No to Pulpit Freedom Sunday & Political Endorsements!

This Sunday, October 7, approximately 1,400 Christian pastors across the United States will participate in the 5th Annual “Pulpit Freedom Sunday.” The event, created by a group known as the Alliance Defending Freedom, began in 2008. According to the group’s website (here):

The goal of Pulpit Freedom Sunday is simple: have the Johnson Amendment declared unconstitutional – and once and for all remove the ability of the IRS to censor what a pastor says from the pulpit.

Jim Garlow, Senior Pastor of megachurch Skyline Wesleyan Church in La Mesa, Calif., and one of the main proponents of “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” believes that:

the prohibition has caused religious leaders to shy away from speaking about what they see as theological truth, such as the belief that homosexuality is biblically unacceptable. (here)

With all due respect to Pastor Garlow, if this prohibition caused religious leaders to act in such a spineless, cowardly way, then these pastors have no business preaching the word of God, whether or not the Johnson Amendment is the law of the land or not. As a Christian pastor, the Johnson Amendment has not once caused me “to shy away from speaking” theological truth. Not only have I preached on moral topics which also touched on political/cultural issues of the day (homosexuality, Islam, abortion to name a few), but I will continue to do so regardless of whether the government says I can or not. That is my right under the First Amendment and I will defend that right, even if it might result in government punishment.

That’s why I will not be participating in “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” on October 7. For me, every Sunday is “pulpit freedom Sunday.”  I have the freedom to preach on any Biblical and/or moral topic that I choose. I have the freedom to preach on sin and forgiveness. I have the freedom to preach that any sex outside of marriage — both homosexual and heterosexual — is sin. I have the freedom (as I did a few weeks ago) to preach that there is only One True God — Yahweh, known as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — and that all other gods, including the non-Christian gods of Mormonism and Islam, are false gods. I have the greatest freedom of all to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ — His death, burial, and resurrection for sinners!

However, what we need to understand is that “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” has very little to do with pastors (or any other religious leaders) preaching on Biblical and moral issues which might touch on the political. What this event is all about is allowing pastors to endorse political candidates from behind the pulpit or sacred desk. And, make no mistake. This movement is about injecting politics into the church, not injecting the church — who is called to be salt and light — into politics and culture. The first is never right, even if the government says it is. The second is always right, even if the government says it isn’t.

That is true “pulpit freedom.” Why would I want to trade that freedom for the freedom to endorse a fallible candidate for public office? Why would I want to endorse a politician who will, regardless of party and promises, fail to deliver true hope and true change? And, even if I were inclined to vote for a particular candidate, why would I want to put the weight of the pulpit and God’s Word behind a particular politician who will never truly transform hearts? And, make no mistake about it. The overwhelming majority of those Christian pastors who will participate in “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” will endorse Mitt Romney, a member of a non-Christian cult (the protestations of “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” notwithstanding). At least I still have the freedom to say that.

There’s no doubt that Americans are starving for leadership. For Christians, that leadership must begin in the home and in the church. Spiritual revival and renewal will never start at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. (It might be good if it came there once-in-a- while.) Pastor Garlow, who has been all over television this week making his case for “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” would do well to remember his own words:

“The line is being slid so fast, so far, that people no longer recognize authentic biblical preaching and they’re calling it political. Today’s parishioners, he said, are starving for religious leaders to act as “the moral compass of society.” Garlow said he’s witnessed pastors who boldly speak on political issues receive standing ovations. (here)

I would wholeheartedly agree that people are starving for “authentic biblical preaching” from pastors (and other religious leaders) who act as “the moral compass of society.” Instead of endorsing candidates and receiving standing ovations for overtly political sermons speeches in church, pastors should just keep preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ. And maybe, just maybe, Jim Garlow might want to rethink his invitation to Stephen Colbert (yes, that Stephen Colbert) to stand behind the pulpit at Skyline. Pastor Garlow certainly has the freedom to do that, but that’s not the kind of “pulpit freedom” that we need here in America!

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Pulpit Freedom Sunday – Jim Garlow
www.colbertnation.com
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14 comments for “No to Pulpit Freedom Sunday & Political Endorsements!

