Tag Archives: Moral Issues

October 5th is Pulpit Freedom Sunday: is your church getting involved?

I listened to this podcast from the Alliance Defending Freedom  and this podcast from the Family Research Council on the weekend.  Both of them mentioned that something called Pulpit Freedom Sunday was happening this Sunday.

So I looked it up and found this online:

Pulpit Freedom Sunday is an event associated with the Pulpit Initiative, a legal effort designed to secure the free speech rights of pastors in the pulpit. Pulpit Freedom Sunday encourages pastors to exercise their constitutionally protected freedom to speak truth into every area of life from the pulpit. Alliance Defending Freedom also hopes to eventually go to court to have the Johnson Amendment struck down as unconstitutional for its regulation of sermons, which are protected by the First Amendment.

The web site is here. They are up to 3520 pastors now who are participating. My pastor did not participate last year. He is not very intelligent when it comes to apologetics and policy, so he probably doesn’t know what to say. Or maybe he just afraid, which I can understand more than not knowing what to say.

Not everyone is happy with this. The IRS is investigating churches (not Democrat-favoring churches, of course) for speaking about specific issues.

Here’s an article on that.

Excerpt:

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has agreed to investigate the political activity of churches after reaching a settlement with an atheist legal group. But a court has yet to decide whether or not to close the case.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) and the IRS jointly asked a Wisconsin federal court last week to dismiss a 2012 lawsuit, FFRF v. Koskinen. The FFRF had alleged that the IRS failed to have a policy in place for investigating political activity at tax-exempt churches and religious organizations, nor did the agency enforce its 501(c)(3) codes against electioneering.

Meanwhile, more than 1,600 churches have deliberately broken the existing law since 2008, endorsing political candidates from their pulpits during Pulpit Freedom Sunday events organized by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). The next “showdown” will be October 5.

“This is a victory, and we’re pleased with this development in which the IRS has proved to our satisfaction that it now has in place a protocol to enforce its own anti-electioneering provisions,” said FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor in a press release.

However, the case has not yet been closed. Father Patrick Malone of Holy Cross Anglican Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, had been granted permission to interveneon the side of the IRS, and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (which represents Malone) has asked the court to dismiss the case but “with prejudice.” In other words, Becket argues the FFRF should not be able to sue the IRS again on this particular issue, while the FFRF argues that it should be able to do so.

Regardless of the court’s final decision, the IRS won’t be free to investigate churches until a moratorium related to the agency’s controversial scrutiny of tea party organizations is lifted after a congressional investigation closes.

CT has noted how the six-year run of Pulpit Freedom Sunday has tried to provoke the IRS into (ironically) punishing pastors as a means to reexamine the rights of pastors to promote politicians from the pulpit. The initiative even gained an unexpected allylast year in Sen. Charles Grassley and the Commission on Accountability and Policy for Religious Organizations (CAPRO).

Meanwhile, LifeWay Research has found that only 10 percent of Protestant pastors believe pastors should endorse political candidates (while noting that is a different question from should the IRS ban the practice.)

The IRS has not released the language of the settlement, and ADF is concerned about how secretive the church investigations will be—if they indeed happen. ADF has issued a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in pursuit of the documents surrounding the settlement between the FFRF and the IRS.

“This is one of the major problems with the IRS,” said Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel with ADF. “They are secretive, which breeds mistrust and leads to problems in knowing just how they will enforce and interpret the law.”

Becket has also requested information on documents the FFRF and the IRS are not making available, including: “all documents relating to any investigation or determination by a high-ranking IRS official, in writing, of the acts and circumstances, including potential violations of the electioneering restrictions, that led to the high-ranking official to reasonably believe that a church or religious organization may have violated the requirements for tax exemption under 501(c)(3).”

Stanley says ADF’s strategy—helping churches realize how government is censoring what they say—will not change. If the IRS does monitor electioneering more closely, he hopes the issue will end in a lawsuit.

“The Johnson Amendment is unconstitutional,” said Stanley. “If the IRS begins enforcing it again against churches, Alliance Defending Freedom stands ready to defend a pastor’s right to speak freely from the pulpit.”

