The thing I want to know is: how can they be so sure?
There is a group of pastors participating in an act of Civil Disobedience in October 7. To be perfectly honest, I am not one of them, though I am not totally opposed to pastors engaging in civil disobedience on occasion. I did once stand up with a group of pastors and other religious leaders who were pleading for fair treatment for undocumented workers.
But this is different.
October 7th is Freedom of the Pulpit Sunday. Pastors all over the country are going to speak from the pulpit on political matters, and even endorse candidates. They take the IRS restriction on political speech from the pulpit to be offensive. In acts of defiance, they are going to send tapes of the sermons to the IRS, daring them to take action.
And the thing I want to know is: how can they be so sure? How can they be so sure that they know who "God's candidate" is?
An acquaintance of mine, someone I knew long ago, and got re-acquainted with through the wonders of Facebook, told me that he would never go to a church where the pastor was afraid of the IRS. He also told me that he would vote for the candidate who had broken the fewest of the commandments. (I did not ask him, but thought, "How does anyone know which candidate has broken the fewest commandments?")
As for me, when I step into the pulpit, there are a few things about which I am certain, and many things of which I am uncertain. I am certain that God calls me to forgive sinners, which means that there are sinners out there. I am certain that God is hiding in the poor, vulnerable and unseemly among us, and that God's work gets done in the unlikeliest of ways. I am certain that God calls us to do justice and love kindness. And I will admit that I have certain opinions about the best policies to follow to make sure that we do justice and love kindness, but I am not so deluded as to think that my opinions are the same as God's truth.
The thing is: I am not tempted to endorse candidates from the pulpit, but it's not because I'm afraid of the IRS. It is because I do not believe that endorsing candidates is what a pulpit is for. I don't think it's the preacher's job to tell the people in their congregation who to vote for. I think any preacher who stands up and endorses a candidate from the pulpit is abusing the power of the pulpit. I'm really sure about this.
There was a time long ago that I spent among the Certain. They were fervent Christians who explicated the Bible, had prayer meetings, sang heartfelt songs. There were some things I loved about worshipping with this group of people. They were Certain about who was saved and they were Certain about who was not saved. They were Certain about how we should live our lives, and what it meant to be a true believer.
It came to me gradually that there was an understanding that a person could only vote one way and be a Christian. And I was certain that they were wrong about that. I am certain that God works in our political system, and I am equally certain that God does not work through one party or the other. God's in the mess, that's what I believe, and that's what I hope. And that the love of God will eventually embrace and redeem us all.
If the IRS ever tells me that I can't preach the love of God for everyone, I'll be the first to send them a tape.
And folks: if that time ever comes, that's when we will need to practice Civil Disobedience. I'm certain about this.