  1. October 5, 2012 at 5:02 PM

    I also will not be participating in “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” though our pulpit will be just as free this Sunday as it has ever been. I have always preached as I felt led, and had never even heard of the “Johnson Amendment” until recent years. (Of course, I had heard that you’re not supposed to endorse candidates or parties.). I will not participate in “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” because 66 books of the Bible are commanded to me — preach the Word… (II Tim. 4).

    I am in basic agreement with you, except possibly that from a strictly legal standpoint, I think the Johnson amendment ought to be removed. Biblically, preachers shouldn’t descend into politics. Legally, the government ought not be involved in telling them whether they can or not. Nevertheless, I don’t really think anyone has ever actually been censored under the Johnson Amendment (correct me if I’m wrong), and it ultimately is not that they can tell you what to say — just that your church won’t be tax exempt any longer.

    • October 5, 2012 at 5:17 PM

      Robert,

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I think you are right that we are in basic agreement on this. I don’t really think that it matters one way or the other if the Johnson Amendment is valid — pastors should not be endorsing political candidates from the pulpit, period! Therefore, even if the Johnson Amendment were repealed (which perhaps it should be), it should really have no practical affect on what pastors do with regards to endorsements. I think a few churches have been fined by the IRS for running afoul of the Johnson Amendment, but a recent Federal Court ruling basically makes any enforcement moot. Of course, you are right that pastors and churches can still say what they want now, but they may or may not lose their tax exempt status. That still (at least as of now) would not prevent us from preaching Biblical truth. And, even if the government were to try to silence pastors (like in the 1st Century), we should still proclaim Christ, regardless of the consequences. Thanks again for stopping by. God bless,

      Howell

  2. October 5, 2012 at 5:34 PM

    Your third to last sentence sums it all up very well. And while I do stand for the U.S. legally allowing preachers to endorse candidates even though I think it is scripturally wrong (of course, a lot of other unscriptural things are said in pulpits, too), if we look at obeying government when we can and when it doesn’t ask us to disobey God then we ought to leave this alone. We have no biblical injunction or godly command to enter the endorsement of politicians. So we can “obey” the Johnson Amendment and still obey God, in my opinion. If we are told not to “preach the word”, we ought to preach it anyway. We ought to obey God rather than men. (If these other men think they must endorse political candidates in order to preach the word, then they ought not worry about losing their tax exemption.) Thanks.

  3. October 6, 2012 at 8:20 AM

    I’m of the same mind on this one–I have very strong feelings on this election, and have on the past several elections. However, sermon time is part of the church’s effort to make disciples, not sway votes. Now, I happen to feel like anyone who reads their Bible and pays attention to the issues will vote based on that, but that’s another story. Of course, one might wonder where this movement was prior to 2008. Did anyone think about doing this in 1984 or 2004? Or is this born strictly of trying to hard to accomplish a goal in the defeat of (now) President Obama?

    My beef is similar on the Johnson Amendment: I think it should not be the law. There are ways, though, that you can strive to change the law without breaking it. If people are being harmed by bad laws, you break them. If you’re being inconvenienced, then you work through the system to change the law.

    And while I enjoyed my housing allowance before I moved into a parsonage and now don’t get one, I wonder how many of the pastors who are taking part in this would agree to swap the Johnson Amendment for the housing allowance exclusion? Would we put our money where our mouth is?

    • October 6, 2012 at 9:43 AM

      Doug,

      You make an excellent point about some pastors who will take advantage of the housing allowance and other benefits afforded ministers, but who then don’t want to abide by other rules of the game so to speak. I think you are entirely correct that this whole “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” has more to do with endorsing a candidate not named Obama. Even though I will vote for Romney, why would I want to endorse a member of the Mormon cult and do it from behind the pulpit at church? If someone can point me to Scripture where this is the job of the pastor, then I will gladly reconsider. Until that time, count me out of PFS. Thanks and God bless,

      Howell

  4. October 6, 2012 at 4:08 PM

    Doug’s post, I believe, can be used to make that point we are perhaps getting “too deep” in the world. “We” like the laws (or IRS rules) that suit us and are to our personal advantage, but want to get rid of those that don’t or aren’t. I have perhaps already put my money where my mouth is in that I do not to take any kind of religious deductions, not even on charitable giving. Not that I think that it is wrong to do so, but I just don’t want to get tied up with it (or get used to benefiting from it). I also agree that a lot of the impetus for “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” is getting rid of President Obama.

