Monday, September 29, 2008


Weekly Opinion/Editorial
STICK TO PREACHING CHRIST!
by Steve Fair

On Sunday, at least thirty-three pastors in twenty-two states endorsed a presidential nominee from the pulpit. They were defying a federal law that prohibits American clergy from endorsing political candidates from the pulpit. One of those was Paul Blair, pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Edmond. Blair, a former OSU and NFL lineman, said, “As a Christian and as an American citizen, I will be voting for John McCain.” “It’s absolutely vital to proclaim the truth and not be afraid to proclaim the truth from our pulpits,” Blair stated.

Blair was participating in what is called The Pulpit Initiative by the Alliance Defense Fund http://www.alliancedefensefund.org/main/default.aspx whose stated mission is to “reclaim a pastors’ constitutional right to speak truth from the pulpit.”

Pastors, priests and rabbis were free to say what they wanted to say about politics and the issues of the day through the early history of our nation – in fact, right up until 1954. That year, Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson, D-Texas, was facing opposition in his re-election bid from Christians and anti-communists, some of whom were speaking their minds freely from the pulpits.
Johnson, a powerful figure in the Senate who would later become John F. Kennedy's vice president and succeed him following the assassination in 1963, had a solution for his own political predicament – to muzzle churches and clergy with federal regulations.

Through what became known as "the Johnson Amendment," the U.S. Congress changed the Internal Revenue Service code, prohibiting non-profits, including churches, from endorsing or opposing political candidates. It still allowed for pastors to preach about “issues”, but not endorsing a candidate from the pulpit. That’s when the liberals begin to use the term “separation of church and state” to justify removing God from the public square.

Neither the Declaration of Independence nor the Constitution has the phrase “separation of church and state” included in them. Those words do not appear in either document. The words “separation of church and state” appeared in a letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists. The Baptist group was concerned with the possibility of the newly formed republic establishing a “state” religion. Because of their background and the religious persecution they endured before coming to the New World, they wanted Jefferson’s assurance the government would stay out of the spiritual realm.

Jefferson agreed with them and wrote, “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”

The goal of The Pulpit Initiative is to reverse the Johnson amendment. While that may be a worthy goal from the political view, it’s misguided from a spiritual standpoint. I applaud these pastors’s willingness to stand for the truth, but their zeal in “endorsing” any man is misguided. Romans 13 is clear that we should obey the laws of the land and recognize that a sovereign God put elected officials in power. No place in scripture exhorts a pastor to preach anything but the “gospel” and the “whole counsel of God.” When a pastor steps into the pulpit, he should not be concerned with delivering a political parties message, but God’s message.

Issues are a different matter. Homosexuality and abortion are issues that are condemned in scripture and a pastor should address those issues. Drunkenness and perversion are not just political issues, they are spiritual ones, and so pastors should be bold and address those. But when pastors begin to endorse particular men for a particular job from the pulpit, they have gone too far.

I can’t imagine Jonathan Edwards, the Presbyterian theologian and the grandfather of Vice President Aaron Burr standing in his pulpit and endorsing a candidate. Behind that sacred desk, Edwards dispensed God’s message. His famous sermon, “Sinners in the hands of an angry God,” http://content.christianity.com/1/33075/1_33075_SinnersintheHandsofanAngryGod.ALL.mp3was preached in 1741, well before our nation was founded. This sermon has been widely reprinted as an example of "fire and brimstone" preaching in the colonial revivals. Was Edwards political? Absolutely, but when he was in the pulpit, he preached righteousness, temperance and judgment to come. He didn’t talk about the upcoming election.

In our “talking head” society, some ministers have taken their eye off the ball and believe they must engage in the political process from the pulpit to be relevant. While their motive may be pure, pastors should not endorse candidates from the pulpit. As ministers of the gospel, they should know the hope of the world is neither John McCain or Barrack Obama- it’s Jesus Christ.

6 comments:

Cheryl Williams said...

Steve,

First, you should attend the Reclaiming Oklahoma for Christ conference and become educated on why conservative Christians need to get up out of their pews (and comfort zones) and active in politics. For too long conservative Christians have attended church each week, listened to the pastor, and then failed to let their faith impact their vote.

Yet, in the liberal churches, the pastors proudly proclaim who they are supporting in an election, even going so far as to take up a 'collection' for their favorite liberal candidate. They even invite the liberal candidate into their church to "preach". Don't you remember Bill Clinton speaking in all of the black churches when he was running for President? Or Hillary going to the black churches to "talk" (some people call that a sermon)?

Bro. Paul Blair did not "endorse" Sen. McCain, but simply let those attending know who he would be voting for on November 4th. AND, he included WHY he was voting for Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin through a voter guide comparing the 2 major party candidates on a multitude of social and economic issues. Oh and he had prefaced this announcement with a sermon that was Biblically based on what the Bible says on these issues!

