October 26, 2014

Pulpit Freedom Sunday is a Gimmick says Fr. Preble

Fr. Peter-Michael Preble posted the following essay on his blog a few days ago about preachers and politics. He lays out some important points. I’ve got my own ideas, but what do you think?

Sunday, October 7th, was a time when preachers from coast to coast took to their pulpits to try and pull the IRS into a court battle.

In 1954, then Senator Lyndon Johnson pushed a bill through the United States Senate forbidding churches to endorse candidates for public office.  On this Pulpit Freedom Sunday, some 1,586 pastors defied this law by endorsing candidates for office in this political cycle.  I would be interested to see how many of those who participated endorsed President Obama and how many endorsed Governor Romney.

I am not one for faulting anyone who preaches but to use the pulpit for political reasons is irresponsible.  Those of us who have been called, by God, to preach his word are called to rise above these worldly pursuits.  We are called to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and not the Gospel of the Republican Party or the Democrat Party.

As I understand it, they object to the Johnson Amendment that limits their free speech on political matters, and I suppose if you wish you preach politics then renounce your tax exempt status and then have at it.  No one is forcing you to claim tax exempt status, but if you are going to claim it, then it comes with some restrictions, and this is the only one.

Preaching and teaching is a sacred responsibility, and preachers should use that time to teach people how to live their lives as Christ calls us to live.  The Gospel is supposed to transcend this world and transform the lives of people.  For far too long the Gospel has been used, by people in both political parties, for political reasons and that needs to stop.

I find it interesting that, in the entirety of the Gospel, Jesus never directly spoke to the civil government of his day.  He never scolded them, in fact, he told us to support the government, and as Orthodoxy we are called to pray for the government.  The message is the Gospel is not about this world but about the next.  The message of the Gospel is to prepare us, as individuals, and they keep us on the path towards Theosis.  The intent of the Gospel was not to make our earthly life better, but to prepare us for heaven.

The Gospel touches on all aspects of life and for some that may seem partisan.  When I teach about Jesus’ requirement for us to care for the poor, or I speak about the Church’s position on life that is not political that is the teaching of the Church.  I have said before, you cannot legislate morality you have to teach it and model it.  If we spend less time in the halls of Congress and the courtroom and more time teaching the people God has called us to lead, then the people that we lead and teach will become better citizens.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ requires us to be active in the public square and to make our voice heard, and there are many ways for us to do that.  We are to transform society by the way we act and the way we live.  We preach the Gospel by the way we treat other people and by showing the love of Christ in every situation regardless of the political affiliation.

Pulpit Freedom Sunday is a gimmick, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ does not need gimmicks.  What the Gospel of Jesus Christ needs is for it to authentically preached, it needs to be authentically taught in clear, straight terms to the people of God.

Jesus was not a political figure. Jesus came to rescue us from our sins and to show us how to live our lives.  He did not use gimmicks, unless you call healing the sick and raising people from the dead gimmicks, to get his point across.  Jesus rolled up his sleeves and got to work.

I have roughly 52 chances to teach the people that God has given me to care for about the love of Jesus and the way the He wants us to live our lives, to spend one of those chances on a political stunt seems like a waste of an opportunity to me.  Our roles as pastors are more important than making a political statement.  Preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the rest will take care of itself.

The role of the Church in society is to being hope and to be the moral compass for the people.  We need to show people the way and to bring them hope.  I do not see how calling for the election of one candidate over the other does this.  Neither candidate will save your soul. The government of the United States will not save your soul, only the Lord God can do that.  Preach that, give hope, and show people the way towards salvation.  Leave the politics to the politicians.

Comments

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    Harry Coin says:

    Where comes the notion that accepting tax breaks is a good idea on the basis the church ought never have something to say about a candidate — no matter what’s at stake?

    Certainly Fr. Preble makes a good case that the church ought be very reluctant indeed to enter political frays, but his thesis is that there is a place the voice of the church ought never be heard, no matter what affecting all is at stake? To agree not to ‘go there’ on the basis of keeping money is supported in the Gospel where?

