For nearly 200 years, pastors spoke freely and boldly from America’s pulpits on the most significant social and political issues of the day. Pastors gave “election sermons” calling out the names of candidates, their party affiliation and then comparing scripture with the political issues the candidates supported. Ministers would remind Christians of the stewardship over government that God had entrusted them with and that qualifications for our rulers come from God. “[A ruler] is God’s minister to you for good”(Romans 13:4). “You shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands (federal), rulers of hundreds (state), rulers of fifties(county), and rulers of tens (local leaders)” (Exodus 18:21). Rulers should“shake their hands from holding bribes” (Isaiah 33:1) because “a gift blindeth the eyes of the wise, and perverteth the words of righteousness” (Exodus 23:8). The leaders in our nation were once the product of the pulpits.
So, how did we forget those teachings? Towards the end of the nineteenth century, men like Colonel Robert Ingersoll began with their destructive teachings to remove the Judeo-Christian ethic from America. Ingersoll explained: “We are laying the foundations of the grand temple of the future…wherein…will be celebrated the religion of Humanity.” Through historical revisionism, Ingersoll and many others were effective in teaching that religious people and principles had nothing to do with government. This destructive trend had an influence on the courts when the church gradually removed itself as the moral and ethical influence in our nation. In the 1947 Supreme Court case of Everson v. Board of Education, the misleading metaphor of “separation of church and state” was established. Instead of religious expression being protected, as it had for the previous century and a half (150+ years!), this misleading phrase would now be used to exclude religious expressions and to secularize the public square.
Then, in 1954, 200 years of church history was changed by one man, then Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson. Senator Johnson wanted to get back at two non-profit organizations for criticizing his political affiliations and his private business dealings. The “Johnson Amendment” meant that, for the first time, nonprofit 501(c)3 organizations and churches must stay out of the political arena or face losing their tax exempt status. This law violates biblical and historical precedents, it violates the “Free Exercise Clause” and the “Free Speech Clause” of the First Amendment and must be repealed. Without Christian influence in the public arena, a moral vacuum exists for communist groups like American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) to campaign and “impose a new public morality” in our nation. The result of the church removing itself from the state has now rendered to Caesar what is God’s.
From the pulpits all across America, pastors need to biblically address the social and political issues of today in order to take back from Caesar what is God’s. “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). The Rev. Charles Finney reminds ministers today as he did in his day: “Brethren … If immorality prevails in the land, the fault is ours in a great degree … If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the world loses its interest in religion, the pulpit is responsible for it. If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it. If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it.” Jesus told His followers to “occupy till I come” (Luke 19:13) or in other words, remain engaged in our culture until our risen Lord returns. We need to pray and then speak God’s Word into every area of our lives and culture or we will become slaves again to a tyrannical government.
“So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11) The Word of God is sewn into this letter, so please share, that His Word may be sent out!Blessings, Tom Hughes
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