Should Pastors Talk Politics from the Pulpit?
I am not a real political guy. I vote and watch debates but I don’t give money to support politics or politicians and I don’t volunteer to work at political events. If people are “electioneering within 500 feet of the voting booth” that is clearly someone else’s problem. I am in and out, and no one but those closest to me will know for whom I cast my ballot.
I think it is Jimmy Carter’s fault. When I was in early-high school Jimmy Carter ran for President. It was the Bi-Centennial and every fire hydrant in DuQuoin, Illinois was painted red, white and blue. Patriotism was surging after sitting out the Viet Nam years and my cross and flag were bound by a tight weld. Most of the Christians I knew couldn’t tell the difference between Jimmy Carter’s bid and the best thing that had ever happened. We were sure that having a “born again” Christian in the White House was going to make America into everything it used to be and could be again. The prospect of it was exhilarating. Someone gave me a huge campaign poster the campaign folks pumped out for us Christians. It read, “J.C. Can Save America.” I hung it next to my Roger Staubach poster. I would have hung it between Roger Staubach and Farrah Fawcett but my mom had very clear ideas about that one. Roger in. Farrah out but I digress. I remembering wishing I was old enough to vote and pondered the travesty of it all if J.C. lost by only one vote. Future Government classes informed me that Jimmy was never in any danger there. Then the election came and I remember jumping around my room in celebration. Jimmy Carter was President of the United States of America! We were all thanking Jesus.
I voted for the first time in 1981…for Ronald Reagan. Roger the Dodger again hung on my wall alone and whatever it was that J.C. did in my mind, it was something short of saving America. I don’t think this disappointment jaded me on politics, it just forced me to grow up a bit. The prophet Zechariah wrote in chapter four, verse six, “Not by might nor by power but by thy Spirit says the Lord.” Since 1981, I have never again tagged messianic hopes to a candidate. What is awesome it that I don’t have to, the messiah has already come.
So these days, I am just going to preach what is in the Bible and do my best to connect people to Jesus. And if the “reality show” of partisan politics circa 2017 holds interest for me, it must be as a private citizen, not as a pastor. I still believe that J. C. can save America but I know now that stands for Jesus Christ.
So should pastors talk politics from the pulpit? I have no idea, but this one isn’t going to. I am going to talk Jesus.
-Rev. Shane L. Bishop, A Distinguished Evangelist of the United Methodist Church, is the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois