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.