The Election

Today is election day!  I suppose Facebook will be “a-buzz” with political rhetoric, some of which will generate more heat than light.  So I thought I’d chime in, join the fray, and offer just two points for your consideration.  One point is especially for preachers and elders, and the other for all Christians.

Point One:  Keep in mind that God expects us to obey the laws of the land (Romans 13:1-2).  In order to fulfill that command, preachers need to keep politicians out of the pulpit if they desire to maintain their tax exempt status.  Why?  Because it’s the law!

According to IRS regulations, churches are prohibited from endorsing political candidates while maintaining their tax exempt status.  That is not to say that the IRS has the right to silence churches on issues.  This is not an “obey God rather than man” issue (Acts 5:29).  A church can speak out against any moral issue, even those that have been politicized (i.e. abortion, homosexual marriage, social injustice, war, etc.), it is just forbidden to bring the names of candidates into the discussion. Actually, that statement needs clarifying.  The IRS is not even prohibiting a church from endorsing a particular candidate; if a church wants to do so, they may, but they must forfeit their privilege of holding a tax exempt status if they do. [IRC Section 501 (c) (3)  www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p1828.pdf].

So elders and preachers, decide what course you wish to pursue.  Do you wish to uphold the gospel, while respecting the tax-exempt boundaries?  Are you willing to address “issues” rather than “candidates?”  If not, fine, but then forfeit your tax-exempt status.  Just don’t break the law by endorsing a candidate while maintaining your tax-exempt status. Don’t place yourself in the indefensible position of breaking God’s laws while you preach to others, telling them to obey the laws of the land.

Point Two:  I am forced to wonder how God’s people can be so moved by politics, but not by the religion of Jesus Christ. On this election day, I find myself wishing…

  • That more Christians would be as vocal about their Christianity as they are their politics.
  • That more Christians would be as willing to promote Jesus Christ to the lost as they are their presidential candidate to their neighbors.
  • That more Christians would be as willing to defend the doctrine of Christ as they are the platform of their political party.
  • That more Christians would feel the need to be involved in their local church as they feel the need to go out and vote.

Do you not find it strange that God’s children can be moved to be so vocal and involved when it comes to politics, but so timid and uninvolved when it comes to Christianity?  Brethren, our actions betray us!  Passion is driven by love, and a lack of passion for the cause of Christ betrays our waning love for him.

So today as our nation selects another president, please be mindful of these two points, and remember this final point.  God rules in the kingdom’s of men (Daniel 4:17), and we have citizenship in a kingdom that will never be destroyed (Daniel 2:44), and it is ruled by the King of kings and Lord of lords.

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Comments 8

  • Have you wondered, if we held services as infrequently as we hold elections, if our numbers would increase or decrease? I contend that while there is more talk about politics during an election, there is more personal commitment in an average church goer than there is in an average poll goer.

  • Stephen, your wife must cut your hair because it doesn’t sound like you go to the barber shop very often. 🙂 Just kidding. Thanks for your perspective.

  • I am not more moved by politics than religion. I am moved by moral principles which need to be defended AGAINST political corruption and depravity.

  • Thank you, Steve.

  • Good thoughts, as always, Steve. We need to refocus our attention on the “greater things” of life. Here was my humble attempt…http://wandermaninthewilderness.com/?p=298

  • The following comment was offered by Vincent Eagen…

    Here’s the problem on the whole “losing your tax exempt status” idea. It will never happen. The IRS has never once done it, and the only group to send warning letters are groups such as the ACLU, AU, and PFAW. They are using intimidation tactics, and many listen to them. The IRS has however completely retreated, and stated that, for the indefinite future, it is “holding any potential church audits in abeyance,” for violating the Johnson Amendment.

    Now, hear me out, because I am NOT saying you can choose to break a law just because they do not enforce it. At the time Lyndon B. Johnson pushed this amendment through, he was facing massive amounts of opposition from churches. This was a way to silence them … and it worked, for over 50 years.

    But recently, many started to question this. Then they began a course of civil disobedience in hopes of getting the IRS to step up to the place. By doing so, several things would be proven. If the IRS tried, the church could sue, and get the Johnson Amendment ruled unconstitutional. It would also show that the IRS can not audit a church. A church is considered non-profit simply by rule of its existence, and has no letter of tax exemption – a letter of exemption that does not exist can not be revoked. The only thing they can do is disband the church, which they can’t do because of the first amendment.

    So it is not that they DO not enforce it … it is that they CAN not enforce it. By doing so, they would violate other amendments that stand in direct conflict and contradiction to the Johnson amendment.

    If a preacher feels he needs to mention the name of the leader who is in an election, BY ALL MEANS, he should be permitted to do so! It is not anyone else’s place – CERTAINLY not the government’s!!! – to interfere with the message of a preacher to his church.

  • Vincent,
    It matters not whether the IRS has ever acted or not acted on the law which states that churches may not speak for or against political candidates is neither here nor there. The law says not to do it.

    The IRS says, “All IRC section 501(c)(3) organizations, including churches and religious organizations, must abide by certain rules:…they must not participate in, or intervene in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office… The political campaign activity prohibition is not intended to restrict free expression on political matters by leaders of churches or religious organizations speaking for themselves, as individuals. Nor are leaders prohibited from speaking about important issues of public policy. However, for their organizations to remain tax exempt under IRC section 501(c)(3), religious leaders cannot make partisan comments in official organization publications or at official church functions.”

    So it’s a matter of obedience to the laws of the land, which is a matter of obedience to God (Romans 13:1-2).

    Vincent you may argue that this law is unconstitutional. Maybe it is, but that’s a matter for the courts to decide, not churches or individuals. That’s precisely the point of (Romans 12:19-13:8). We don’t seek vigilante justice, but rather give place to government to settle matters. One may attach the word “civil” to “disobedience” to make it more palatable, but it is still plain old “disobedience.”

    This is not an obey God rather than man situation (Acts 5:29). Churches simply need to decide to decide how they proceed in their opposition to error. They can either address any and all moral issues from their pulpits while maintaining their tax-exempt status, or they can choose to address candidates and surrender their tax-exempt status. No one is suggesting to go soft on error. What is being advocated is to preach the truth, while at the same time practicing it, ourselves.

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