Searching For Relevance

Congress and the Budget - This Pastor's Concern

November 9, 2017

A few months back, I spoke to our congregation regarding my concern with a political movement to revoke the Johnson Amendment.  For those unfamiliar with this law, it was approved by Congress in the 1950s to make a distinction between churches, and political organizations as well as government lobbying groups.  This meant that I, as your pastor, was free to discuss my personal political preferences for one candidate or another, except in any formal role as a representative of the church  — specifically, from the Pulpit.

Why?  Not merely because it defeats the intent of separating religion and government, but because it implies for one person over another, the direct backing and blessing of God.  It ceases safeguarding the role of church as a social conscience for our communities and country, bringing them more and more into the capacity for a “Political Action Group”.  

I believe that one of the important responsibilities of the church in any culture is to speak “truth” to “power”.  Jesus certainly did, as well as the all the prophets recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures.  Over the years, I have tried to faithfully do this, as well!  But to formally back one candidate over another during worship, I believe, crosses a line that puts the church in peril.  And I fear, if this line is crossed, our churches we only become more and more divided, contributing to the separation and growing hostility in our land, rather than being a source of healing for our land.

Why am I raising this issue now?  Well, buried deep within the current budget proposal emerging from Congress is a “tagged on” clause, that would change this.  No longer would ministers be constrained from making these endorsements for fear of losing the church’s tax exempt status.   Every minister would be free to push and persuade their members toward one candidate over another, using every verbal or emotional tool at their disposable, including the  misuse of any biblical text that fulfilled a personal agenda.

I sincerely believe that if passed, this will only serve to further diminish the unique, and distinct place preaching and churches play in our land.  Along with this, I see a decline in any respect churches have with the general public.  Further, it will create more and more disharmony between faith communities, and in the end, remake our churches into representatives of specific political parties, rather than continuing to be an objective, sincere, and free voice for God.  Thus accomplishing only one thing, a quick, and decisive decline in the unique role of the church.

I strongly oppose this change and encourage you to contact your state’s elected representative to voice the same.

Sincerely, in the ministry of Christ,

Rev. Dr. Keith Haemmelmann

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