It's an election year. I know, because my phone rings more than it ever does otherwise.
In the last few weeks, much has been made about the IRS rule that prohibits tax-exempt organizations (like churches) from endorsing a particular candidate or party. On Oct. 7, something like 1,500 pastors participated in what was billed as "pulpit freedom Sunday," endorsing by name particular candidates and then sending video of their sermons to the IRS. Their hope is to challenge in court the constitutionality of the law.
More recently, a church in eastern Iowa made headlines when a parishioner complained about the presence of political brochures in the church lobby. In response, the pastor chose not only to read from the brochure in the pulpit but also verbally assaulted the woman who complained. His rationale, again, is that the IRS rule is not constitutional.
I do not feel that it is my place as a pastor, or the role of the church, to endorse individual candidates or a political party. I feel that way for a couple of reasons:
First, as I understand it, the IRS rule is an "opt-in" rule. That is, tax exempt status is something that churches and other charitable organizations choose to apply for. A church that gives up its tax exempt status would be free to make all the political endorsements it wanted; but its donors would no longer be able to take deductions and the church's income would be subject to taxation as well.
Second, and more importantly, politics is not the church's mission. My fear is that the churches which are clamoring for the right to be involved in election campaigns have bought into the idea that control of the government will somehow save us. My conviction is that our hope lies not in who governs us or in what laws are passed, but in Jesus Christ. My job as a pastor, and the role of the church, is to point people to Jesus.
Psalm 20:7 says: "Some trust in chariots and some trust in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God." I sometimes think that verse could be rewritten to say: "Some trust in the Democrats and some trust in the Republicans, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God." It's important that we in the church remember where our real hope comes from.
Now, don't misunderstand me. The right to vote and participate in a democratic government is one of the greatest blessings God has given to us as Americans. Christians absolutely should have opinions, support candidates, run for office, work within the political parties, and vote. We should let Jesus inform our political positions, and we should pray for these elections and the candidates.
I'm not going to tell you how to vote though. It's not a part of my mission. And you don't need me to tell you who to vote for.