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Archive for Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Politics doesn’t belong in the pulpit

June 4, 2008

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A self-identified African-American caller to a Washington, D.C., radio station characterized the recent anti-Hillary Clinton outburst by a white liberal Chicago priest, Michael Pfleger, as a "minstrel show."

Pfleger, who was preaching "another gospel," which the authentic Gospel warns against, denounced Sen. Clinton for her effrontery and sense of "entitlement" in trying to take the Democratic presidential nomination from a black man, one Barack Obama. Pfleger, who donated $1,500 to the Obama campaign between 1995 and 2001, is indebted to Obama because when Obama was in the Illinois legislature, he, according to the Chicago Tribune, "announced $225,000 in grants to St. Sabina programs." Three months after the grant was announced, Pfleger donated another $200 to Obama.

Obama denounced Pfleger's comments far more quickly than he separated himself from his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, but one is known by one's preferred associations. Obama's friends and associates have a long history of far-left political and theological positions with which Obama has appeared perfectly comfortable. It makes one wonder if Obama's denunciations are sincere or if he's had a politically convenient "conversion." On Saturday, in what might be considered spiritual and political damage control, Obama announced he has resigned his membership in Trinity United Church of Christ.

We have seen conservative preachers and other self-anointed spokesmen for God make fools of themselves by overindulging in politics and other trivialities and now the theological left is getting its chance to rush in where even angels fear to tread for their equal time and deserved mockery. As I watched the video of Pfleger (and Wright before him), I felt a profound sadness for the congregation, whose members might be enjoying the political equivalent of foreplay, but are being denied preaching that would turn their eyes to another kingdom and another King that could do them far more good than a politician of any color or philosophy.

Shakey's Pizza restaurants used to have among its signs: "Shakey made a deal with the bank. Shakey doesn't cash checks. The bank doesn't make pizza." That is the kind of deal congregations should demand from their politicians and pastors. Politicians shouldn't do religion and preachers should stay out of partisan politics. If preachers want to do politics, they should resign their ordination and become politicians. And if politicians want to do religion, they should stop running for positions in the lower kingdom, enroll in seminary and become ministers in the Higher Kingdom.

The pastor at my church doesn't do politics. The closest he gets is to pray for the national leadership, as Scripture commands. And before you ask, yes, he did it during all eight years of the Clinton administration. Preaching on politics would divide our congregation, which consists of Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Besides, what's the point of listening to a political sermon, as if most of us do not already have well-established points of view? We don't need a clergyman to tell us how to vote. We need a clergyman to reveal God to us. If I want politics on Sunday morning, I can stay home and watch the morning interview shows.

Sen. Charles Grassley, Iowa Republican, is investigating "prosperity gospel" preachers who claim you can live like kings if you'll send them money, thus allowing them to live like kings. One can argue whether government ought to be inserting itself into doctrinal issues in order to save the biblically illiterate from their gullibility. But the Internal Revenue Service must investigate Trinity United Church of Christ to determine whether it has violated its tax-exempt status by allowing its pulpit to be used for political purposes.

God can judge the quality of the preaching at Trinity. The IRS should step in and judge the quality of the politics. If the Rev. Pfleger's cardinal, Francis George, won't go beyond a statement criticizing his inflammatory and bigoted remarks, Pope Benedict XVI should consider disciplinary action. As for Obama's resignation, he must still explain how he could sit in the church for two decades and be indifferent to such inflammatory rhetoric.

Cal Thomas is a columnist for Tribune Media Services.

Comments

TopJayhawk 6 years, 6 months ago

I agree that politics does not belong in the pulpit. But let's not get too selective with our memory. Black churches have been having Dems in the pulpit for yrs and yrs. Why is there no outrage about this? I've always wondered about the blatent hypocrisy of this. Liberals bash Robertson et al. but never a word about all the Dems in the black chruches. Why?

Rex Russell 6 years, 6 months ago

I can't believe I'm saying this but, I fully agree with Cal Thomas. But much like Scott McClellan, his credibility in saying so would have been greater if he had said something long ago. Don't remember Cal writing any articles about Pat Robertson and the idiotic things he would occasionally say. Don't remember him writing about the uncomfortably close nature of the relationship between the GOP and southern conservative preachers. Overall though, this was a good, even handed piece.

SettingTheRecordStraight 6 years, 6 months ago

What does it matter to you if mosques, churches, charities or non-profits endorse their favored candidates to public office? Why should tax status, of all things, have anything to do with this? Limiting speech by forbidding political endorsements from non-profit organizations is unnecessarily sacrosanct in our culture.

Rex Russell 6 years, 6 months ago

I know the context of the scripture. It comes from questions of Jewish scholars trying to trap Jesus in a difficult answer. The deeper meaning of the lesson is one of living in different worlds. One political, and one spiritual.

