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October 12, 2011

POLITICS AND THE CHURCH’S BULLY PULPIT

by profbartling1

Headline 9/20/2011 in the STARTRIBUNE TWIN CITIES+REGION section: BACHMAN-HAMMOND: JUST THE TICKET FOR OUR TIMES

Writer Jon Tevlin observes that both politics as well as religion make strange bedfellows.  Rev. Mac Hammond, local televangelist from Living Word Christian Center has joined as an advisor the Bachmann campaign. Tevlin opines this is Bachmann’s “desperate attempt to solidify the far right of her evangelical base by appealing to Hammond’s ‘prosperity gospel’  followers”. Hammond has previously  had problems with Federal laws prohibiting religious leaders from endorsing political candidates from the pulpit.  Claiming to speak only for himself  raises the question for  church members whether church funds “are going to support a charity and not her (Bachmann’s) White House quest”.

Political activism and Christian vocation, how faith-life is expressed, I think includes an exceedingly broad approach to political involvement. My stance as a Christian over against the political order desires a political order that is consistent with justice, freedom, equality, and neighborly consideration. Politically I opt for whatever political action or party favors and promotes such values. There is no one political party or view that is the only possible secular political stance  for me as a Christian. I have been labeled as a liberal Christian. At least, in my perspective, I hope that is true.  Study of American history nudged me in that direction. (Certainly this demands constant critical review). There are beloved members of my extended family who consider me a political “heretic”.  Consistent with the American commitment  to and constitutional separation of state and church I have little patience when the church pulpit pitches “Faith Based Initiatives”,  or right-wing  political and secular agendas. Best to keep church and state  separate. That does not imply the church cannot function as the conscience of the state. (More on this in a blog sometime later).  I don’t think the church pulpit should follow or champion particular political action agendas. My concern is that this may confuse gospel with law, or a particular brand of politics as the TRUTH.  I carry out my vocation as citizen championing what enhances freedom, liberty. equality, human rights, economic opportunity, whatever – consistent with a political stance in accord with Christian love (in brief – THE GOSPEL). In the churches best interest, I think,  avoiding politics is in its best interests. One writer paraphrased Alexis de Tocqueville who held churches may “speak to universal hopes, fears, and concerns,”  but when partisan “they forfeit that ability.”

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