Politics from the Pulpit

Church House Politics Stanislaus County Sheriff Election

In reading the Modesto Bee editorial endorsement for sheriff, the following paragraph rang true:

“It matters when Jeff Dirkse appears at a church to receive the blessing of a popular pastor. We still believe in the separation of church and state; that keeping politics out of the pulpit is important. We fear some will be tempted to believe “God” has chosen one candidate. But Dirkse isn’t running to be sheriff of the evangelicals. He’ll be the sheriff of our community’s Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and atheists, not to mention Catholics, Pentecostals, Episcopals, Methodists and a few Universalists.”

Although I am a retired teacher, it does not take a teacher to have a keen awareness of the founding principles regarding the separation of church and state.

Instead of retreading the well-known dangers and historical abuses that have followed every political intrusion into religious institutions, I will make seven points that get to the heart of the matter.

politics-from-the-pulpit Stanislaus County

Pastors are often thought of as shepherds to their congregational flock.  In addition to the role of guiding spiritual relationships, they are also intimately involved in their lives.  Weddings, births, funerals, tragedies, and all that make the human condition are shared with the Pastor – something uniquely earned by trust over time.  The Pastor’s entry into political guidance blurs the emotional bonds between his congregation and his spiritual role.  Just imagine a member of the church that supported Juan Alanis – would they now feel out of step with their religious home and leader?  How awful.

Political pitches from the Pulpit are a violation of historical and legal precedents

Regardless of President Trump’s ill-advised executive order allowing churches to engage in more political activity (which will possibly be overturned by the courts), this is wrong.  The Constitution gives us direction on the separation of church and state, and the Johnson Amendment was enacted for a reason – it forbids the participation in, or intervention in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.

Religious institutions enjoy a tax-free status specifically because they are non-profit and non-political.  The reckless pursuit of votes in the name of religion will have no effect than other than to erode the tax exemption status of houses of worship and confirm the suspicions of those whose belief systems do not include any organized religion. How AWFUL.

Political pitches from the Pulpit plant the seeds of political corruption at worst, and at best they foster the appearance of it.

Weeding out political corruption is a full-time job in the everyday secular world.   The Fair Political Practices Commission continues to modify and set forth guidelines to regulate the influence of money in our electorate.    How will the public know that money put into the collection plate (meant for the maintenance and operations of the church), does not flow into the hands of the political speaker at the pulpit?  In addition to fostering mistrust in non-members, it most certainly enters the minds of the pious members who trust that their tithes are used for the churches’ spiritual mission.  How AWFUL.

Political pitches from the Pulpit will ultimately be destructive to the churches that participate

The Bible and other religious texts speak of churches as everything from a refuge from the world to places of spiritual nourishment and areas of deep privacy.    Bringing the divisions inherent in any political discussion into the sacred places of worship will breed the seeds of worldly disconnect.   How AWFUL.

The slippery slope just turned into a steep cliff regarding the protection that churches have traditionally enjoyed.

You cannot pick and choose your participation in the political arena.  Religious institutions that do so, are morally obligated to provide pulpit time for the opposing candidates and views, and open their collection plate offerings to public scrutiny.  Failure to do so can only lead to the removal of their tax protection, exposure of the congregant’s private beliefs and worse – (remember this is 2017, the time of the Post Modern church).   Little patience or deference will be given by an increasingly cynical population.  Remember when the dust settles – it was not the Government and Politics that invaded the church – it was the political church that entered the domain of government.

Bottom Line – We would like to invite Mr. Dirkse on our radio show (live on the airways) to make his case for election to Sheriff.