Saturday, June 21, 2008

Church and Politics: Election Year Discussions

I read an article today about a church that is challenging the IRS code that prohibits churches from endorsing candidates and getting directly involved in political activity. The quote that caught my eye was from an 1863 sermon by Henry Ward Beecher, he said, "It is sometimes said that ministers must not preach politics. … They would have to toe hop, and skip and jump through two thirds of the Bible if they did not, for the there is not another book on the face of God's earth that is so full of commerce and business and government, and the relations between the governing and the governed, as this same Bible."

In 1954, the IRS arbitrarily passed code that forbids churches , "from directly or indirectly participating or intervening in any political campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to, any candidate for public office." Churches today are allowed to teach what the Bible says about politics, foreign and domestic policy, and church and state, but cannot endorse or be actively involved in supporting a campaign.

My questions today in this presidential election year are:

1.) Why do you see so many churches, mostly in certain segments of society, hosting political speakers primarily from one party and this is not considered a violation of the tax code?

2.) Does this law only apply to churches? What about Islamic mosques where political endorsements are made regularly? I simply do not know--has anyone looked into this?

3.) In the Bible, the prophets from Moses to John the Baptist regularly not only spoke about politics, but actively participated in calling kings and queens into account to God. The Church has continued this prophetic task of declaring God's heavenly position on earthly matters. What do you think the Church's responsibility is before God as it pertains to its relationship to the State/Caesar?

Let the discourse begin.

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