Question of the Day: Political Endorsements

Based on John the Methodists' insightful (or just amusing...insightfully amusing, if you will) Questions of the Day (here's the last one), here's one for Hacking Christianity readers:

Should Clergy be able to endorse Politicians from the Pulpit?

Context: Apparently about 36 clergy from 20 states, spurred on by the conservative Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), will endorse John McCain from the pulpit on Sunday, September 28th. They do so to challenge the constitutionality of the IRS rules that prohibit churches from endorsing candidates, else they will lose their tax exempt status. (read more here)

What do you think? Should clergy be able to endorse politicians from the pulpit? Even if we take away the tax exempt element, should churches be able to endorse political campaigns and politicians?


John September 8, 2008 at 7:39 PM  

Legally? Dunno.

Ethically? Absolutely not. Churches should stay out of politics in all but the most extreme cases of injustice (e.g. slavery, racial discrimination). As Christians of good conscience can readily disagree with each other over political issues, pastors should not endorse candidates, lest they divide their congregations, as well as suggest that God has taken a particular political position.

twiceinfinity September 8, 2008 at 8:39 PM  

Pastors should legally be allowed to endorse from the pulpit; the current restrictions violate the separation of state from church in the pursuit of the separation of church from state.

I believe it is also ethical to endorse from the pulpit, as long as the pastor makes it very, very clear that the endorsement is his alone, not that of his church or (heaven forbid) of God.

Anonymous,  September 9, 2008 at 7:07 AM  

church has always been involved in politics, so it is a question of how it will be involved and not if it will be. the distinction which has guided me has been the difference in the types of goals that church and state seek. the church seeks to be the place of sanctification of disciples of jesus christ who are then sent out in mission - the state tries to keep a society from falling apart. the state's goal is much more humble, and the problems seem to come up when the state attempts to do more than fulfill a humble roll.

so what the church proclaims will always be political - in that it is proclaiming the kingdom of god, which is a politics of bounty, service, forgiveness, and reconciliation. the danger becomes when the church looks to the state it is in to fulfill what it looks for in the kingdom to come.

what becomes the role of individual congregations in elections then? keep on proclaiming the kingdom of god, and tell stories of how this kingdom will treat strangers, take care of the sick, forgive those who have done wrong, and give examples from this culture. no person is more of a stranger than an unborn child - so this will lead to a certain way of living with regards to abortion and adoption. taking care of the sick includes even those who work at mcdonalds and cannot afford to pay.
and then people vote or they dont, and vote how they choose to.

that being my opinion, I should add my usual caveat that I reserve the right to be wrong, and may be exercising it. Please let me know if there are obvious logical flaws.

Rev. Sonja September 9, 2008 at 11:16 AM  

No. I personally feel that politics has many sides and no one candidate is absolutely, positively right. That being said, how can a pastor, shepherd of their flock, encourage their congregations (not their constituents)to do anything more than vote their conscience, hope they have done a good job of teaching them and let God do the rest. Do we think that God is so limited that God cannot work through prayer, we need to stump for political candidates as well?

Anonymous,  September 11, 2008 at 2:07 PM  

No!!! The very foudation of our great nation was on the premise of separation of Church and State. Ministers, Priests and Rabbis are men of faith and are educated in religion but not experts in the multitude of factors that have to be taken into account in endorsing a candidate. Furthermore, religious leaders have specific agendas and concerns which rarely take into consideration the remainder of the issues that are in my opinion have far reaching consequences for society as a whole.

newine September 17, 2008 at 8:20 AM  

Legally: yeah. Why should the government be in the business of rendering judgment on where that line lies? (Just the idea of government spies recording sermons ought to send chills down the spines of believers across the entire political spectrum.)

In my experience, most pastors with strong political leanings and the desire to share those views with their congregation are already fairly adept at skirting rules anyway so the mention of a name doesn't make much difference.


I would assert that wisdom dictates that pastors do not preach politics at all. One of the fastest and easiest ways for a pastor to create division in his or her congregation and make parishioners feel personally betrayed and abused is to behave in an explicitly political manner.

And it annoys me just as much when I agree with the sentiments as when I don't. Others (whom I disagree with!) feel the same way. Politics in the pulpit is like fingernails on a chalkboard.

Lead them to accept and to trust the eternal, transforming power of Christ in their lives and their political views will flow to where HE wants them to be. (HE being God, not the pastor.)

To do otherwise is to put the personal/human cart before the proverbial horse... or perhaps to have the shepherd become just one more worldly sheep, butting and bleating in the stinking muck of the political arena.

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