As our nation marches toward the polls for this November election, the issues and personalities launched an open season of political debate and opinion. Strong emotions and sentiment have moved common ordinary Americans to rally behind the chosen leader and cause. Obama and McCain yard signs decorate the front yards of suburban lawns, and decorate the bumpers of all makes and models of cars from Lexus to Fords. As independents and the confused are trying to make up their minds about who to vote for the lure to speak into the noise is palatable for religious leaders.
Pastors and prophets alike feel the need to speak out like the Moral Majority of the recent past. The next generation of red-blooded, flag waving American preachers wants to weigh in on the issues to help point people in the right direction like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson did for their generation. However, this passion to speak out has it costs as a younger brasher Billy Graham learned the hard way years ago. I grew up under the light and example of an older wiser Christian statesman but in his early days Billy Graham stepped into the political world carry his black King James Version of the Bible and deep opinion about how presidents should lead, and even about who should be president. In his early days he was tempted to accept the role of the Popes of the medieval world as a “kingmaker”. One of his greatest temptations came when his close friend Richard Nixon was running against a young upstart politician named John F. Kennedy. The debate about religion and politics was the rage as this young Catholic ran for president. Graham learned the lesson that it is dangerous to confuse which kingdom you ultimately serve. As Ruth kicked him under the table as he spoke about vice president nominees with President Johnson he was learning to put the Kingdom of God first and foremost in his mission. In later generation, he chose to be a pastor to the presidents rather than a political advisor. In my opinion this was a much wiser and much more powerful role for him.
I believe it is highly dangerous for a pastor to dabble in politics. Denominations and conventions need to learn to be “missionary” in their approach to political parties. Being “missionary” to me means that choose to preach the gospel in word and deed, and avoid the lure of making political pronouncements. You will find a yard sign in my yard for neither presidential candidate, nor a bumper sticker on my old Jeep. You will not hear me endorse a political candidate from the pulpit whether he or she is running for president or county judge. You will not find my signature with concerned citizens supporting the incumbent mayor or council man, but you will hear me preach the gospel and call our nation and its leaders to trust the Lord and to follow him in all their ways.
In recent days I have heard preachers waging in on whether Palin should run for vice-president or stay at home and raise her five kids. I have seen pastors side boldly and openly with one political party or another, while running the risk of alienating many in their realm of influence to the gospel they preach. In the ballot box I always vote my conscience, but in the pulpit I preach the gospel.