    Worse, to me, is the implication the above carries that not taxing the church as a charity is contingent upon whether this or that person of some position in the church uses speech the government finds acceptable. After all it isn’t ‘a church’ that can speak, only people have mouths.

    Putting fines and taxes as ‘tools’ in the hands of ‘government speech police’ is a very bad idea. The only limits on speech I think a civil society can tolerate is along the lines of shouting ‘fire’ falsely in a crowded place, crashing someone else’s event to make a ruckus (heckling a person you don’t like at their funeral, etc.)

    I do support Fr. Preble’s position though, on ‘economic’ grounds. (The church sort of ‘economic’, meaning looking the other way without creating a precedent for good reasons for a time or in one region): Perhaps I can voice an unspoken fear: that an ecclesiastical superior might use such a rule to impose a decision that ‘his clergy’ must support this or that candidate which violates the conscience of the parish pastor. Much along the lines I see Orthodox clergy upholding ‘the santicity of the confessional’ because mostly if folk knew the clergy would be blabbing-ho to the bishop, and most people really don’t know the bishop beyond a sermon a year and mass mailings except for scandals and money stress, nobody would come to confession.

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      Michael Bauman says:

      The idea that the IRS should regulate churches at all, despite their tax breaks is a violation of the 1st Amendment, IMO. The only way they can do that is by forcing churches into the same ‘charity’ straight-jacket as secular entities (egalitarianism). The 1st Amendment is quite simple: “The Congress shall make no law…..” The IRS regulatory authority is an extension of the laws of Congress (although many argue that the IRS regulations are not extensions of law and therefore not subject to the Constitutional prohibitions in the 1st Amendment).

      The use of the taxing authority of the governement as a tool of social engineering is the real problem. It just goes to show, you give folks guns that allow them to force others to their will, folks will take advantage of the power.

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        Harry Coin says:

        Michael that’s it. Finally what came to me about Fr. Preble’s thought is that the moment an issue becomes a ‘hot subject’ in the political world, the church ought feel pressure to shut up about it on the basis talking about it ‘might be seen’ ‘as’ ‘taking an obvious position about a candidate’ and so ‘costing the church its tax break’. Political fights are by definition contested and those who ‘don’t like’ a church’s view, particularly those within, will be quick to identify the least peep from the pulpit as ‘in violation’ and so bring ‘the heat’ and ‘call the speech cops’ and complain about ‘losing tax status because of the big mouth priest’.

        The only risk I see in combating this encroachment on free political speech is the idea that distant bishops who barely are a factor in daily parish life, who are seen perhaps once a year for an hour or so, could ‘order’ a priest to advocate for a candidate against that priest’s conscience. For example the ‘local candidate’ is a public flagrant moral disaster but of the ‘correct party according to the bishop’.

        So, maybe this is one of those things like the government not being able to restrict folk from owning and buying guns. Most people wouldn’t care to have a gun around, but most see only badness if the government were to control it.

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    Brian Van Sickle says:

    It is absolutely true that Christians have no business endorsing candidates or parties regardless of the law. It is also true that salvation is not found in political choices regardless of how moral they may be. Knowing his history, I commend Fr. Preble for speaking the truth in every context, including his homilies. However, there are some things he has overlooked in his reflection on this topic.

    1.) The political contexts of Christ’s day and ours cannot be so easily compared. In a context of emperors, kings, and procurators, citizens bear no direct responsibility for the governance of their land. In a constitutional republic it is precisely citizens who bear that responsibility in terms of their vote.
    2.) If what Fr. Preble says he does (and I have no doubt that he actually does) – speak the truth to his parish – were actually done by priests and bishops on a consistent basis, there would be no moral (and therefore political) confusion in the laity. Reality tells us he is unfortunately the exception rather than the rule.
    3.) There is a way to speak truth to political matters without resorting to partisanship or the endorsement of specific candidates. It can simply be a call to faithfulness. An excellent audio example (that is neither from my Church or my parish) can be found here. It is well worth a listen.

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      Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

      Brian, did you really mean Christians have no business endorsing candidates, or priests endorsing candidates….