ReadingSports 6 years, 6 months ago

Sorry, the Church of England is under the British Crown, and not the other way around. From Wikipedia "The British monarch, at present Queen Elizabeth II, has the constitutional title of "Supreme Governor of the Church of England". The Church of England was established by Henry VIII, who wanted an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, so he could marry Anne Boleyn. His marriage to Boleyn of course ended on a slightly different note. Ag, accounting staff would include volunteers for those churches that have the skills in house, and small enough for part-time help. Bigger churches would need more accounting time. Okay, Ag wants to tax churches. In order to do that then many other organizations would be taxed as well: private schools/universities, arts (symphonies, ballet, museums, etc.), regular civic organizations (Lions, VFW, Rotary), libraries, etc. Many churches would close their doors, which is Ag's intend, no doubt, but so would many of these organizations. Ag's intend is that only 'real' charitable work would be tax deductible. (I've got this vision in my head of Father Franciscan being led off to jail for tax evasion for telling someone that Jesus loves them in the soup line.) Sorry Ag, who gets to determine what 'real' charitable work is? You? Fortunately, this wouldn't pass a Constitutional giggle test. Because otherwise then you're going to have pass a law directly taxing religious organizations and only religious organizations. Thank God that we have the US Constitution to protect us from religious based oppression. The Constitution protects free exercise and free expression of religion. Unless of the courts were packed to permit such a thing. Although, I think it would be rather funny, maybe even hilarious, to have one of the political parties put such a thing as a plank in the platform.

SettingTheRecordStraight 6 years, 6 months ago

Agnostick,Civilization endures despite the threat of taxes - and churches, charities and non-profits exist despite the threat of continued government involvement in their affairs.I hope someone is recording all my comments because, boy, am I good.

ReadingSports 6 years, 6 months ago

malcolm...., I feel that your comments about Ag are unfair. Yes, I disagree with him, a lot, maybe even all the time. But I didn't really see him "hijack" this thread, and I don't see anything in here that consistutes a violation of the TOS. If you disagree with what someone says then deal with the substance of the comments rather than throwing tomatoes.

georgeofwesternkansas 6 years, 6 months ago

"uhadmeatsmellthis (Anonymous) says: "Politics doesn't belong in the pulpit"::::until govenrment workers find themselves reporting to work on Christmas and Good Friday. Then I would guess there would be some further consideration. We are some funny creatures."Yea politics dosn't belong in the oulpit until a bunch of government workers want it too, but only when they want it to.

Lindsey Buscher 6 years, 6 months ago

Dr. King was did not preach politics...rather, the subject of most of his preaching (Civil Rights) happened to be one of the major political issues of the time. Does anyone know if he ever publicly backed or admonished any politician from the pulpit?

verity 6 years, 6 months ago

"But the Internal Revenue Service must investigate Trinity United Church of Christ to determine whether it has violated its tax-exempt status by allowing its pulpit to be used for political purposes."Funny that Cal Thomas did not come to this conclusion until it was a "leftist" church that he thinks stepped over the line.Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the law is against endorsing a political candidate, not random statements which can be interpreted as being "political".

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 6 months ago

"Are you going to be willing to step in with higher taxes for yourself to replace all of the charitable social welfare programs run by churches?"No need to-- as I said in my previous post, if they actually do something charitable, (and building $multimillion palatial churches is not charitable) that could be deductible in its own right.

1029 6 years, 6 months ago

not too good on this quote: "Civilization endures despite the threat of taxes - and churches, charities and non-profits exist despite the threat of continued government involvement in their affairs."Taxes pay for the building and upkeep of civilization, and the majority of U.S. non-profits receive some amount of government funding. In exchange for funding, the non-profit usually has to report its production to the government in some way or another.

SettingTheRecordStraight 6 years, 6 months ago

Politics does indeed belong in the pulpit. It belongs there as much as any other subject affecting society and humanity. Whether liberal or conservative, let churches, synagogues and mosques discuss that which is important to parishoners.

cato_the_elder 6 years, 6 months ago

Informed - Let's just say that their respective ministers and certain of their parishioners very much enjoy hanging out and singing Kumbaya at places such as the Ecumenical Christian Ministries, and their favorite buzzword is "justice," defined, of course, in accordance with their own political views. They represent the mirror image of the distasteful excesses of the Religious Right, which also sees no problem in preaching politics from the pulpit and proselytizing parishioners to a particular political point of view cloaked in the guise of religion. Local churchgoers who revel in any particular brand of political religion are, of course, free to worship wherever they want. I'm going to leave it at that.

ReadingSports 6 years, 6 months ago

Marion, Well-put.And require all churches to staff tax accounts, like business of comparable size.

