Last week, I asked if preachers ought to pick a fight with the IRS. Today, I want to revisit the issue and ask for more feedback. I have linked here an article from Baptist Press, which explains why an overwhelming majority of pastors support the IRS code forbidding pastors from endorsing candidates for political office. As the chart to the right shows, a whopping 87% of pastors surveyed think pastors should not endorse political candidates.
However, a small (but growing) number of pastors are challenging that thinking. Sunday, October 7, 2012, has been declared “Pulpit Freedom Sunday.” Below is a video from Jim Garlow of Skyline Church, speaking about why he is leading the charge to free pulpits from the IRS muzzle-code.
For my part, I am torn between freedom and wisdom. On the one hand, I am with the 87% who think pastors should not endorse candidates from the pulpit. Pastors have such a limited window that for the sake of maximum impact they ought to stick to the gospel and focus their energies on clearly proclaiming the penal substitutionary atonement of our Lord Jesus.
Yet, the point Garlow makes in this video is undeniable. The IRS code functions like the nose of a camel. If the nose is allowed in the tent, it won’t be long before the camel overruns the tent. The most pressing moral issues of our day are inherently political issues (abortion, gay marriage). The IRS code does more than place endorsements off-limit; it also could be interpreted to forbid speaking against party platforms of candidates–even if party platforms call for abortion on demand and the dissolution of traditional marriage.
Where is the line between a free pulpit and a muzzled pulpit? Congress shall make no law restricting the free exercise of religion, according to the Constitution. Even more important, pastors are called to obey God rather than men and to preach the Word in season and out of season. It’s too simple to think that preaching means only calling sinners to be saved. John the Baptist preached against Herod’s infidelity (Luke 3); Paul called civil magistrates to account when they failed to follow Roman law (Acts 16:39ff); and Peter with the rest of the Apostles were beaten and ordered not to speak any more in the name of Jesus, but they “never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah” (Acts 5:42).
There is a very long history in the Christian faith of running afoul of governing authorities. Though I have no desire to endorse a candidate from the pulpit, I am not sure I want the government to have the power to tell me that I cannot do that. I should be free to persuade Christians to cling to everything that is good (like marriage) and to abhor everything that is evil (like abortion on demand), right?
- Should Preachers Mess with the IRS? (gregoryccochran.com)
- Pastors preach politics despite IRS ban (wnd.com)
- Pastors pledge to defy IRS, preach politics from pulpit ahead of election (foxnews.com)