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        Brian Van Sickle says:

        Thank you for the correction, Fr Johannes. You are correct. I meant to say priests (or ‘official’ Church positions).

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        Tomas says:

        Didn’t pastor and televangelist John Hagee explicitly endorse John McCain for President? As far as I know, there was never any issue with the IRS because he was speaking as an individual and not from the pulpit (i.e., on the job as a representative of Cornerstone Church).

        It seems like hairsplitting, but as I mentioned, the lines must be drawn somewhere.

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    John Panopoulos says:

    I think Fr. Peter has set up a straw man. Pulpit Freedom Sunday, as I understand it, is to establish the precedent that the government shall not have the right or privilege of dictating what may or may not be preached in a church. This rule is, of course, applied haphazardly, based on the church’s support of the ruling party, but also keeps the church free from intimidation. I’m sure Fr. Peter favors churches not being intimidated by the state, but this is what is already going on in Canada. Jesus did not preach to the civil authority, but neither does any Orthodox priest. Pulpit Freedom Sunday should not be necessary, but it is, specifically because clergy don’t impress upon congregations anything requiring adherence to specific Christian principles. Instead, in a very self-satisfying way, Orthodox clergy pat themselves on the back for being so vague in their ‘advice’ that everyone feels justified in their own malformed political opinions.

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      John is right. I researched and agreed to participate in Pulpit Freedom Sunday, and no participating pastor or priest was asked to endorse a candidate. The point was to preach freely, including compare candidates on issues of abortion and other issues where Christians’ greatest concerns are. To compare candidates is not to endorse them. Even to criticize or to praise a candidate does not mean one is endorsing them. No pastor or priest I know of who participated in Pulpit Freedom Sunday told their parishioners who to vote for.

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      Fr. John W. Morris says:

      I would never endorse a political candidate from the Altar. However, I must speak on moral and ethical issues that have been politicized such as same-sex marriage and abortion. That means that I may sometimes come very close to speaking against a candidate whose policies are contrary to the Orthodox Faith. What if I preach a sermon against abortion and someone complains that I am speaking against a politician who supports federal funding for abortion? For that reason, I do not feel comfortable with the government having the right to tell me what I can or cannot preach.
      There is another aspect of this whole issue. The law is not enforced when black clergy use their churches for political purposes. Politicians campaign at black churches. We all know about Rev. Wright. He is not alone in politicizing the Gospel. It is quite common for African American clergy to endorse politicians from the pulpit. Some black churches give lists to their people telling them how to vote. I know of one case where a black clergyman approached a candidate for office and told him that if he gave him $10,000 he would spread the money around among the other black clergy so that they would endorse him. If they are going to enforce the law, it must be enforced equally. The same law should apply to black churches that applies to white churches.

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        Harry Coin says:

        When I lived in Massachusetts, ‘Unitarian Universalist’ churches were defacto far left campaign HQ’s. I remember a friend of Barney Frank who put his campaign signs near polling places and left then unattended, while the law against same was enforced if you weren’t ‘with them’. Strange things would happen to the telephone service in the town for those who were part of get-out-the-vote drives Left & Co. didn’t like the evening before and through the late afternoon of election day.

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        Carl Kraeff says:

        I agree with both John Panopoulos and Fr. John Morris. I think the idea is akin to the main construct of the Manhattan Declaration: that the signers will not be bullied by the government and will stick to their First Amendment rights, even if they have to be civilly disobedient. BTW, I would urge all to check out the Manhattan Declaration and to sign it if you agree with it.

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        Brian says:

        “I must speak on moral and ethical issues that have been politicized such as same-sex marriage and abortion. That means that I may sometimes come very close to speaking against a candidate whose policies are contrary to the Orthodox Faith.”

        Fr. Morris,

        God bless you. May your tribe increase!

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        Pere LaChaise says:

        What is the subtext here, Father? Similar to the charges of voting fraud, I suspect. That blacks take advantage of white guilt to ‘get away with’ being openly partisan… and we all know which party they support now. Please, Father.

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    Tomas says:

    I’m not an attorney, but this seems relatively simple.

