Political Pulpit Permissible?

Political Pulpit Permissible?

Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them.” 2 Timothy 2:4 (NLTCE)

The letter caused a collective gasp among its readers.

1. Filipe Neri Ferrao

You’ve got (surprise) mail! Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao, Goa

The letter written by AAP (Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Admi Party) to Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao in Goa, stated that parish priests ‘overtly canvassing for a candidate of their choice’ could become a dangerous trend in the coming elections for legislative assembly. “The act of each parish priest of overtly canvassing for the candidate of his choice shall lead to a very dangerous trend and may literally pit one parish priest against another and lead to chaos instead of following any clarion call given by the Church.”

2. Arvind-Kejriwal-Punjab-polls

Danger ahead, ahoy… Arvind Kejriwal’s AAM party cautions the Catholic Church in Goa

For a moment, let us put Kejriwal and AAP aside, and look at the situation in India vis-à-vis the pulpit and politics.

  • In South India, there are instances of Christian candidates standing for BJP being ostracized by Church authorities. As the Church began to get divided on the subject, the ‘Hindutva’ BJP stood to gain.
  • In May 2016, the Madurai Archbishop asking his congregation via a mailer to vote for the DMK-Congress alliance. However, when this surfaced in the social media and there was a vast outcry, the Tamil Nadu Bishop Council technically distanced itself from the circular though the Madurai Archbishop was the president of Tamil Nadu Bishops Council.
  • Recently, right in front of the Defense Minister of India, the archbishop saw it fit to declare that the Church would guide the faithful on voting during the upcoming Goa elections.

Let us look at the moot point –is it biblical to use the pulpit to guide the faithful in their political choices?

To preach is a humble and holy task. People come to church with an inbuilt assumption that whatever is said within its portals comes from the Bible. Hence, preachers need to be doubly careful.

The Bible cuts against against all political persuasions. Yes, there is much in the Scripture affirming the prolife (Psalm 139; Genesis 2-3) and traditional marriage (Mark 19:5) positions. It can also be true that the  Bible affirms the idea of limited government (1 Timothy 2:2; Mark 12:17) and some of the root ideas of capitalism. So some would say the Bible is very conservative. And yet that would be incomplete, because you will also find in Scripture many texts on justice, the plight of the poor, treatment of the immigrant. And who Jesus’ chief antagonists were in the gospels? The Pharisees, the Religious Right of their day. 

Should pastors and priests speak about in the pulpit about contemporary issues? Only when the texts of Scripture clearly articulate it. They should not bow to any party’s talking points. They should not slant their sermons to fit a political profile. They should not become wannabee pundits in the pulpit. They should preach the Word and let it do its work in the hearts of the people, who will then go influence their communities. 

Thousands of devotees of Sister Alphonsa pray at Sister Alphonsa's tomb at a special holy mass during celebrations in Bharananganam in the southern Indian state of Kerala on October 12, 2008.  Indian Catholics are celebrating as the Roman Catholic nun is canonized as India's first woman saint by Pope Benedict XV1 at the Vatican in Rome.  AFP PHOTO/RAVEENDRAN

In a church, the congregation accepts everything it hears as “God’s Word”

It is erroneous to use the pulpit to promote a political ideology or have as it tends to cheapen the Lord’s sacred worship into a method of vetting politicians. No doubt the priest of pastor needs to encourage the congregation to practice good citizenship as an implication of the Gospel (Romans 12:17-18; 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17). At a Sunday service, Christians gather in church to honor, adore, and praise our King. We want to hear God’s Word, experience the sacraments (the Lord’s Supper and Baptism), and seek our heavenly Father for continued grace to live for the glory of His Name. Our focus needs to be on Christ, not on a political candidate; we should not lower corporate worship by switching it into a political proving ground.

We must be careful about our order of priorities. If we remove the gospel itself from the top shelf in pulpit proclamation and replace it with gospel-informed politics or social activism, we risk losing everything. After all, it’s the gospel—not the ballot box—that is “the power of God for salvation” to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16).

by the NLTCE News Network

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