Pastors ought to be non-partisan. Yes, I know I’m making a controversial statement. Some of you probably won’t read past that sentence. I know all the arguments that you’ll probably state too. I’ve heard them all before. If you feel you must repeat them, be my guest. I’m not opposed to the First Amendment or it applying to pastors.
As a future pastor, I feel strongly about this. I feel strongly about this based on many things.
1. Leading up to the election, I heard way too many pastors sound like they were preaching the gospel of either Clinton or Trump, rather than the Gospel of Jesus. Too many made it sounds like either of these candidates were divine messengers who were sent to bring about the Kingdom of God. Did I miss something in Seminary? I thought we were to preach the Gospel of Jesus, not partisan political party platforms or candidate rhetoric.
2. After the election, these same pastors have made sure to wail and moan about many things. They have contributed to the anxiety level we have here. I feel certain that there are just as many pastors who would have done the same thing had the results been the opposite – just a different set of pastors. Look I get it, there are concerns for those on the margins – lots of crap was said during the campaign. And yes we see some of the consequences of the election with the targeting of those on the margins with slurs and other crap that doesn’t belong in society. That’s bad stuff and we should do what we can to stop it and stand with these people. I will say this much, this wasn’t going away if Clinton won. It didn’t go away when Obama won either. This isn’t a political problem – it’s a sin problem. The church has an opportunity and a responsibility to talk about sin apart from political party loyalties – or maybe even linking sin to politics. You cheapen the message when you align the Gospel with one party or the other. At that point the Gospel serves the needs of party and becomes secondary to it. That’s not how it works though.
3. Why oh why are there pastors who sounds as though our salvation resides in one political party or the other. It doesn’t. Our salvation resides in Jesus, not Hillary Clinton, not Donald Trump. Not in the Democrat Party or the Republican Party. Why are we contributing to this false gospel message?
I didn’t vote for Trump or Clinton – Neither of them belong in the White House. Heck, neither of them should even be allowed to come in as a visitor as far as I’m concerned. But that wasn’t to be.
There are some pastors who have made politics, party, and politician into idols. These pastors make it sound like we are to worship these things and people and hang on every word they say. We aren’t.
Here’s why I think pastors ought be registered non-partisan: having worked in politics for many years, I feel I can say with some authority that the nature of politics is that it is all consuming. It’s like a black hole. It becomes the foundation for everything else for many people. Many people shift their beliefs so that they align with their political ideology. They look past the sins of their candidates all in the name of moving the political agenda forward. The ends justify the means in politics. When politics is our foundation, then even the Gospel and our theology become twisted – we start using the rhetoric of politicians rather than the message of the Gospel to drive us. We get comfortable aligning ourselves with earthly powers and put all of our hope in these powers. We make politics our idol. We serve it and I can tell you that it is a cruel master that offers no salvation, only power struggles.
Pastors are called to preach the Gospel of Jesus – a counter cultural, turn the world right side up, message. The Gospel of Jesus isn’t about shifting power from one political party to the other and claiming that this party is right all the time and it is ushering in the Kingdom of God. The Gospel of Jesus is a radical message that says our worldly ways of dealing with power through politics is broken because we are a broken people who have a broken relationship with God, one another, and the rest of creation.
The Gospel of Jesus isn’t the rhetoric of the Democrat or Republican party. It’s completely different from these two false idols. It’s a message of hope, a vision for living, a way of peace, embracing of all life and peoples, it overcomes envy and pride, is expansive in nature, and calls on us to be stewards, servants, and Children of God. Neither party can even come close to this.
Why should pastors be non-partisan? Because attaching ourselves to a political party cheapens the message we have been entrusted with. Because the Gospel of Jesus goes well beyond any power in this world. We’re called to preach the Gospel and frankly, partisan alignment and loyalty gets in way of that message.