    – Donations to 501c3 organizations (churches, charities and the like) are tax deductible.
    – Donations to political action committees that engage in activities that would benefit a political candidate are not.

    When a church endorses a candidate (which obviously benefits the candidate more than anyone else), they are engaging in those types of activities that fall under the umbrella of a PAC.

    This makes sense to me. Do you want donations to the United Way (or wherever) funneled towards Obama’s re-election campaign?

    The lines that our laws draw sometimes appear arbitrary, but the law, by its nature, requires distinctions.

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      No participating pastor or priest was asked by the folks behind Pulpit Freedom Sunday to publicly endorse a candidate. We were encouraged to preach freely, without intimidation, and to preach on how to evaluate the candidates in the light of Biblical teaching. This is not endorsing a candidate. Fr Preble has indeed built a straw man from his very third sentence; his definition of Pulpit Freedom Sunday is inaccurate, and then he procedes to tear down his false definition of PFS. Pointing out strengths or weaknesses in a candidate’s official platform according to Christian morals is not endorsement. No pastor or priest I know of who participated in Pulpit Freedom Sunday told their parishioners who to vote for.

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        Tomas says:

        PleaseMP: If this is not about “endorsing any candidate”, what is it about then? What rights of pastors or churches are being infringed upon?

        “Pointing out strengths or weaknesses in a candidate’s official platform according to Christian morals is not endorsement.”

        So talk about the issues then. Most people can read between the lines, don’t you think? What I think you want pastors to be able to do is to determine for others what issues should take precedent over everything else, yes?

        In any rate, I’m uncertain as to why any church would be endorsing any political candidate at this point. We apparently have to decide between a member of a heretical and, dare I say, blasphemous cult who will now push the acceptance of this monstrosity into the mainstream and a man who, if he continues, will most likely bankrupt our nation with his health care initiatives that compel Americans to pay for abortion on demand.

        No thanks. A priest or pastor may have his own beliefs. He may not use my donations and tithes to essentially funnel towards the political campaign of whomever he believes to be the lesser of two evils.

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          As I said, it is not about endorsing a candidate, but about pastorally teaching the people what are the moral priorities to consider when voting, and to preach freely about the issues, as well as the stands of the candidates on issues of importance to Christians. Conservative pastors’ and priests’ rights have been consistently threatened by liberal organizations, including the federal government in warnings and so forth, while liberal churches host and openly endorse proabortion candidates.

          You say, “So talk about the issues, then.” That is exactly what PFS is about, and what I have and continue to do.

          You are naive to write, “Most people can read between the lines.” We are social creatures, and the pressure to compromise Christian morals for the sake of political correctness and/or out of fear of ridicule is very strong, especially among Orthodox Christians, in my 20 years experience as an Orthodox clergyman and many years as a Protestant pastor.

          You are exactly right to say, “What I think you want pastors to be able to do is to determine for others what issues should take precedent over everything else.” This is my duty before God, to inform and teach Christian morals, including a priority of issues. As Fr John Peck puts it:
          “It is my duty, as a priest and pastor, to impose moral standards on you. Part of my job and function is to teach Christian morality and to get us, as a body, to adhere to Christian moral standards –for our own best and for the good of all. I am doing my duty in telling you what the Church, as the Body of Christ, teaches about life and responsibility… As Christians, we can certainly have opinions about a multitude of public and social issues, but not on moral issues. Christian morality is not some amorphous fog of teaching that makes us a taillight on the automobile of humanity, never quite able to solve moral problems until they are so obvious to all that we can speak with 100% comfort on the political correctness of our teaching. Our teaching is already 100% correct. We must be the headlights of our race. We must illuminate the road before us, watching out for unexpected obstacles to our journey, dangerous twists in the road, and who we may run over in our rush to go faster. I am here to tell you that abortion is not morally equivalent to capital punishment. One kills millions of innocents, and scars millions more every year. Just a look at the numbers should, by itself, tell you which of these needs to be acted upon first and foremost. Likewise, euthanasia, gay marriage, fetal stem cell research, and human cloning are not morally equivalent to environmental issues, management vs. labor, or economic issues. These are not negotiable in Christian moral teaching. How dangerous it will be for us to ‘vote our pocketbook,’ when children and elderly are at such risk, and literally being murdered daily… A faith which does not impose moral values on you is no faith!”