If you were a student of the history of our nation (and not the revised, watered down version taught in public schools these last 50 years), you would know that our nation was founded by Christians and they came to this nation to practice their religious beliefs AND to build a nation built on Godly principles. We need to return our nation to its historical roots!

Christians need to live their faith, even in the voting booth, and my pastor(along with a number of other churches in this nation) were preaching the truth of the Bible this past Sunday. The only difference ... he also told us how it is impacting his vote on November 4th.

Jeremy Fair said...

Ignorance is astounding! Correct me if I am wrong, but you were never condemning pastors for being involved in the political process, nor were you advancing the notion that this nation has ever been anything less than rooted in Judaeo-Christian values. I believe…no check that…I am certain that you were saying that the pulpit was not the place to espouse one’s political views nor endorse a particular candidate. And in that you were dead on! Sure liberal pastors and liberal politicians mix and mingle the two all the time…this is because they have a fundamental problem with reading ancient documents…the Bible and the Constitution. The Bible, of which I would claim to be a little more familiar with than your average novice, is clear…the job of a pastor is to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season to give an account for the hope that is within you.” Paul told Timothy, “be faithful to teach what you have learned (sacred writings) to faithful men who will in turn be able to teach others.” You never have any occasion, regardless of the political charged environment of the first century, where a “man of the cloth” is instructed to teach anything other than the sacred scriptures.

Can pastors have political opinions? Sure. Can they voice those opinions over the dinner table among friends, families, and parishioners? Absolutely! But they have made a mockery of their call to the Gospel Ministry when they use the sacred desk as a bully pulpit.

Steve Fair is a political activist. said...

Cheryl:

I have attended Reclaiming Oklahoma conferences in the past as my schedule has allowed me. As to whether conservative Christians should be active in politics, that was not the subject or tone of the column. If a pastor wants to impact an election and influence his people politically OUT of the pulpit for a particular man, that is his right and in fact his responsibility, but in the pulpit, he is to proclaim God's Word.

I am no fan of the Johnson amendment or the IRS. If a pastor wants to endorse from the pulpit, the US government or the IRS should not interfere. That we would agree on.

The area of dispute is what is the purpose of the pulpit and I believe it to be a place for
God's message, not a message about a political candidate.

As to my not being a student of American history, David Barton and Rick Green are both personal friends. Wallbuilders does an excellent job presenting Americas Godly Hertiage. We have had Rick 5 straight years in Duncan with crowds of 300 "educating" Stephens County people about America's history. I recognize that America was founded on Christian principles.

The void we have in America is not politically, but spiritually. That's because churches are now "seeker friendly" and want to appeal to the person in the pew. If they would preach about the spiritual issues that are also political issues, we would have more Christians engaged in the process.

By the way, Reclaiming America was founded by Dr. D. James Kennedy, a PCA pastor. My son, Jeremy, who commented above is a PCA pastor from Arlington, Texas. He has a number of very political people in his church. He attended the GOP national convention as our guest. He is very interested in politics, but he agrees the pulpit is for proclaiming God's word.

Regards,


Steve Fair

John said...

Should have been there dude.He did preach a sermon on social issues according to the teachings in both the Old and New testaments.He then told us to search our beliefs and read for ourselves , and vote accordingly.He then told us who he would be voting for and told us to compare the issues and candidates and make our minds up.
Then again,I was there to hear it LIVE not second hand.

Steve Fair is a political activist. said...

John:

Thank you for your comments and for reading my dribble. I assume you are talking about Rev. Blair when you say you were there "live" to hear his sermon.

You correctly state that I was not there, but I gathered from all news accounts and television reports that he did in fact "endorse McCain from the pulpit." In fact the initiative was known as the PULPIT INITIATIVE.

I believe the pulpit is a holy sacred place where ONLY the WORD of GOD is to be preached. As a fundamental, independent, premillenial, pre-trib, KJV Baptist, I understand why he did it- I just don't agree that he should have done it.

Do we need more Christians involved in the political arena? Sure and no one works harder or has been committed to getting conservative Christians involved in the process more than I have. But when a pastor stands in his pulpit- with the TV cameras rolling- and endores a candidate, he is not fulfilling the scripture duties of his office.

Show me any place in scripture where a pastor is told to endorse anyone but God behind that sacred desk? It's not there.

Thanks for your comments,

Steve Fair

John said...

Yeah I read your article.I didn't think it was drivel,just not accurate.I know the guy that made the report.He wasn't there.Just a cameraman.The cameraman was very supportive of our pastor and said the Initiative was a great idea.
John