Why I Don’t Endorse Candidates from the Pulpit
There is a movement out there calling on pastors to endorse candidates for political office from the pulpit. I sympathize with the aims of this group. They are trying to make a statement to the government and to the IRS that the pulpit should remain free from government intrusion. The IRS, after getting spanked a few times recently for politically-motivated actions against conservatives, is refusing to take the bait. They have not stepped up enforcement against any of those pastors who have made this act of protest.
It makes no difference to me. I have never endorsed a candidate for public office from the pulpit and do not intend to do so in the future. It is not the threat of government penalty that motivates me. Honestly, how slow would things have to be in the USA for the government to care about what happens in small to medium sized church in Sioux City, IA? I'm guessing they've got bigger fish to fry. Megachurch pastors like Bart Barber and Alan Cross may have something to worry about, but not me and my church.
But I'm still not planning to endorse a candidate. There are two primary reasons for that.
1) I've been too often disappointed by candidates for office. I remember hearing the personal testimony of a candidate for office and thinking, "Wow, this guy is amazing." I voted for him. Suffice it to say that I was not as impressed with his performance in office as I was in his candidacy for that office. How many times have "family values" candidates (successful or not) been caught living private lives that didn't match their public stands - engaging in affairs, hiring prostitutes, misappropriating money, or simply engaging in stupidity.
I've been more tempted toward negative endorsements - haven't done it, but I've been tempted. There are certain candidates whose views on issues related to life (abortion, etc) and morality place them outside the boundaries of Christian support, in my opinion. But a negative endorsement of one candidate is essentially an endorsement of another. With every fiber of my being, I wanted President Obama to be defeated for a second term. But to give him a negative endorsement (disdorsement?) would have been to endorse Mitt Romney, something I would never do behind the pulpit of my church. I (held my nose and) voted Romney, and I think he'd have done a better job than Mr. Obama, but that is not something I'm going to say in the pulpit.
2) I am in the pulpit to endorse one office holder - the King of kings and Lord of lords. Jesus died and rose again that he might be Lord of all (Romans 14:9). It is the pastor's duty to endorse Christ (the one who will never disappoint!) and to make his name known. I will preach the gospel. I will speak to moral issues.
But I just don't see how endorsing a candidate for office is part of my job as a pastor. I am a loyal, patriotic American - a yankee-doodle dandy. But when I stand in the pulpit, I'm an ambassador of Christ's kingdom.
Part of me would enjoy tweaking the IRS and joining this movement. And, I have strong political opinions that I will exercise tomorrow. But when I stand in the pulpit, I need to remember where my most important citizenship is.