On Living A Quiet Life And The Ninth Commandment
Several years ago, I was asked to sign a petition in support of then Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore and his campaign to have the Ten Commandments displayed in the Alabama State Courthouse.
I declined. Not because I thought the the Ten Commandments were something to be ashamed of or that Judge Moore might not have a few good points in his defense, but mainly because a) it was illegal under the law of the land and b) I felt that he was intentionally using the issue to score political points for a later run at public office. In my opinion, that was unseemly behavior for a Christian and in marked contrast to Paul’s admonition to live a “quiet life” and to “mind your own business” in 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12.
Moore was subsequently removed from the Alabama Supreme Court for, ironically, his defiance of the law, and soundly defeated by incumbent Republican Governor Bob Riley (a 2-1 margin) in the June, 2006 GOP gubernatorial primary.
This coming Sunday, the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) will be following the example set by Roy Moore by encouraging many pastors to defy the 1954 IRS ban on political endorsements by tax-exempt entities and endorse a particular political candidate, by name, from the pulpit.
In the past, I have supported and admired some of the work that ADF has done in defense of academic freedom on our nation’s college campuses, but this latest move to defy the law of the land will, in my mind, only further stoke the partisan flames of division which are consuming the American church in this election cycle and serve to further sully the witness of Christians who were, originally anyway, charged to be “in the world but not of the world.”
Most pastors, of course, will not be so bold. They may “preach politics” and strongly intimate as to how the flock should vote, but they will be shrewd enough to not mention a particular candidate by name.
As long as I have followed politics, I have never seen Christians lose their heads the way they have over this election (of course, I wasn’t around in 1960). So much angst! Whatever happened to “be not afraid” and “do not worry?”
Yes the world is watching, but they aren’t waiting for us to leave our political footprint. They’re waiting for us to actually take the words of Jesus seriously and to put them into effect in our lives and communities.
Here’s an idea for pastors and preachers: Forget the political sermons and talk more on what it means to live a quiet–and confident–life as a witness to the world. And while they’re at it, maybe they could focus on the ninth commandment, which, judging from the libelous political email forwards which I continue to receive from many of my Christian friends, might bear repeating in this election cycle:
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
These issues tug at some of the deepest emotional strings in our hearts, but you are right. The first century church flourished under a horrible political situation and seemed to do so without becoming political activists. Good thoughts, Eyeguy.
I remember receiving (and deleting) those e-mails about Roy Moore. I always thought the whole thing was rather silly. This sort of thing is not limited to one viewpoint — now there are libelous political emails being sent by left-leaning Christians about Governor Palin. Sigh.
It blows my mind that some preachers would actually tell their congregation who to vote for from the pulpit — and that some are actually encouraging them to do it! I would like to think that most of the congregation doesn’t know where I stand politically (though they probably know which way I lean).
But I’ve always wondered how the black churches get away with having Democratic candidates make campaign speeches in their pulpits on Sunday mornings…..
You make a great point. I have been a long time fan and supporter of ADF, but I don’t like their strategy to break the law in order to change it. And, regardless of the law, I wouldn’t want my pastor to preach for or against a particular candidate.
Nevertheless, Jeff also makes a good point. Why is it OK for some churches to rally around a particular candidate and overtly support them, but not for others?
Mike the Eyeguy
It is a good point, and I don’t think it’s appropriate for either side to do that, or forward libelous emails.
What about a prayer during the worship service “thanking God” for “our godly president, George W. Bush?” YES! I’ve sat thru that prayer!
Mike the Eyeguy
I’ve sat through a few public prayers/sermons/editorials before as well, bpb. None quite that explicit, though!
Preach on Brother! My younger bro was at a church service in a denomination that will remained unnamed (Southern Baptist..sorry to let that out) during Bush’s last election. The preacher did a powerpoint sermon. At the end he flashed up a pix of Pres. George Bush and said I can not tell you who to vote for but we as Christions know who is the most godly choice and pointed to George Bush’s picture. He left that church and voted with his feet.
To put this rather crudely, I have always considered this the pimping of Christ. These people dress him up in clothes he would never choose on his own, then sell him to get themselves worldy power.
In response to the concern about some discrepancy about black and white churches, I would note that here in the Heart of Dixie, it was the black churches who bore the great moral and activist burden of suffering and persecution during the civil rights era. Their “political” involvement stretches back through slavery, to serve as a refuge, a community safe from oppressors eyes, serving a function of communication and righteous shelter in an evil season, then serving as the engine for a non-violenct, moral claim for justice and liberty, prayerfully and bound up in scripture and grace, even as they suffered the slings and arrows of peaceful, civil disobedience.
In the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s, except for a few mainline, high church clergy, the white churches in the south failed, abdicated their ministries and roles and sat back on their haunches, paralyzed before a social disruption meant to liberate the oppressed. This is especially true of the two most populous denominations in the state, the Southern Baptists and the Church of Christ.
Historically, I see some fine irony in these same churches, just a generation removed, hoisting the flag of righteous partisanship, claiming Christ and preaching like activists on behalf of what cause? Conversative economic theory? Federalism? Neo-conservative foreign policy? Zionism? The Temperance Movement? Prohibition?
Perhaps the failure of the white church in the Civil Rights Movement bore repentance among these churches and preachers who now are struck by some sense of prophetic justice. I hope so, but the agenda doesn’t seem quite to fit.
Mike the Eyeguy
Hey DV, good to hear from you. Way to keep that denom name on the down low :-).
PowerPoint–it’s from the devil, you know.
Laurie, “crude” works sometimes, it really does.
JRB, thanks for that historical perspective. There are all kinds of intersections and connections between faith and politics, some legit and some not. As I try to sort through all these in this season of high stakes and drama, I keep coming back to Micah 6:8 and the things that I know are good:
“To practice justice, to love mercy, to walk humbly with God.”
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