Recently, I have been asked on several occasions about the executive order aimed at making it easier for churches to participate in politics. The order is designed to remove the financial threat faced by tax-exempt churches from the Internal Revenue Service when clergy and ministers speak out on behalf of political candidates.
Many of the conversations I have had involve two basic questions: First, does this allow for a distortion of the Gospel message to be preached from the pulpit by fellow clergy or ministers? Second, has there been any communication from the National Church or the Diocese?
Let me answer the second question first. No. Not that I am aware of.
Now, as to the first question, I believe that some ministers and clergy have been walking this thin line for years without much threat from the IRS. That isn’t to say that there haven’t been threats from other sources. And it is my opinion that this executive order could, and probably will, allow for some to use the pulpit or the church as a place for distorting the Gospel message.
Now, hear me out. To say that the Gospel is not political is a falsehood. Jesus was in fact murdered because he was teaching something contrary to political and worldly powers. That is what the Gospel, and the whole of the Bible, is about. Therefore, Jesus’ life, ministry, and teaching/preaching was inherently political. Anytime a voice goes against the status quo, and thank God Jesus’ did, it will become politicized.
That said, some have and will continue to use the Gospel to promote worldly beliefs. The greatest example I can give for this is slavery. I don’t mean to make light of the atrocities of slavery in the past or present, but slavery is an issue throughout the bible (Exodus 21, Deuteronomy 15, and Leviticus 25 for example). Indeed, the premise of our ancestors’ belief in God is rooted in God’s rescue of them from slavery in Egypt. Of course there are many other examples, but for brevity I will stop here.
In our history many have used the Bible to defend enslaving other humans, but I think we can all agree that slavery is WRONG in every case. This is what I mean by using the Gospel to promote a distorted message.
All of that said, regardless of whether or not you agree or disagree with the executive order, here’s the thing. We cannot construe our own agendas with the truth of the Gospel. To quote St. Paul, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Jesus Christ” (Gal. 3:28).
A friend of mine shared a Facebook post of a friend of his the other day that I found appropriate and I am now sharing it with you.
At a cocktail party in another southern city, two women were chatting away gregariously and happily, when a third woman approached them with a genuine if somewhat obliquely phrased question, the gist of which was, “How is it that you two seem to be actually enjoying one another’s company?” You see, one woman was the wife of a former Republican governor, while the other had comparable Democratic bona fides.
Well, without hesitation or contrivance, the former first lady cheerfully responded, “Honey, we drink from the same cup every single Sunday.”
Eucharistic theology simply doesn’t get any better than that!
It turns out both women were members of Christ Episcopal Church, Raleigh, NC, and every Sunday they did indeed both kneel at the same altar rail and receive the same sacrament.
Remember St. Paul? There is neither Republican nor Democrat; only one in Christ Jesus.
Each time we drink from the cup and eat the bread, we are reminded that what we share in Christ is deeper, fuller, and truer than all else.
Yes. Truer than ALL else.