Politics and Pulpits Don’t Mix
Religion & Liberty Online

Politics and Pulpits Don’t Mix

Over at Commentary Magazine, Jonathan S. Tobin remarks on the double standards liberals have about allowing politicians to promote political positions from the pulpits of churches and synagogues:

[A]llowing a religious event to become the venue for partisan politics is always asking for trouble. No one is saying, or ought to say, that synagogue buildings can’t be used for debates or forums in which politics is discussed. But there is a big difference between a Sunday morning bagel breakfast to which politicians are invited and what ought to be a purely religious event.

Far too often in this country we have seen inner city churches used as launching points for Democratic campaigns or evangelical churches employed for the same purpose by conservatives and Republicans. The willingness of some liberal Jews to use Reform institutions such as Miami’s Temple Israel in the same way is regrettable. Rather than being the rallying cry for those who wish to impose more partisan politics on helpless congregants, it should serve as a warning to all religious institutions to stay away from politicians while they are running for office and seeking to exploit them.

To this I give a hearty, but qualified, Amen. Rather than seeking “equal time” I believe that conservatives should stand for keeping partisan politics out of the pulpit. Particular social and moral issues are fair game, of course. But those should be presented by the preacher, not a politician.

I suspect most conservative evangelicals would agree with me, which is why I disagree with Tobin’s claims that evangelical churches are often used as “launching points” by conservatives and Republicans. I’m not sure this it true. I’ve been in evangelical churches for nearly forty years and I’ve never been in a church where a politician was invited to speak on a Sunday service. I don’t even know of any evangelical churches that would allow that to happen.

Now I’m not saying that partisan political programs are never presented from evangelical pulpits. But I have certainly never seen evidence that this is something that happens frequently. I don’t know any conservative evangelicals that would tolerate such activity in the same way that it occurs in liberal congregations. Perhaps its because we don’t make an idol of government that we conservative evangelicals are not eager to hear preaching by the High Priests of Partisan Politics.

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).