Since the 1960s, a debate has raged in many denominations and congregations about the propriety of discussing things from the pulpit that are also being discussed in Washington, DC, state capitols and mayors offices. Due to faulty court interpretations of non-constitutional writings, an artificial wall of separation between church and state has been interpreted as forbidding churches and pastors to be involved in the political process. Some have taken that concept further and suggest that Christians in general have no business being involved in politics and a few have even discouraged voting.
Such a position is built on an appalling absence of information regarding the heritage and tradition of political activism springing from the church and pastors pulpits. From the days prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence through the fight to abolish slavery to the resurgence of family values as part of a political platform, pastors, churches and religious people in general have a long and rich heritage of influence in the political process in the United States of America.
One need only go back to the actually signing of the Constitution to see that pastors and seminarians held tremendous sway in the founding documents of this nation. Of those who signed the Constitution originally, twenty-seven of them (nearly one-half) had degrees from seminaries. Many ministers and theologians actively participated in the Constitutional Convention. Many of the first members of political offices from the state level to the national level were ministers.
One of the four greatest influences that lead to the conflict over slavery in this country was the Pulpit. Henry Ward Beecher would thunder against the evils of slavery from his church pulpit and reporters in the audience would record his words and publish them for the rest of the world to see. Like a wildfire, the flames of abolitionism swept from pulpit to pulpit and press to newspaper stirring an outcry against this barbarous practice.
Sadly, today many people have forgotten the power that the pulpit can have in shaping the character of a nation. In fact, some evangelicals are vocally questioning or even opposing the concept that churches should address topics that have political ramifications. Ed Dobson of Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan; Cal Thomas, the syndicated writer and former official with the Moral Majority; and well-known pastor and author John MacArthur have all written books that call into question the propriety of Christian and church involvement in politics.
As a pastor, I believe that my position is above politics. I truly believe that if I were to step down from my pulpit to run for and even win elected office; I would be taking a step down in terms of eternal impact. But the fact that the role is sacred (even if the man is extremely human) carries a responsibility that demands that no compartment of life be reserved from Scriptural scrutiny and that includes politics.
Scripture calls our leaders ministers and they must be evaluated then by Biblical standards of right and wrong and ethics and morality. Politicians have a responsibility to provide moral and philosophical leadership for citizens. Were it not for the voices of preachers, there might be no Bill of Rights, slavery may have continued for decades longer, the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s might never have occurred.
Because I am a pastor and literally thousands listen to me each week seeking Biblically inspired challenges, reminders and training, I have a responsibility also to rightly divide the truth and challenge those things that undermine truth. A pastor must be a theologian, an educator, an ethicist and a prophet. He must not shirk from any topic even those that are uncomfortable or unpopular.
Some have suggested that a preacher who addresses political issues is demeaning his office. I disagree. I believe that a preacher who addresses political issues is fulfilling his office. In pointing out sin, wrong philosophy and dangerous trends, he calls men and women to repentance and Biblical living. Something this country always has and always will need.