run the numbers on how much money Greenville County does not collect each year on church-related property.

And the extra tax breaks that pastors receive as ordained ministers. We DO pay taxes, contrary to popular belief, but there are a few extra deductions that ministers can take because we are supposed to be a positive influence in the community.

It’s pretty hard to be a positive force in the community when you alienate half of it by endorsing a specific candidate.

In the American Revolution, our forefathers fought for our freedom in opposition to “Taxation without Representation”. Now, the church apparently wants Representation without the Taxation.

You can’t have it both ways. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. It’s a unholy and appalling sense of entitle that leads some Christians to  believes we should have full rights to political activity without the accountability of investing directly in government.

Beyond that, I wouldn’t endorse a candidate even if it was legal. Most churches can’t agree on what color the carpet should be, what kind of music to sing, or what time to start services. Why would anyone want to muddy the waters by bringing something as unholy as politics into this?

Here is the truth:  The church and pastors have every right to endorse candidates and say whatever they want. They just don’t have the right to do it from behind a tax-exempt wall.

But even if they win this fight–and I fear that they might–the real danger is what could happen to the name of Christ and reputation of the church. Our battles with one another do enough to hurt our witness. Bring politics into the mix, and there is a risk of polarization and alienation on a level that we have never seen.

And that’s frightening.

Even if the law is changed, I will not be preaching politics on Sundays. We have enough trouble trying to…you know…figure out this whole “Follow Jesus” and “Live Like Jesus” stuff.

Call me crazy, but I think that’s a lot more important than whether or not you’re a Democrat or Republican.


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