          Your comment, “I’m uncertain as to why any church would be endorsing any political candidate at this point” and your subsequent commentary about various candidates is irrelevant, because PFS is not about endorsing candidates, and no priest or pastor I know of who participated endorsed anyone. Critically evaluated, positively and negatively, yes, according to Biblical standards, but endorsed, no.

          Pulpit Freedom Sunday is not about funneling money to any politician. Your slander only betrays your agenda.

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      Brian Van Sickle says:

      Tomas,

      Aside from the well-documented fact of selective enforcement, it is my belief that the law as written is appropriate and just.

      What many fear (and it is my belief that this fear is increasingly justified) is that because of the fact that all speech can be construed as political even when candidates or parties are not specified, the rights of speech and free exercise of religion may well be infringed upon as the direction of politics and the resulting laws increasingly slide toward immorality. The Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches in the United States have only recently awakened to this reality (Mr. Biden’s recent false assertions to the contrary notwithstanding), and if we are silent about the infringement on their freedom it is only a matter of time until it touches our freedoms as well.

      But lest I be misunderstood, let me also state that these real or potential losses of civic freedom are not directly related to the essence of our freedom in Christ which no law can touch. In other words, this is emphatically not inherently a Church/Christian matter. It is specifically an American constitutional matter – important and worthy of our attention, but nothing that can ‘destroy’ the Church.

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      Michael Bauman says:

      Tomas, it only makes sense if you believe that the Church or any church is equivalent to a secular 501(c)3 organization.

      And don’t forget: The Congress shall make no law….; the Congress shall make no law……; the Congress shall make no law…..

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        Brian Van Sickle says:

        Michael,

        Although I agree with you in principal, the assumptions the founders made about what constitutes the free exercise of religion were made in a thoroughly Christian (as well as Jewish) context, the moral precepts of which inherently promote the liberty and justice they envisioned. Since that time, other religions with moral precepts alien to these ideals have come to make their home in the United States, and thus I wonder whether such a strict interpretation of “shall make no law” can rightly be applied.

        It is unfortunate; but we, as a sovereign country, have allowed the foundations of our liberties to be eroded in the name of these very liberties by refusing to stand firmly on the Source that makes them possible – except, that is, by a sort of vague inherited memory of goodness, the ground of which has all but been forgotten by most.

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          Michael Bauman says:

          Brian, I understand your concerns but the primary concern of George Mason and others who drafted the Bill of Rights was to keep the central government out of the control business. The states and the people decided those issues. The 14th amendment extended such provisions to the states. That leaves the people. Unfortunately, we, the people are notorious for not really liking feedom unless it is our own.

          There is no neat solution. It would be nice is all religions were afforded the same freedoms and protections, but that is not the case. As noted above the IRS does nothing against black churches who routinely and openly support specific political parties and candidates while tending to go after white, evangelical protestant churches.

          However, without strong protections situations as in Canada where the government has told Catholic schools they cannot teach that abortion is wrong (among other things) will develop.

          In any case the Church is tasked with being prophetic. St. John Chrysostom certainly did not shy away from hot button policital issues and that got him exiled.

          In our country moral and cultural issues are polticial. We cannot simply retire from the field of battle.

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            Brian Van Sickle says:

            Michael,

            Excellent points. But we may be conflating two separate, but related, matters. One is freedom of speech (in this case religious speech). The other is the free exercise of religion.

            Repugnant though it is, as a matter of law I don’t really care if the freedom of speech allows radical Islamists (to use but one example) to preach their venom as long as the law limits the free exercise of their religion (for instance, the actual free exercise of Sharia law). And even though the constitution expressly prohibits Congress from creating these limits, the general principal remains the same when left to the discretion of the states.

