Maybe it’s because I’m in seminary, training and learning how to be a pastor. Maybe it’s because of my background in politics. Maybe it’s a combination of that and so many other things. Here’s one thing that really bothers me – pastors who preach partisan politics.
It just rubs me wrong. It feels manipulative. It makes me question what Gospel a pastor is preaching.
There’s a difference between preaching politics and partisan politics. Jesus was political – he made political statements all the time. What he didn’t do was attach himself to a political party or movement and made their agenda what he preached. He found fault in the political system that promised so much, but in reality was a big lie.
I’m reminded of something I experienced many years ago. We were visiting friends one weekend and I went to church. I listened to the pastor go on and on about how wonderful Sen. Ted Kennedy was. He completely neglected to mention that the guy was responsible for the death of a woman. Didn’t fit the agenda of making Kennedy into a saint I guess. I came away from church being really ticked off and wondering why I went in the first place. I didn’t go to hear a partisan political speech. Why go to church just to get ticked off?
Here’s another one – when I worked at a food pantry, we attended a conference on how to improve the way to get more food to more people. That’s a great focus. And it is political. One of the speakers, a pastor, decided that wasn’t good enough though. He turned it into a political party rally, getting most of the participants caught up in emotional political rhetoric and using the Bible to make his points – cherry picking what supported his pre-established way of thinking. He obviously didn’t consider the fact that there were some in the audience who were part of the opposing political party and had supported the politician he was slamming. I came away really upset at the pastor and about the event. I didn’t sign up to go to a political party rally. It felt like the event was turning the people into an irrational mob.
That’s not what church is about – or not what it should be. It’s one thing to afflict the comfortable, it’s quite another to piss people off to the point that they don’t want to come back.
When pastors, or really anyone in authority, use their position to influence people into voting for certain candidates or political parties, then they just sound like anyone else.
If you are a pastor, you are called to preach the Gospel of Jesus. When you send so much time advocating for a candidate or for a political party, then you are preaching a different Gospel – the gospel of political party. The gospel of the Democrat or Republican party.
You can’t preach both the Gospel of Jesus and the Gospel of the Democrat or Republican party. The two do not align. Sure, there may be some policies that happen to match up, but the reason behind why they are preached is far different.
Jesus’ Gospel is a message of hope and empowering those without any hope. The Democrat and Republican Gospels are a message of hope for those with power and those that are members of the party. Their ultimate message is an us versus them message. Jesus’ Gospel is that there is only us. There is no them.