ReadingSports 6 years, 6 months ago

Now this is funny... "Upon further reflection: if churches were to band together for these projects, they could leverage their combined spending power and get even better deals on low-cost or no-cost contributions from retailers and larger corporations."Today's sermon is brought to you by Target.

Rex Russell 6 years, 6 months ago

"Give to Ceaser what is Ceaser's and give to God what is God's." Not to hard to interpret the meaning of politics and religeon shouldn't be mixed.

jafs 6 years, 6 months ago

I believe as tax-exempt organizations, churches are supposed to follow certain guidelines about political involvement if they wish to maintain that status.

TopJayhawk 6 years, 6 months ago

Marion....Yes that is about what I thought.... No double standards here...Thank you for clarifying...

SettingTheRecordStraight 6 years, 6 months ago

"But if a church is going to blatantly support key candidates, favoring one over another: then they should rightly surrender their tax-exempt status for that privilege." - AgnostickI completely disagree. It's ridiculous to connect a non-profit's tax status with it's level of political involvement. There is no rational basis for such a paradigm. Limiting free speech with the threat of taxes unnecessarily burdens free speech.

Confrontation 6 years, 6 months ago

Tax the churches and do away with federal holidays. I'd much rather see 10 roaming holidays, rather than set holidays.

ReadingSports 6 years, 6 months ago

Should preachers admonish politicians? There are definitely Biblical exampes of that. John the Baptist and Herod, and Jesus and the Pharisees, for starters. A little personal note, I've personally seen pastors preach with so much smoke coming out of their pants that you didn't know whether to get a fire extinguisher or marshmallows. And I've heard Liberation Theology types too. And some pretty bad h*** fire and brimstone types that seemed to take glee in someone going to the hot place. Personal opinion is that if a pastor wants to talk about politics in the pulpit then he/she better have their ducks in a row. There should be clear mandate from scripture to do so. So, if MLK criticized a politician for blocking equality for blacks, then God bless him for doing so.

janeyb 6 years, 6 months ago

Churches can preach bigotry against women and gays-- Catholic Priests can rape children and choose a Nazi Pope-- and get a tax deduction for it. Quite a perk!

BigDog 6 years, 6 months ago

Let's just remove the tax exemption from every non-profit ..... because there are plenty of non-profit organizations involved in political activities, churches aren't the only ones. How about schools? They have their own lobbyists, are highly politically involved and send political information home with kids. How about universities? Of course they are not political (ha)Treat them equally and eliminate them all.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 6 months ago

In my opinion, all churches should have their tax-exempt status revoked. If they actually engage in charitable and/or community development activities, those expenses could be deductible.That way, churches could engage in any political activity they want, and we'd be spared the specter of folks like the Phelps, the Robertsons and the Falwells from spewing their hate and general nonsense at other taxpayers' expense.

cato_the_elder 6 years, 6 months ago

There are at least two prominent, long-established churches in Lawrence whose pastors would do well to read and abide by these admonitions. Politics has no place in the pulpit, period.

ReadingSports 6 years, 6 months ago

Ag, Oh, so I get it. Mr. Fred is a King-Sized Dork, so penalize everyone else. Makes perfect sense to me. (Just because it's sarcastic, doesn't mean it's not substantive.)

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 6 months ago

"Though I do wish my church would do a mission trip to Hawaii. Our mission trips come with shots. %-{"Religious proselytizing is hubristic and arrogant, but charitable? Not even remotely.

ReadingSports 6 years, 6 months ago

Ag, Your nick is almost like a challenge. It's like throwing down the gauntlet. I'm the agnostic, I'm the skeptic. You've defined your presence by an arch-type. It's like a bumper sticker. Not that I mind bumper stickers.It would be like me using "Jesus Freak" as mine. While I've made no bones about my Christian faith, my name is an obscure pun that I would have to explain even to people that know me.

georgeofwesternkansas 6 years, 6 months ago

By the time you add up all the taxes one has to pay to live in the USA it approches 50% of your income. Having said that, politics and the discusson of it has a place everywhere. What other choice is there? Outlaw politics in church??

Confrontation 6 years, 6 months ago

"B) My 3-year-old daughter has brought some interesting things home from daycare, to be sure-but I have yet to be able to tell if the popsicle sticks glued to construction paper are gay or straight, pro-life or pro-choice, Republican, Democrat etc."And we have a winner! Best post!

ReadingSports 6 years, 6 months ago

If you have a point to make. Make it without personal attacks. I doubt that you are capable of such a thing.