            As you said, there are no easy answers. The more I meditate on this subject the more evident is the Orthodox Christian conviction that no philosophy of man (be it political or otherwise) can endure the test of time and the sinfulness of man. No matter how ‘rational’ it cannot ultimately remain consistent without destroying itself in the process.

            Freedom apart from God is a terrible thing indeed!

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              Michael Bauman says:

              “Freedom apart from God is a terribel thing indeed!” There is no freedom apart from God, only enslavement to sin and the devil.

              The U.S. Constitution was designed for a Christian people (at least a nominally Chrisitan people). It works fine in a Chrisitan context even a watered down Christian context.

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                Brian Van Sickle says:

                “There is no freedom apart from God, only enslavement to sin and the devil.” Yes, and the freedom to reject Him is terrible – as in terrifying.

                “The U.S. Constitution was designed for a Christian people” Yes. And therein lies its strength, as well as its weakness.

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    Ephraim says:

    Forgive me Father, but this seems like nonsense. Politics is in the eye of the beholder and as has been pointed out by others more intelligent than I, the wording is nebulous in that the term “political activity” in the amendment is never explicitly defined. As stated in the article “Eyes Wide Shut” in the Houston Business and Tax Journal [2008], this ambiguity

    has made it difficult for tax-exempt organizations to confidently advocate for their causes and for the I.R.S. to investigate and review an organization’s tax-exempt status.

    People have to understand that the wording of the amendment is such that this is not just about the explicit endorsement of a particular candidate. This season, the issue of same-sex unions is up for a vote in a lot of states – can the Church’s defense of traditional marriage be construed as a political activity? What about abortion – is defense of the unborn a political activity? And in the same vein, can we expect our hierarchs to be able to express the Truth in public without threat of suit? It seems to me that the Church is rife with Saints and Martyrs who have boldly proclaimed the Truth in the public sphere regardless of the state of culture (St. John Chrysystom anyone?), so the idea that the Church and its pastors should not express opinions regarding current pressing issues is absurd at best. Lord have Mercy on that day when our clergy feel that they can not speak out against abominations such as abortion which do have very real political implications. Anyone who has ever had an unfortunate run in with the IRS knows the power that they wield and their readiness to bully regardless of the situation. And the threat of protracted litigation is a powerful one that can cow the hardiest soul.

    I would encourage all to check out Fr. Josiah’s recent AFR podcast interview of the pastor Jim Garlow for an

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    Fr. John W. Morris says:

    I n the case of McCulloch v. Maryland, Chief Justice John Marshall wrote, “The power to tax is the power to destroy.” That concept is part of American constitutional law. That means that if we allow the government to tax the Church, we give it the power to destroy the Church. I agree that the Church should stay out of purely secular matters, but in our current political climate moral issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage have been politicized. We cannot allow the government the authority to decide what we can and cannot preach.

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      Michael Bauman says:

      Fr. John, the power to exempt from taxes and rescind that exemption is also the power to destroy. At the risk of being repetitive: The Congress shall make no law… no law.

      Any attempt to regulate through taxation or lack thereof either the freedom of speech or religion is patently un-Constitutional whether we like the speech or the faith is immaterial.

      The problem is that the definition of religion and speech have become too broad.

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    FrGOA says:

    I have to say that Fr. Preble’s post demonstrates the poverty such “blogging.” We get very little in the way of substantial argumentation — reflection on the historical tradition and writings of the Holy Fathers — but we do get a lot of personal opinion. I think that the question of Pulpit Freedom Sunday is an interesting – even important – one, but its defense or opposition must be a reasoned approach based on Orthodox criteria. Tossing around unsubstantiated opinions about important questions is really of very little value.

    Thus we get comments such as:

    “I find it interesting that, in the entirety of the Gospel, Jesus never directly spoke to the civil government of his day.” What about Pontius Pilate? What about King Abgar [ok...that's a stretch]?

    “I have said before, you cannot legislate morality you have to teach it and model it.” This is a carelessly worded statement – while you cannot make a person act in a moral way simply through laws, it is nevertheless the case that all manner of governments (kingdoms, empires, republics, etc.) have been legislating (writing laws) to govern the behavior of its citizens /subjects since time immemorial.