ADF has organized Pulpit Freedom Sunday for six years, with 1,621 church and religious leaders participating in 2012 (2013 dropped to nearly 1,100 participants). But until now, the IRS has all but ignored ADF’s attempts to bring the issue to a head. According to Stanley, the IRS does not want to challenge the Johnson Amendment—which bans tax-exempt organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates—in court.

I think it’s interesting that the FFRF is not so much interested in debating whether atheism is true as they in shutting down theists who seek to live consistently with their beliefs by using the power of big government. I think that’s pretty par for the course though, if you look through 20th century history. That’s what atheist regimes have done, so we should expect individual atheists to do that as well.

I don’t recommend to the atheists at FFRF that they intimidate Christians, though, as Jesus seems to think that limiting the practice and free expression of Christian convictions is a bad idea.

Read Matthew 18:1-7:

1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

2 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them,

3 and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

4 Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

5 And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me;

6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

7 “Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!

I think that we Christians need to take positions that are in accord with what God’s Word says, and we need to be ready to defend our positions in public using public arguments and public evidence – especially scientific research – that will be persuasive to non-Christians who do not accept the Bible. That’s the only way to stop the cultural decline caused by the secular left.

The best introductory book on the interface between Christianity and politics is “Indivisible: Restoring Faith, Family, and Freedom Before It’s Too Late“, co-authored by Jay Wesley Richards. The Kindle edition is $9.99. Richards’ Ph.D is from Princeton University.

The best comprehensive book is “Politics – According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture” by Wayne Grudem. The Kindle edition of that one is $4.99. Grudem’s is from Cambridge University. First-rate Christian scholarship on practical Christianity.

And you can listen to Grudem delivering Sunday school training at his church on every single chapter of that book right here. All free, and no ads. Be sure and scroll through all the previous years to get all the topics! Ethics, social policy, fiscal policy, foreign policy and more!

For more information on Pulpit Freedom Sunday, check out this web site.

If you want to hear about things like this, then subscribe to the FRC podcasts and the ADF podcast.

What North Korea teaches Christians about the importance of politics and economics

Christian apologist Frank Turek writes about it at Townhall.

Excerpt:

When I hear Christians saying we ought not get involved in politics but just “preach the Gospel,” I show them this satellite picture of the Korean peninsula. Here we see a homogenous population of mostly Koreans separated by a well-fortified border. South Korea is full of freedom, food and productivity—it’s one of the most Christianized countries in the world. North Korea is a concentration camp. They have no freedom, no food, and very little Christianity.

What’s the primary reason for the stark difference between these two countries? Politics. The South politically allows freedom, while the North does not.

Ironically, Christians who shun politics to supposedly advance the Gospel are actually allowing others to stop the Gospel. How so? Because politics and law affects one’s ability to preach the Gospel! If you think otherwise, visit some of the countries I have visited—Iran, Saudi Arabia and China. You cannot legally “preach the Gospel” in those countries—or practice other aspects of your religion freely—because politically they’ve ruled it out as they have in North Korea.

In fact, politics affects virtually every area of your life through the laws made by government. So if you care about your family, business, church, school, children, money, property, home, security, healthcare, safety, freedom, and your ability to “preach the Gospel,” then you should care about politics.

Politics affects everything, which is why leaders throughout the Bible—including Joseph, Moses, Daniel, Nehemiah, Mordecai, Esther, John the Baptist, and Paul— “went political” to influence civil governments to govern morally. Even Jesus himself got involved in politics when he publically chastised the Pharisees—the religious and political leaders of Israel—for neglecting “the more important matters of the law.”

[…]But what can Christians do? After all, we can’t legislate morality, can we? News flash: All laws legislate morality! Morality is about right and wrong and all laws declare one behavior right and the opposite behavior wrong. So the question is not whether we can legislate morality, but “Whose morality will we legislate?”

[…]When we fail to legislate morally, others impose immorality. For example, totalitarian political correctness is already imposed in states such as Massachusetts where the implications of same-sex marriage override the religious liberties of businesses, charities and even parents. As documented here and illustrated here, same sex marriage prevents you from running your business, educating your children, or practicing your religion in accord with your Conscience. And soon, as is the case in Canada, you may not be able to merely speak Biblically about homosexual behavior. That is because those who say they are fighting for “tolerance” are often the most intolerant.

