Unfortunately for our democracy, some Protestant pastors will not be celebrating a true Reformation Sunday this weekend. They worship instead an unorthodox holy day of their own making – they are ending a season of lawbreaking and profane secular involvement with a feast day of Mammon which ought to be called The Last Sunday before Elections. The unholy season started on Sept. 26, with a thing called ‘Pulpit Freedom Sunday.’
It is not clear how many preachers plan this Sunday to use the authority of their high calling to allege some kind of divine sanction of blessing or damnation for their own personal political choices. The braver of these ignorant shepherds have already sent tape recordings of their Sept 26 sermons to the IRS, at the suggestion of the so-called Pulpit Freedom movement, which hopes to aid them if any lawsuits are initiated by the Government.
These pastors seem to misunderstand the perfectly legal connection the IRS is making between their tax-exempt status and the restriction that they not interfere with their local, state, and national commerce or politics.
All right then. I would hope the IRS will exercise due diligence in taking up a limited number of these challenges. The most air-tight cases are probably few, but let’s begin with those where there is hard evidence that a pastor has endorsed a local, state, or national political group or candidate who also enjoys the privilege of tax exemption on donations made to that particular church. Look for cases where a state judge or congressman has made a significant donation – particularly if not a member of the church. Because that’s where we’re headed if the tax-free pulpit endorsement becomes a reality. Once preachers are free to endorse candidates from the pulpit, a very significant amount of tax-free influence goes up ‘for sale’ which is otherwise purchasable only through taxable media and canvassing outlets.
I don’t doubt that these unsophisticated preachers of God feel very righteous in their decision to go this way. But seriously, they risk becoming the dupes of astute power brokers who would be very glad to manipulate the churches as ‘combines’ of political and market forces.
Fortunately, most pastors know the ‘Pulpit Freedom’ ruse is wrong
Obviously there are spiritual issues as well. If you enter one of these stricken congregations this Sunday, expect to witness an overt flouting of both material and spiritual law.
(1) The preacher may blaspheme the will of God by equating it with his own narrow political view.
(2) The preacher may divide the very body of Christ entrusted to his care – by calling their votes either holiness or sin, depending on conformity to his own pompous choice.
(3) The preacher’s church may even enjoy lavish gifts (tax deductible) from the very same local, state, or national office-seeker or party whose views are being touted from the pulpit.
The church’s sacred calling ought to remove it from secular commercial and political affiliation. Pastors who desire to preach like Jeremiah should be so pious as to end their acceptance of tax-exempt donations.