Monday, May 8, 2017
The Kingdom of Darkness is going to do what the Kingdom of Darkness does!
Weekly Opinion Editorial
SHOULD A CHURCH BE POLITICAL?
by Steve Fair
In 1954, then U.S. Senator Lyndon Johnson, (D- Texas) authored a bill that prohibited all 501(c) (3) organizations from endorsing, opposing or engaging in any political activity. Johnson’s target wasn’t churches. He was trying to stop billionaire H.L. Hunt from using his non-profit foundation to run a campaign against LBJ in his Texas Senate re-election bid.
Because most churches are tax exempt organizations, LBJ’s amendment made them fearful of an IRS audit, so most ceased engaging in the political arena after 1954. The fact is, the IRS has only pulled the tax exempt status on one church in all those years, but liberals have used the amendment to publically expose churches and pastors who engaged in conservative politics. Liberals partnered with their media brethren to accuse churches that were political of breaking the law. Not surprisingly, these zealous watchdogs haven’t been as vocal about liberal churches and pastors involvement in politics.
Last Thursday on the National Day of Prayer, President Trump signed an Executive Order directing the IRS to not take ‘adverse action’ against churches or pastors who engage in political activity. "We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore. And we will never, ever stand for religious discrimination. Never, ever," Trump said. Trump’s actions, in effect, stopped the enforcement of the Johnson amendment by the IRS.
Many conservatives greeted the news as a great victory. “On Sunday, go and tell your pastor that its time to get engaged in politics,” an Oklahoma GOP leader said Saturday at the state GOP convention. Three observations about Trump’s action and the Johnson amendment:
First, the Johnson amendment should be repealed. It clearly violates the first amendment. If a church or pastor wishes to engage in politics they should have the right to do so in America. They should be able to organize their church to help a campaign, preach politics from their pulpit, and decorate their sanctuary with campaign signs without fear of the government auditing their books and taking away their tax exempt status. The Johnson amendment clearly violates their right of free speech. Trump’s EO is just a temporary fix. Congress should repeal the Johnson amendment and get it off the books.
Second, Trump’s action will likely lead some churches to organize and become more political. Critics of Trump’s action believe conservative churches will solicit tax exempt contributions that will be used for political purposes and that will lead to more ‘dark money’ groups. ‘Dark Money’ groups are defined as those involved in politics whose contributions are next to impossible to track. That is certainly a possibility. Some churches will ‘launder’ money from their membership to political causes, but liberal ones are doing that now. It’s the conservatives that have been muzzled. Rabbi Jack Moline, a liberal Jewish cleric, expressed the fear of the left: "President Trump's executive order will clear the way for the Religious Right to weaponize their churches for partisan battle."
Some ministers and churches- both liberal and conservative- have built their ministry on politics. Attending a worship service is like going to a political rally. If that’s their bailiwick (political ministry), so be it and now Trump’s actions will likely energize them and allow them to take their activism to the next level.
Third, just because a church can be political, should it be? What is the scriptural mission of the local church? Jesus gave the church its marching orders on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 28:19). That mission is to ‘preach the gospel’ throughout the world. The good news(gospel) is the means God uses to reconcile man to Himself. The gospel is the only message God blesses. The gospel changes lives, cultures, and nations. Churches and pastors who abandon preaching the gospel to preach conservatism will reap converts to conservatism, not to Christ. The hope of America is not for churches and pastors to abandon their calling to become more politically involved. The hope of America is the faithful preaching of the gospel. The gospel is the only thing that eternally changes hearts and lives. Far too many churches and pastors have abandoned reverence for relevance. They fear man more than God. They are consumed with the kingdom of darkness rather than the kingdom of light. As John MacArthur says: ”The kingdom of darkness is going to do what the kingdom of darkness does.” That is true whether a conservative or a liberal is in power.