I met a church member at Walmart Sunday afternoon. He said that I scared his wife when I began my sermon that morning as I sat down on a stool to begin. I asked him, “Why did that frighten her?”
“Well,” he smiled, “she thought you were about to make some political statement.” I laughed and he continued. “You know today is ‘Pulpit Freedom Sunday,’ don’t you?” Then he laughed and I smiled.
Of course, I knew about it. And, I might add—I know better.
It has been in the news for some time. In fact, it’s not the first year to have such a Sunday so designated. According to USA Today, a group of 100 ministers nationwide were to step into the pulpit on September 26 and say the only words they’re forbidden by law from speaking in a church. They were to use the pulpit as a platform for political endorsements, flouting a federal law that threatens churches with the loss of their nonprofit status if they stray too far into partisan politics.
“Pulpit Freedom Sunday” is a misnomer if you ask me. Pulpits are already free in this country. The whole idea is misguided and unnecessary. Preachers are perfectly free to interpret and apply scripture, speak out on the moral and ethical issues of the day, and even urge good citizenship practices, such as registering to vote and voting. What the pastor should never do is tell the parishioner how or for whom to vote.
I have no intention of allowing Mt. Carmel or any other church that I might pastor to become the political action group of any position or party. Never have, never will, and I won’t “start” now.
I like what J. Brent Walker, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, said—“It would be incredibly corrosive of the church’s true mission to spread the gospel and be salt and light in the culture. As soon as the church throws in with a particular candidate or party, its prophetic edge is blunted. You can’t raise a prophet’s fist at a candidate or party when, with the other arm you are locked in a tight bear hug.”