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Pulpit Freedom Sunday|
Freedom of Speech in Church?
Q. Do you think pastors should be telling church members which candidate to vote for? Is the IRS rule wrong that says church leaders should not mix politics and religion or they will lose their tax exempt status? Does the IRS have the right to inhibit freedom of speech in the pulpit?
Just this morning we heard that some Virginia teachers are telling their students that they should vote for the Democratic candidate. This is a similar issue to pastors preaching Republican candidates or psychiatrists influencing patients to vote one way or another.
Abuse of Authority
In all of the above cases the issue is abuse of authority. All role models or leaders in society have followers who develop "transference" issues. This means that a patient or a church member or a student tend to view their leaders as authority figures - much like children with parents.
Because of a tendency to transference issues between a pastor and his congregation, it is critical that a pastor recognize this tendency and take steps never to abuse his position as pastor.
Sadly, we see many pastors on Christian T.V. becoming arrogant and boorish because they wrongly think they are worthy of this kind of "worship" and esteem - failing to recognize transference issues with their congregants.
But, the Old Testament calls it "idolatry." They are the "false teachers" mentioned in 2 Peter and Jude. In their greed they exploit others with false words, refuse to respect those in authority over them (including governmental authorities), and engage in immoral practices.
Congregants should not be encouraged to idolize their pastors. Nor should pastors attempt to influence others to vote a certain way.
Preaching Christ Crucified
A pastor's job is to teach the clear gospel message - Christ crucified and salvation through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:1-4). He may also teach ethics, morality, and a biblical worldview. But, he can do this without becoming "entangled in the affairs of everyday life" (2 Timothy 2:4).
Choose your Battles Carefully
Christians need to choose their battles carefully. Those pastors who defiantly preached politics on Pulpit Freedom Sunday may very well go to jail or face exorbitant fines.
Is this a worthwhile battle? Mind you, they were not preaching from the Bible in this case. Rather, they insisted upon the freedom to preach in favor of the political right. Had they been forbidden to preach from Romans chapter one this might be a different situation - a cause worth fighting for.
Perhaps we should think more carefully about where we will draw the line. An IRS ruling disallowing pastors to preach against child sacrifice or murder from the Old Testament clearly violates God's law. Here it is appropriate to boldly claim "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).
Entangled in Worldly Affairs
However, the bitterness and hatred that is exhibited between Democrats and Republicans in twenty-first century America is most certainly an entanglement in the affairs of everyday life!
The Bible tells us to be a "good soldier of Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 2:3). I don't see anything in this passage that tells us to be a good soldier of a political party or of John McCain or Senator Obama. Do you?
We are to focus our lives upon God alone - competing with no one.
The Apostle Paul said it well,
"For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2).
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