    “He [Jesus] never scolded them, in fact, he told us to support the government, and as Orthodoxy [sic] we are called to pray for the government.” Does praying for the government necessarily exclude an Orthodox citizen from being a change-agent from within a government as one of its citizens or subjects?

    “The role of the Church in society is to being [sic] hope and to be the moral compass for the people.” Where does this definition of the Church come from? It certainly does not ring any sort of Patristic bell for me.

    Save us from such drivel…

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      So you your response to the charge of poverty is to demonstrate… poverty? I make no claim to be a judge of drivel, but Fr. Peter sounds quite reminiscent of Fr. Florovsky:

      The church is ultimately concerned with the change of human hearts and minds, and not primarily with the change of an external order, as important as all social improvements may be. The early church made an attempt to realize a higher social standard within its own ranks. The success was but relative; the standards themselves had to be lowered. Yet, it was not a reconciliation with the existing injustice; it was rather an acknowledgment of an inherent antinomy. Could the church use, in the human struggle for survival, any other weapon than the word of truth and mercy? In any case, some basic principles were established, and boldly formulated, which are relevant to any historical situation.

      Florovsky, G. The social problem in the eastern orthodox church. Christianity and Culture: Volume Two in thew Collected Works. Nordlnd Publishing Co. Belmont, MA. 1974. p. 135.

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      Fr. John W. Morris says:

      There is a major difference between the government at time of Our Lord. The people had no say in their government because they were ruled by an all powerful emperor. Today in America, we the people still have some power over our government. We get to vote on our leaders. Thus, it is not the same as it was in the time of Christ. If our government does something that violates our Orthodox Faith like using our taxes to pay for abortion, or forcing church related institutions to pay for medications that cause abortions, or recognizing same-sex marriages, we Orthodox have a right to participate in the public discussion of these issues. Our Bishops have already led the way by issuing a statement opposing Obama’s plan to make church related institutions pay for medication that causes abortions. In those states like California that have voted on the recognition of same sex marriages, our Bishops have issued public statements opposing same sex marriages. Make no mistake about it there are those who would favor legislation that would limit the freedom of the church to speak on moral issues before the public. There are those who would limit our religious freedom to the 4 walls of our Churches and prohibit Churches from speaking on the public square. Obama routinely speaks of freedom of worship, not freedom of religion. That is a very important distinction. If we only have freedom of worship, we lose our rights to speak in public on moral issues or anything else.

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    macedonianReader says:

    I don’t see the problem with a Priest saying that voting for a particular candidate doesn’t work for an Orthodox Christian. It doesn’t mean you have to endorse an alternative.

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    alyosha apple says:

    Vote the Bible. Vote for a candidate that most represents Biblical views, period. What’s the problem here? Priests, get some backbone and address the moral political issues from the pulpit. It’s as simple as that. It’s sad that I have to get my moral political instruction from evangelical pastors yet cannot get it from the Orthodox pulpits. And shame on those who call themselves “Christians” yet vote for pro-choice and pro gay marriage candidates. The blind leading the blind is what I am observing, and it’s despicable. The Holy Scriptures makes many political issues clear that are currently “hot button.” I’d be more than willing to send Orthodox Christian pulpits a copy of Pastor John Hagee’s 2008 “Vote the Bible” study series. He seems to clarify many things that these pulpits aren’t. They are too busy addressing pharasaical minutiae.

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      Tomas says:

      Alyosha writes: “Vote the Bible”

      Can you please expand on this? What parts of the Bible should be codified in law … and to what extent? Although I would certainly like to see greater moral sensibilities in our populace (which would more likely happen if our priests and pastors hadn’t become so tepid regarding moral issues over the last few decades), I’m wary of taking political advice from an evangelical pastor who called my denomination the “Whore of Babylon”.