ReadingSports 6 years, 6 months ago

"that you (and only you, or your church) know the truth", please identify the post where I made such a statement. "and that others with different beliefs are simply wrong."Christianity makes certain claims, Islam, for instance, makes certain claims. Can they both be right? Of course, I'm betting that your religious studies teachers told you that they were. Yea, I've read Huston Smith, too. While you are not anti-religious, I suspect that you subscribe to some sort of relativistic worldview that includes some sort of vague diety. But assumes that everyone is right. So we would be from different, and competing, religious backgrounds. Oh, and by the way, you also make certain claims, some of those claims are in direct contradiction with scripture. Can they all be right? Isn't you asserting that your claims are correct and that my claims are false exactly the same thing, as me asserting that Christianity's claims are true. And doesn't justify you calling me or anyone else, arrogant, again. Does that say more about you or me? If you say that a wall is red, and I say the exact same wall is blue are we both right?"The arrogance is in assuming, or believing, that all of those who lived before Christ were incapable of salvation."This of course would be incorrect belief. Try Romans, I can look up the chapter if you would like.

ReadingSports 6 years, 6 months ago

Bozo... hubristic and arrogant. Have you ever been on a mission trip? Do you know me? Do you your know anyone at all from my Church? Do you ever even say anything at all positive? Your comments are hubristic, arrogant and presumptous. And insulting. And bigoted...

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 6 months ago

"Black churches have been having Dems in the pulpit for yrs and yrs. Why is there no outrage about this?"You obviously missed the whole civil rights movement, the assassination of Martin Luther King and the bombing of little girls in black churches. And do you think that Jesse Jackson, Jeremiah Wright, Malcom X and many others haven't met with a white backlash for their outspokenness?

ReadingSports 6 years, 6 months ago

"malcolm_x_obama, your incendiary username speaks volumes about "trolls," doesn't it?"Ag, While you do have a point about MXO's name, not saying you're a troll, but is yours any less controversial? And I'm not saying that I haven't in turn been, "in someone's face".

ReadingSports 6 years, 6 months ago

BOZO... I must apologize, I perceived your comment as a personal attack and I responded in kind. That was wrong.I have however noticed a certain consistantly negative quality to your posts.First missions always include service work, and they're not always evangelistic. It depends on a number of factors, and is off topic. Second how can you know someone is arrogant unless you actually have firsthand experience with that person? An idea or action can not be arrogant unless the person is doing something to build themselves up. .....Or tear others down......proselytizing is hubristic and arrogant...So is any proselytizing huberistic and arrogant? Aren't you here advocating for your viewpoint? Isn't that proselytizing?While I'm not now going to discuss the theology of what I am about to say, but I will at a later time, or at least plan to. Please also understand the way that we see the world and maybe your comments won't come across as so hateful. If you start with the following.1. God is real. 2. God has been revealed.3. That revelation is documented.4. It says certain things about the relationship of God to people. 5. It says certain things about the condition of humanity. That people are broken. 6. It says that people can only be fixed by a relationship with God.7. Those that are not fixed can not be brought into God's presence. And frankly, won't want to be.Now I know I'm going to get lots of tomatoes for this, but my point is that you see this as arrogant. Christians do not! We see it as an obligation, placed on us by God. Many, many, Christians pay for this obligation with their lives. (BTW, I'm not an evangelist. That is not my role in the church, nor am I a teacher, or a preacher.)And I have seen some hate sites that claim that Christians bribe or coerce conversions. That doesn't make any sense. While Christians can do stupid things, this isn't like buying a car. I don't get a sales incentive every month for every time someone says they believe in Christ. And I'm sorry, talking to someone doesn't consitute coercion. Even being "pushy" isn't coercion, stupid, but not coercion.

ReadingSports 6 years, 6 months ago

Well of course "Benny and the Jet". Doesn't that make sense?I think St. Jude's is probably tax exempt. Here's a link to the reference on Charity Navigator. http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=5234Their rating is a little low, but they do have to raise a lot of money and a medically-centered charity is going to be inherently expensive. Of course there are still payroll taxes, and churches do pay those, as well. Here are some much better examples of Christian charities:World Vision: http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=4768Samaritan's Pursehttp://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=4423Compassion International.http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=3555Though I do wish my church would do a mission trip to Hawaii. Our mission trips come with shots. %-{

jafs 6 years, 6 months ago

Reading Sports,That is a good list to explain why/how religious folks feel the need to "convert" others.The arrogance is in assuming that you (and only you, or your church) know the truth about all of these things, and that others with different beliefs are simply wrong.The arrogance is in assuming, or believing, that all of those who lived before Christ were incapable of salvation.That's just a couple of examples - there are many more.And, for the record, I'm not anti-religious - I majored in religious studies, and attend church (somewhat sporadically).The tax-exempt status is interesting - I'm sure that many churches, and perhaps other te organizations abuse the status. I'm not so sure about the solution though. If churches existed purely for their charitable work, it might be easier.

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