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|