Unless Christians begin to influence politics and the culture more significantly, we will continue to lose the very freedoms that enable us to live according to our beliefs and spread the Gospel all over the world. That’s why you should not vote for candidates because of their race or religion, but because they will govern morally on the more important matters of the law—life, marriage and religious freedom.

Dr. Turek says that some societies make it easier for us to carry out our responsibilities as Christians, such as evangelism. That’s true. But I want to make a different point from Dr. Turek related to the point that he made.

I get a lot of e-mails from people complaining that I spend too much time on fiscal issues, and especially on foreign policy. But I really think that Christians need to branch out and read widely about these issues, too. The more we know about everything, the better we will be able to connect what the Bible says to every area, and the smarter we will be at laying out plans for our lives and achieving the good goals we set for ourselves as part of our relationship with God.

It’s always better to know how things work. What good is it to say that you want to achieve some aim like helping the poor or making the world more peaceful unless you first study economics and foreign policy so that you will know how to achieve it? Many people try to achieve these goals by embracing policies that sound good, but they actually achieve the exact opposite ends that you set out to achieve.  If you want to drive a car to get somewhere, you must first learn how to drive a car. Why should faith be any different than anything else? Don’t take positions based on feelings or peer pressure, get informed and make a right judgment.

When pastors get it right: Pulpit Freedom Sunday 2012

My favorite pastor Wayne Grudem, the best pastor on the face of the planet, explains why he participated in Pulpit Freedom Sunday 2012. (H/T Jeremy)

Excerpt:

This Sunday I have agreed to join nearly 1,500 pastors nationwide and participate in Pulpit Freedom Sunday, sponsored by Alliance Defending Freedom. In my sermon, I plan to recommend that people vote for one presidential candidate and one political party that I will name. We will then all send our sermons to the IRS.

This action is in violation of the 1954 “Johnson Amendment” to the Internal Revenue Code, which prohibits tax-exempt organizations like churches from endorsing any candidate by name. But in our nation, a higher law than the IRS code is the Constitution, which forbids laws “abridging freedom of speech” or “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion (First Amendment).

I fully understand that many pastors might never want to endorse a candidate from the pulpit (I have never done so before and I might never do so again). But that should be the decision of the pastors and their churches, just as it was in 1860 when many pastors (rightly) decided they had to tell citizens to vote for Abraham Lincoln in order to end the horrible evil of slavery. When the government censors what pastors can preach, I think it is an unconstitutional violation of freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

[…]I have compiled a list of 24 differences between the two parties on issues with a moral component. Here are some of them where the parties differ:

The rule of law (vs. judges who change the original meaning of the Constitution), freedom of religion in public expression (vs. freedom of worship in private), protection of life (vs. glorying in unrestricted abortion rights), the preservation of marriage (vs. promoting same-sex relationships as “marriage”), the limitation of federal power (vs. an unconstrained federal government), parental choice in education for children of all income levels and all races (vs. protecting a government-regulated monopoly on schools), turning back government overspending and avoiding debt that we cannot repay (vs. reckless spending that threatens to bankrupt our children and our nation), caring for the poor by reducing taxes to leave more money in the job-creating private sector (vs. ever-increasing taxes that drain money from job-creating businesses), a strong military to protect us and the many small democracies that look to us for protection (vs. damaging defense cutbacks that leave smaller nations, the world’s sea lanes, and our own nation increasingly vulnerable), and a commitment to stand by Israel (vs. snubbing its leaders and demanding that it make ever-greater concessions).

You can read 5 reasons why pastors ought to have participated in Pulpit Freedom Sunday 2012 here.

Here’s one of their reasons:

1.  The issues the country is facing are biblical issues. Pastors, more than many others, are uniquely suited to speak to the issues confronting the country in this election season.  Issues such as life, marriage, the family, the economy, the poor, and many others are addressed specifically in scripture.  The effect of the Johnson Amendment has been to make these biblical issues “political,” as if slapping a “political” label on an issue somehow removes it from the purview of scripture.  For example, a pastor preaching a sermon thirty years ago that abortion is wrong was just being biblical. But that same sermon today is labeled as political and, as a result, the pastor is sidelined into silence.  It’s not that the church is somehow becoming “political.”  It’s that politics is invading the realm of the church.

