Preaching Politics in Church

Preaching Politics in Church

First Lady Michelle Obama recently spoke to attendees of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church about Jesus and American politics.

She compared voting and political action to Christian faith. “It’s kind of like church,” she said. “Jesus was out there fighting injustice and speaking truth to power every single day.” She went on: “Democracy is also an everyday activity. Being an engaged citizen should once again be a daily part of our lives.”

This raises two significant problems.

First, Michelle Obama’s message was wrong. Jesus did not speak truth to power to try and change the ruling government of his day. He grew up in Galilee (present-day Northern Israel) under occupied rule of the Romans. When issues of politics came up he addressed them quite differently than one would expect.

For example, during his adult ministry, he was told about a massacre of Galileans by Roman authorities. Instead of responding in outrage or suggesting that the Jews retaliate, Jesus spoke about the need for everyone to repent and follow him (Luke 13:1-3). On another occasion, when asked if the iniquitous Roman taxation was lawful, Jesus made no reference to whether or not an occupying nation should tax its subjects. Instead, he spoke about the demands of God upon his subjects. He said, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's" (Luke 20:25).

In another instance, Jesus addressed the issue of the law that allowed a Roman soldier to demand that a Jew carry his pack for one mile. His comment about this practice was, "If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles." Then he added, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matt. 5:40, 44). This would have been an outrageous suggestion to a patriotic Jew. But Jesus' mindset went beyond the present circumstance to a higher law of God.

Most important, there is not one instance in all of the accounts of Jesus' life where he came into conflict with Roman authorities. Even when false charges were laid against him during his trial he did not plead his innocence, antagonize the authorities, or demand that his rights be considered. Jesus did denounce the religious leaders of his day, but he did not denounce political leaders. Nor did he encourage anyone to confront or rebel against the occupying government.

Second, Michelle Obama’s platform was wrong. A minister’s purpose is to preach the gospel, not politics. The fact that an AME minister allowed the first lady to use his pulpit to preach politics is unacceptable. Unfortunately, hers was not the first political speech given at an AME church. Al Gore gave a sermon in an AME church when he was running for president. And other politicians have spoken at AME churches throughout the country. It is no secret that the AME church has been a springboard for the Democratic Party for many years.

But, where is the outrage over a church promoting a particular political party? Where are the liberals advocating for separation of church and state?

What would happen if Romney’s wife addressed parishioners of a Baptist church? Would there not be public outcry?

The problem is that there is a double standard when it comes to mixing politics with Christianity in America. Pundits argue that the “religious right” or conservative evangelicals wrongly interject their faith into the political process, which may be true, but where are these pundits when their cronies on the left do the very same thing?

It would have been appropriate if Michelle Obama had discussed her faith journey and how Jesus Christ changed her life as a Christian, if that is the case. But she chose to do something quite different. She used a church pulpit to send a political message that faith equates to voting for her husband and offered misleading statements about the political involvement of Jesus Christ.

Jesus was not involved in politics, nor should his followers or anyone else use him to justify their political persuasion.

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Publication date: July 6, 2012