From the Gospel of Luke:
Jesus said: “Why do you call me “Lord, Lord,” and do not do what I tell you? I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, immediately it fell, and great was the ruin of that house.”
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Luke 6:46-49 – October 8, 2012)
It’s a darn good question, “Why do you call me “Lord, Lord,” and do not do what I tell you?” As we come to the last month of the 2012 political campaign, it is one which needs to be carefully considered by many Christians on all sides of the political divide. Are the values on which Christian voters are making their decisions those taught by Jesus, or are they cultural values dressed up in Christian clothing? One-issue voters in particular should take a broader look at their choices; just because a candidate supports your position on a question of particular importance to you does not mean his or her overall platform conforms well to the values of the Gospel, or does what Jesus told us to do.
Yesterday, evangelical preachers and churches around the country broke the law by engaging in something called “Pulpit Freedom Sunday”. They claimed to be the victims of “religious discrimination” because of a provision in American tax law which prohibits churches which claim religious tax exemption from endorsing political candidates and preachers from making campaign speeches from their pulpits. In this blog, I will not debate the law or the legality of what these churches and preachers did, but I do want to suggest that they have lost their way. Christ’s church was never intended to be a political party; Jesus is not a Republican, nor is he a Democrat; he is not a Green, or a Libertarian. Preaching politics from the pulpit undermines the Gospel message which is for all regardless of their political affiliation or their voting decisions. Preaching partisan politics from the pulpit is not doing what Jesus told us to do!
When the Gospel of Christ is equated with a particular party’s platform or a particular candidate’s position, the person or institution preaching that equivalence is not doing what Jesus told us to do. In fact, I believe they have even stopped calling Jesus “Lord, Lord” – they have given their allegiance to something or someone else!
The Gospel should impact our political decisions; I’m not suggesting otherwise. But churches and preachers should not be endorsing political nominees nor telling their congregations how to vote. Instead, they should be encouraging their members to give food to the hungry and something to drink to the thirsty, to welcome the stranger, to give clothing to the naked, to care for the sick and those in prison (see Matthew 25), and ask themselves how their political decisions best accomplish those goals. Because that is what Jesus told us to do!
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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.