We need more pastors to connect what the Bible says to policy and events in the real world. We need to take positions that are in accord with what God’s Word says, and we need to be ready to defend our positions in public using public arguments and public evidence – especially scientific research – that will be persuasive to non-Christians who do not accept the Bible. That’s the only way to stop the cultural decline caused by the secular left.

The best introductory book on the interface between Christianity and politics is “Indivisible: Restoring Faith, Family, and Freedom Before It’s Too Late“, co-authored by Jay Wesley Richards. The Kindle edition is $9.99. Richards’ Ph.D is from Princeton University.

The best comprehensive book is “Politics – According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture” by Wayne Grudem. The Kindle edition of that one is $4.99. Grudem’s is from Cambridge University. First-rate Christian scholarship on practical Christianity.

And you can listen to Grudem delivering Sunday school training at his church on every single chapter of that book right here. All free, and no ads. Be sure and scroll through all the previous years to get all the topics! Ethics, social policy, fiscal policy, foreign policy and more!

Why Christians should focus on cultural issues as well as evangelism

Scott Klusendorf linked me this article on Facebook, in which he gives five reasons why Christians should not JUST focus on the gospel, but should instead be good at promoting goodness and opposing evil.

Excerpt:

First, it does not follow that because cultural reformers cannot make a culture blameless before God, we shouldn’t try to make it better for the weak and oppressed. I do not know of a single pro-life leader, for example, who argues that cultural reform can save souls eternally; only the gospel does that. The fact that cultural reform cannot get a man to heaven, however, does not mean that it cannot (in many cases through political means) save him from injustice here on earth. In short, pro-life advocates like me do not work for change in culture to save the world from spiritual death, but to save the most vulnerable members of the human family, the unborn, from physical death.

Second, the goal of cobelligerent cultural reform is not necessarily to change the hearts of individuals (whether saved or lost), but to restrain their evil acts. Martin Luther King, Jr., put it well: “It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”3 The purpose of government, according to Scripture, is not to ensure salvation, but to promote justice (Rom. 13:1‑4). The primary purpose of the church, of course, is to preach the gospel of Christ, but if Christians, collectively, do not also challenge government to fulfill its duty to protect the weak and defenseless, who will?

Third, the notion that “there can be no real cultural impact apart from the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ” sounds good, but it is simply incorrect. Consider the moral evil of slavery in America, which did not end because of mass conversions to Christ. It ended when believers and nonbelievers joined forces to stand against it—and paid for it with the lives of 360,000 Union soldiers. Was the abolition of slavery not a “real” cultural improvement? True, it did not make those who participated right with God, but it did take the physical whips off the backs of oppressed people. That is moral and cultural improvement by any reasonable standard.

Fourth, it is not spiritually unacceptable for Christians to mobilize with non-Christians for causes other than preaching the gospel. Prior to the Civil War, Protestant clergy worked with non-Christians and organized the Underground Railroad to free black slaves. Anyone who thinks that God’s people are wasting their time pursuing social justice may want to take a look at how important it is to God: Jeremiah 5:26‑28; 9:24; Isaiah 1:16‑17, 21‑23; 58:6‑7; 61:8; Psalm 94:1‑23; Proverbs 24:1‑12; Matthew 25:41‑46.

Fifth, why should anyone suppose that pro-life advocacy detracts from the discipline responsibilities of the local church as outlined in Matthew 28? Simply put, the answer to a lack of evangelical fervor for the Gospel is not to withdraw our political advocacy for the weak and vulnerable; it’s to encourage Christians to do a better job presenting the gospel. We don’t have to stop rescuing the innocent to do that.

This is why I try to have a balance of apologetics with other issues. And not just social policy, but fiscal policy and foreign policy. We need to have complete, comprehensive, coherent Christian worldviews. One obvious benefit of this is that we can connect Christianity with any topic when we are talking to others in the workplace, or anywhere that normal conversations occur. And if we study everything very well, people will link our intelligence to our faith. They’ll say “if you’ve put this much thought into economics, then you must have a well-thought-out faith, too”. Being well-rounded makes you more convincing, more influential on moral and cultural issues, and more effective at turning conversations to the gospel.