  5. October 6, 2012 at 8:33 PM

    If the church doesn’t want government meddling in our faith, then the church can’t go meddling in government’s politics. It’s really just that simple, to me.

  6. October 8, 2012 at 4:54 PM

    Bob, I would have to disagree with you on this. It really isn’t that simple, is it? When you speak of “meddling in government’s politics” what ground does that cover? Are we just talking about what Howell posted on, not endorsing candidates? Some would say that abortion and homosexual marriage are political issues. What about our forefathers petitioning the government to recognize freedom of religion and embed it in the constitution? Were they meddling in politics? How would you define “meddling” and how broad or narrow is “politics”?

    This morning I enjoyed reading Two Rival Religions? Christianity and Post-Christianity by Al Mohler. I think it hits a particular nail on the head, and has some application to the political debate as well.

  7. Rob Masters
    October 9, 2012 at 6:32 AM

    Howell…can you show me in Scripture where “Politics” is banned from the Pulpit.
    BTW –you keep ranting against the ” Black Regiment” but this is precisely why they started the group.Politics in the Pulpit on Sunday and Muskets on Monday.
    Politics is not an arena that is forbidden for Pastors even in the Pulpit.
    As the Puritans would have said. Faith for all of life.

    • October 9, 2012 at 8:46 AM

      Rob,

      Thanks for the comment. It depends on what your definition of “politics” is. If it is preaching on moral issues (i.e., abortion, sexual sin, greed, violence, etc.) from a Biblical perspective, then I would wholeheartedly agree that pastors should preach “the whole counsel of God.” If by politics you mean endorsing from the pulpit particular candidates and/or political parties, then I think that is unwise at best. Of course, the the First Century church would not have had the freedoms that we have now in America anyway. Unless a church wants to limit its outreach to those unbelievers who are only like-minded (i.e., conservative Republicans), then I do not see the merit of a church or a pastor (in his official capacity) endorsing candidates. I certainly do not see the wisdom in a Christian pastor endorsing from the pulpit a member of a non-Christian cult, but maybe that’s just me.

      As to my “ranting against the ‘Black Regiment,” I have written perhaps two posts where I mentioned them (this post not being one of them). I’m not sure that what I have written could be characterized as a rant, but okay. If by the “they who started the group” you mean Glenn Beck and other non-Christian cultists who believe in a false gospel, then I would continue to argue that, even in “politics,” the Bible does teach that light should not partner with darkness. Maybe there’s a loophole for political partnerships that I haven’t found yet, so I’m open to revising my opinion 🙂 As for the Puritans (who I like), they wouldn’t have had much nice to say (or do) to our Baptist forefathers. Thanks again and God bless,

      Howell

  8. Rob Masters
    October 10, 2012 at 5:46 AM

    Howell…first of all thanks for allowing me comment on your blog. You have always been gracious in your responses. I appreciate that very much.

    Let it be known that you did not offer a single Scripture prohibition to not “do Politics ” from the pulpit. Choose any definition of politics. I was looking for an exegetical argument not a pragmatic argument.

    Secondly It seems to me that you do not understand who the Black Regiment were historically and why they were formed.Glenn Beck didnt have anything to do with the starting of them.Even in modern history Dr Kennedy was talking about the Black Regiment long before Glenn Beck.The Black Regiment were clergy “doing Politics”.

    http://tinyurl.com/7zhto2t

    Lest I seem ungracious I used the term “rant” because you keep retelling the Black Regiment story as if Glenn Beck was the founder of the group. Okay so a pagan gets it right ..I think thats called common grace. Also you might have only used it on your blog twice but I do believe I have seen you mention it at SBCVoices more then once. No Mormons were used in the making of the Black Regiment!!!

    Lastly we may disagree slightly concerning ecclesiology because I do not believe the gaithered Church’s primarily purpose is evangelistic but disciplicship focused. So your audience would mostly Christians who want to taught how to think like a Christian in the political realm.As an example I will use D James Kennedy. In EE you will never see anything about Politics in that presentation. But if you would have attended Coral Ridge you would have heard many political messages.

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