The aptly named Alliance Defense Fund (presumably concerned with defending the alliance of Republicans and conservative churches) convinced several pastors to risk serious financial consequences for their congregations by “speaking about politics” from the pulpit, meaning they will act as surrogates for the McCain campaign and use scripture to do it. Here’s a sample:
“I’m going to talk about the un-biblical stands that Barack Obama takes. Nobody who follows the Bible can vote for him,” said the Rev. Wiley S. Drake of First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park. “We may not be politically correct, but we are going to be biblically correct. We are going to vote for those who follow the Bible.”
Drake was the target of a recent IRS investigation into his endorsement last year of former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. In the end, Drake was cleared.
Readers of this blog and anyone who knows me personally will know that I believe Jesus’ teachings are inherently, intensely political, so if pastors want to talk about politics from the pulpit, they should, because in the end that forms the majority of what they should be talking about. What astounds me is the extent to which the church allows the kingdoms of the world to define for them what “political” means, and how we fall so quickly into the groves of the prevailing political ideologies that may or may not have anything to do with Christ in anything but cosmetic ways.
Politics can be defined as “the often internally conflicting interrelationships among people in a society.” Jesus had quite a lot to say about politics, including no small amount of material on violence and the proper responses to it. Jesus had quite a bit to say about how we are to manage the often conflicting relationships between ourselves and our brothers and sisters, with special emphasis on how we relate to the weak, the vulnerable, and the marginalized. So when I see pastors risking consequences to talk about “politics,” I feel like I should be encouraged.
But, I’m not.
All indications are that this will be a conservative-orchestrated campaign event, wherein pastors will push for support of McCain or at least for detraction of Obama. While the Alliance Defense Fund says the point of all of this is to push the feds into stripping the churches of their non-profit tax-exempt status and thus allowing for a lawsuit on free-speech grounds to establish a precedent, I suspect the true goal will be accomplished immediately: having a bunch of Christian leaders stand up and denounce a particular political candidate at a time politically advantageous to another candidate.
What bothers me most about this stunt is the narrow view of “biblical” being shouted out by the pastors involved. “Biblical” is often a euphemism for a certain perspective on the biblical texts that reflects a political / social ideology, not vice versa. In this case, “biblical” will mean that Obama is pro-choice, pro-inclusion, etc. etc. But will John McCain and Obama be equally criticized for their “unbiblical” stances on the use of violence in conflict? Jesus has something to say on that issue, something very, very forthright. And money, too…no, what I imagine will emerge will be a way of talking about liberalism or conservatism, Republicanism versus Democratic-ness, cloaked in a thin veneer of Christian language and symbolism.