Pastors, Politics and the Pulpit

pulpitWe were always told not to do it. During my seminary education, we were repeatedly warned as pastors not to support specific parties or politicians from the pulpit. We were encouraged not to put campaign signs in our front yards. We had long debates about whether a pastor should even discuss his political leanings in private discussions.

We were told the pulpit is where the preacher proclaims, “Thus says the Lord.” The pulpit is no place for personal opinions. Even outside the pulpit, when the pastor speaks, people often fail to distinguish between his own private views and divine ordinances.

Don’t get me wrong. God does speak specifically to certain political issues. As Christian pastors, we should speak out against the evils of abortion and defend the Biblical truths about human sexuality. We should encourage our people to participate in the political process, vote their consciences and pray for our leaders.

We need to remember, however, that many of the hotly debated issues today fall squarely in the area of Christian freedom. As Christians, we can honestly disagree on immigration, the economy, gun control and the like. The Bible does not say whether you should be allowed to own a gun or not. The Bible does not advocate or condemn socialism. The Bible does not tell us the best way to protect our borders.

Faithful Christians can fall on both sides of the aisle. Though abortion and gay marriage are important issues, they are not the only issues. A Christian rarely will agree with any given candidate on every issue. What issues should carry more weight? That is up to the individual Christian to decide.

In the end, God is not a Republican nor a Democrat nor a Libertarian. I, as a pastor, should never give the impression that he is.

Personally, I have felt frustrated at times because I have strong opinions about certain candidates and issues. I deeply want to share my thoughts with others and engage in the debate. In the end, though, I see the wisdom of pastors not preaching politics from the pulpit.

The rise of social media, however, has created a new dilemma for us. Social media has become its own bully pulpit. Especially in this year’s presidential election, Facebook feeds are filled with propaganda for certain candidates and diatribes against others.

I’ve noticed a surprising number of pastors joining the fray – sharing posts, liking memes and engaging in the rhetoric. What is even more alarming is the insinuation in many of the posts that a true Christian will vote for a certain candidate or belong to a certain party.

I honestly struggle with this issue and don’t claim to have all the answers. I do, however, see the wisdom in what my professors taught me so many years ago. What do you think? Should pastors and clergy publicize their political leanings and engage in political discussions on-line?

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  20 comments for “Pastors, Politics and the Pulpit

  1. Kenneth
    August 3, 2016 at 7:09 am

    Keep to your guns! My mother in law had a saying, “sometime saying something, is best said by not saying anything at all”

  2. August 3, 2016 at 8:19 am

    I think pastors should talk about political issues. I do however draw the line with a distinction – their comments should not be partisan. I have difficulty with pastors who attach themselves to a political party. My experience has been that when a pastor attaches themselves to a political party, they start listening to the rhetoric of that party and start to mix it with the Gospel. As a future pastor, I have no problem commenting on political issues, but I try to look through the lens of the Gospel and the words of Jesus, not the words and ideology of a political party. To stay true to this, I am registered non-partisan. My loyalty remains to the Gospel, not to any political party or politician.

    • schroera
      August 3, 2016 at 10:42 am

      Matthew, I agree with what you are saying, but as you continue in the ministry, I think you are going to see how difficult it is to draw that line of distinction. Even when you simply want to talk about an issue, many people will drag you into a partisan discussion or will assume that you are being partisan.

      • August 3, 2016 at 11:07 am

        I’m already well aware of that. I have a long history in politics. A really long history – having gotten candidates elected, done strategy and messaging for candidates and elected officials, among other things. I hear the partisan rhetoric from people. People want to drag me into these debates all the time, ending at some political party conclusion. That’s hard for me to do since I have loyalty to neither political party. Both parties have serious flaws and I try to remind people that our primary loyalty is to God, not party. There is a fine line with all of this. The times that I do talk about political issues I make sure to keep the focus on the issues and the people affected by these issues, the complexity of the issues (there aren’t nice easy solutions because people are involved), and really try to listen for understanding from the other person. I don’t pretend to believe that what I say or believe about any given issue will change anyone’s mind. Often I find the other person isn’t usually interested in my opinion or really understanding the complexities of how politics and government and policy actually come about and work. Mostly people want to be heard and understood. I have found that focusing more on the relationship with someone, even if I disagree with all of their beliefs, goes a lot further than trying to convince someone of something.

