‘Day of Shame’ for some pulpits in the U.S.

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.


8 thoughts on “‘Day of Shame’ for some pulpits in the U.S.

  1. Alas poor God is used for so many things. He’s our prop, giving us divine right in any number of questionable practices. I shall be interested in what occurs in my parish this Sunday. In another I attended a few weeks ago, I was invited to pursue a constitutional convention vote next Tuesday (we have one every 10 years) so that we make put it in our constitution that marriage is between a man and woman. Course that’s just Catholic rhetoric, but it soured me on that parish for good.

    I’m keeping my fingers crossed that such does not occur in my chosen place of worship.

    • It seems to me that a true preacher ought to be quite satisfied to criticize officials who are already elected (provided they are not running for re-election).

      A real prophet is one who will bite the hand that feeds him, if that hand transgresses. Some of our yokel ministry talk Jeremiah but don’t walk Jeremiah.

      They do not understand that there’s a line that doesn’t allow them into the voting booth with each of their members. It’s a philosophical and theological principle that does not ride well on the surface of a low-octane brain.

  2. Well something tells me as well, John, that this is a matter which may be context dependent. It may be the case, as has happened in the twentieth century, that there is a movement or ideas making moves on the ‘will to power’ which poses harm to society or runs counter to sound moral, religious or ethical principles. Following Karl Barth here would suggest we be Christian and prophetic even in our politics.


    • Jason, I was just reading Martin Niemoller’s account of the verbal resistance offered by Karl Barth to a request that he agree to a memorandum supporting ‘German Christian’ teachings. Of course the so-called ‘German Christian’ church of the 1930s was essentially a coallition of nationalist right-wing Protestants.

      Barth saw things clearly enough to publicly contrast his own faith with the new German ideal:

      “We have different beliefs, different spirits and a different God.’

      Many Germans were scandalized by Barth’s comment.

    • Ha, Jason, that particular Barth quote was from an old essay of mine on right-wing religion that I’m preparing to re-post here. So I had the reading done five years ago. In editing it down to my standard 500 word limit I had thought to remove the Barth and save for later. Now you have given me a window in which to set it.

      But I do a lot of reading, true. The secret I think is ABSOLUTELY NO TV. Few movies. Precious little music.

      30 years ago I saw that the media was rarely correct in reporting things about which I had good knowledge, and I extrapolated to the likelihood that they were wrong about all of the things I had little knowledge of as well.

      Media will never be a primary source of information in the old sense of ‘primary.’ People are mistaken to treat it so. It’s permanently secondary or rather on the encyclopediac level at best, IMO. So life is too short to spend more than 5 minutes a day on it at my age, when there are so many neglected writings.

  3. Well, well, it appears to be the case that I was still in nappies (‘diapers’ over the pond) when you came to the realisation that the media was rarely correct. Thankfully, and at length, I too have come to the same conclusion; more especially in a “post September eleven world.” I detest the constant reference to this event, and do apologise for using it here. Yet I have not been sufficiently able to liberate myself from the television. We are children of our age. I do however make a point of watching entertainment rather than information, whilst recognising the subtle infusion of information into entertainment.

    As to reading, every month I set myself a reading list. This is like the dieting regimes of others; I rarely finish the job. Good intentions and the road to hell. This month was Westermann on Genesis 6-9, Dawkin’s ‘God Delusion,’ and Goodman’s ‘Rome and Jerusalem.’ So far so Good. A whole day left.

    If your prized anonymity permits your existence on Facebook, let me know how to connect with you. I am trying to formulate a (very long term) plan on having that coffee with you, even if in the meantime that is a cyber brew.

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