  3. April
    August 3, 2016 at 9:03 am

    In these very difficult trying times as a Christian, I find my faith and beliefs being mistaken for hatred, intolerance and ignorance.. They are not! The bible clearly teaches us abortion is murder, homosexuality is wrong, we are to obey and respect police officers, goverment etc. these things were also taught growing up in a WELS Christian home. Political correctness has gotten way out of control and as a believer in our Lord and savior, Jesus, we must continue to stand for what is right. I cannot and will not ever vote for a president that is pro abortion. The church congregation may not want to hear who a pastor is voting for as our president but as he preaches the law and gospel from the pulpit we need to continue to hear the truth and the truth will set us free.

    • Melvin Musser
      August 4, 2016 at 3:59 pm

      Sorry, but abortion is not mentioned ever in the Bible… Killing and murder are, but not abortion. The debate is over whether abortion is murder. If life begins at conception then it is, but if life begins at birth it is not. The Pro Choice folks say life begins at birth and abortion is therefore not killing or murder…

      • schroera
        August 4, 2016 at 5:22 pm

        Melvin, thank you for your comment. I understand your argument, but have to disagree. Scripture does speak to the beginning of life. For example, David mentions in Psalm 51 that he was sinful from the moment of conception. How could he be sinful if he wasn’t a human life with a soul? John the Baptist leaped in his mother’s womb out of faith. How could he have faith if he wasn’t a real person with a soul? Even logic says that life doesn’t suddenly happen at birth. The babies are living beings inside their mother’s wombs. Do they suddenly get a soul as they pass through the birthing canal? Of course not. According to the Bible, an unborn baby is a human life and has a soul. According to the Bible, it is a sin to murder a human life. Therefore, the Bible calls abortion sin.

        • Cindy Wundrow
          January 26, 2017 at 1:18 pm

          This is where your knowledge of the Bible can help us with “hot button issues”. This explanation is very helpful to respond with on abortion issues. May I plagerize you on this? 😬

          • schroera
            January 27, 2017 at 11:13 am

            Cindy, thank you for your comments. You may plagiarize me all you want. God bless!

        • Karen Henzig
          January 27, 2017 at 9:18 am

          Well said.

  4. Lance Lindeman
    August 3, 2016 at 10:11 am

    Listen to your mentors and teachers. Do not comment on politics. What’s going on in the world and how God redeems, protects, and leads us to our heavenly home- yes. Something as insignicant as politics-no. I love social media for the God given tool that it is to spread His word, but hate it because of the hateful things people use it for.

    • schroera
      August 3, 2016 at 10:43 am

      Thanks, Lance. Amen and amen.

  5. Jeff seelow
    August 3, 2016 at 10:39 am

    The three purposes for which God established the secular government are as follows: peace, prosperity and safety. In my mind, the question remains, which candidate best understands this, regardless of party affiliation, religious background, race or gender or what level of government, local, state or federal? We often find ourselves arguing over things outside the God-given boundaries established in his Word, forgetting two things: the government is unable to function effectively in spiritual matters ( that is not its role; history is filled with examples of repeated failures to do so); the second is a comfort to us as Christians, namely, the authorities that exist have been established by God. My intention is simply to share an opinion; if you want to debate this, I won’t respond, as I don’t generally write on these blogs. But I’m on vacation, enjoying the sun, and had the time. No disrespect intended. Thanks for reading.

    • schroera
      August 3, 2016 at 10:45 am

      Thanks for your comments, Jeff. I think we sometimes look to the government to do what only God can do. Have a great vacation!

  6. Gregg
    August 3, 2016 at 11:46 am

    I think there is a big difference between preaching politics and applying Scripture to politics. Jesus, of course, wants us to apply Scripture to all matters of our life, doctrine, and practice including politics. Scripture has a lot to say about government and political matters and if we do not talk about these things with our friends, relatives, neighbors, coworkers, and fellow Christians, we are not being faithful in proclaiming the whole counsel of God. Jesus spoke and taught a lot of things which were not politically correct and were very offensive to many people and they did not like him preaching about these things and wanted him to stop preaching. Because he would not stop preaching about these things, they tried to stop him by putting him to death. But not even death could stop him because he conquered death and rose from the dead on Easter morning. As our perfect Savior and substitute Jesus perfectly obeyed all of God’s commands, including his command to faithfully proclaim to all nations the whole counsel of God. Out of love for our Savior we will want to repent of our sins and live according to all of God’s commands, including his command to proclaim the whole counsel of God to all nations, even if his counsel and Holy Word is not politically correct and is hated and despised by the world. The unbelieving world hates Jesus and everything he stands for and because of this the unbelieving world will also hate his followers. But Jesus says, “Be faithful, even to the point of death and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10) May we never stop proclaiming the whole counsel of God, including his counsel regarding politics, even when his counsel is offensive and not politically correct. All of God’s Word is true and we are not to be ashamed of any of it, including the offensive and hard to accept teachings of Jesus, including matters pertaining to politics. I think the hymn “Stand Up, stand up for Jesus” says it all quite well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r11Gmdq__-8

  7. Gregg
    August 3, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    There are laws in this country that have been legally established by Congress regarding gun control, immigration, and religious freedom and these laws are to be obeyed and enforced whether people agree with these laws or not. Not even the president of the United States is permitted to change or amend any of these laws. There should not be any illegal immigrants in this country because we are not to condone illegal activity by anyone, including leaders in our government. When we allow leaders of our government to break the law regarding immigration and gun control, we are encouraging lawlessness. There should never be such a thing as an illegal immigrant in this country. If they were allowed to enter our country illegally, then those leaders of our government who are responsible for this illegal immigration should be prosecuted under the full extent of the law. To allow people to break the law without punishment and prosecution is encouraging lawlessness and rebellion against our government, which as Christians we are not to do. The fact that we even have any illegal immigrants in this country who are permitted to be here is going against the laws of our government and this is lawlessness.

  8. Gregg
    August 3, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    Like Obama we may disagree with our immigration laws and with our Constitutional amendment regarding the right to bear arms and there are many secularists and atheists who even disagree with the amendment regarding religious liberty. But until any of these laws are changed by Congress and only by Congress, these laws are to be obeyed and enforced and there is to be no illegal immigration allowed at any time and citizens are to be granted the right to bear arms as stated in our Constitution. Our government has laws already on the books regarding all of these issues which are being debated and until these laws are legally changed through the proper channels by Congress, these laws are to remain and must be enforced by all government agencies, including the office of the President. There is a rebellion by the current administration against our Constitution and the laws established by Congress and as Christians we are not to support or condone any of this rebellion by a secular and Islamic antichrist like Obama. To do so, is to rebel against the government which God established among us through our founding fathers. The deception is becoming so diabolical as Jesus has warned us about that many Christians are failing to see just how deceptive it is and are failing to see the lawlessness that is occuring right under our nose within our own government. I warn everyone have nothing to do with this spirit of lawlessness or support it in any way.

  9. Sue Smith
    August 6, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    I’m 80 years old. I was brought up in the Nazarene church, baptized there & then in later years joined the Baptist church again baptized. I gave my heart to the Lord as a teenager, but lost my way many times. Thank goodness for God’s mercy that never stopped loving me. I’m really having a terrible struggle with depression. I don’t go to church anymore but spend my Sundays watching Billy Graham Classics & especially Joseph Prince. I just don’t want to go to church anymore after attending for over 65 years, & I feel the spirit as I set & watch the ministers on T.V. but especially Rev. Prince. I know their church is charismatic, which I don’t have the gift & have never felt led to do so, but I’ve learned so much more about the Bible while listening to him & feel good, but lately for the past couple weeks keep having meltdowns. My Dr. put me on a low regimen of Zoloft, & hope it works. Can’t take any others because my body rejects them. I’m wondering do you ever do any counseling, & if so is there a charge. I’m at the place where I’d just like to lay down & not wake up.

    • schroera
      August 6, 2016 at 12:17 pm

      Sue, if you live nearby here in Edna, I do do counseling and would love to sit down and talk to you. If you don’t, I can help you find somebody near where you live. Please send me an e-mail at daysofthanksgiving@yahoo.com and we can talk more.

  10. Rol
    January 26, 2017 at 5:45 pm

    Certainly pastors can talk about peacemakers and peacemaking and nonviolence!

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