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        alyosha apple says:

        Tomas:

        How about I send you Pastor Hagee’s 2008 “Vote the Bible” series? It’s a three-part c.d. lecture. Along with it are scripture passages, which serve as the foundation of his teachings. Once again, I strongly believe the Orthodox hierarchy, clergy, and laity are misled strongly in the voting booth because they don’t know and/or read their Holy Scriptures; don’t speak up and often enough about the moral/political issues from the pulpit; and are just plain cowardly for fear of losing donations and possible tax-exempt status. If Saint Patrick of Ireland could bring the heathens to Christ and explain the Trinity by the use of a simple shamrock/cloverleaf, then the Holy Word of God can wake up the many sleeping Christians of this country to voting properly.

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      Fr. John W. Morris says:

      As an Orthodox Christian I would not take John Hagee’s guidance on any spiritual or political matter. He is a Christian Zionist who supports depriving Palestinian Orthodox Christians of their human rights to support Zionism. So-called Christian Zionism is a major heresy that denies that Christ is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets and the Church the true Israel.

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        Michael Bauman says:

        ….and Chrisitan Palestinians all too often become anti-semetic (or should I say anti-Jew since Arabs and Jews are both semitic in origin) and embrace the terrorist paradigm. Lest we forget, Jesus forgave them (all of us) from the Cross; Paul was even wiling to give up his own salvation if it would save the Jews. We Orthodox are in a unique position in the Chrisitan world to appeal to observant Jews unless we lapse into un-Biblical hatred of them as we have often done in our history. It is a line that Met. Philip (IMO) tip-toes along and leans over all too often. Lord have mercy.

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          Fr. John W. Morris says:

          Metropolitan Philip is right on the Palestinian issue. Talk with a Palestinian Orthodox Christian about what their life is like under Israeli domination and you will change your mind. Zionism is one of the greatest injustices of modern history. It denies the human rights of the indigenous people of Palestine to national self-determination. Instead, foreign born Jews came to Palestine and used money and brutal force to seize control of the land and to establish a Jewish state which by definition defines non-Jews as second class citizens. The Zionist authorities continually harass the native Palestinian Orthodox, seize their lands, and deny them basic human rights. In America, we have been fed pro-Zionist propaganda for decades. What was done by the Nazis to the Jews was one of the most terrible crimes of history, but it is an injustice to make the Palestinian people who had nothing to do with them pay the price of the Nazi atrocities against the Jews by losing their homeland to the refugees from Hitler’s tyranny.

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            Michael Bauman says:

            Fr. John, I know the history and I know that there is real suffering of all Christians under the nation of Israel, a nation carved out by both terrorist force and political force. Israel doesn’t like Christians much, not even the Zionists ones. Got that.

            What I object to is Met. Philip’s rhetoric such as the sermon he gave in a largely Palestinian parish several years ago (reported to me by someone who was there) that “There is no such thing as a Palestinian terrorist” and his Byzantine dhimmi language in praise of both Assad’s in Syria and the ‘greatest rulers…” and other words to that effect.

            You don’t think that at least some of the suffering is due to the Israreli perception that the Palestinians as a group want to utterly destroy them, their way of life and kill them and their families? Don’t you think they feel that the Palestinian situation has been greatly exacerbated by the Islamic countries that surround them use the Palestinians as canon fodder? Does any Christian Palestinian group exist that, in Arabic, denouces the Islamic hatred of Jews (which pre-dates the estabilishment of Israel), works for peaceful solutions and confronts both the Israelis and the Muslims with the Gospel in word deed and the content of their lives? Since I am sure the American press would ignore such an organization if it existed, I’ll ask you, is there such an organization? If not, why has Metropolitan Philip attempted to create one or has he just played the politics of the region based upon his own ethnic bias?

            Although the language used is more sophisticated the overwhelming message I have received from those who have made presentations at my parish on the subject is: “Jews bad, Arabs good, Jews need to go.” That is simply buying into the political turmoil and violence of the region and will bring no peace. If the Israelis were driven out, do yout thing for one minute that the Muslim majority wouldn’t start erradicating or supressing their Christian Palestinian ‘brothers’?

            My parish supports Met. Sava in Syria because he is working apolitically. The founders of our temple largely came from the Diocese of Houran, and Met. Sava is working to build up the Body of Christ and serving both Christians and Muslims. His work is being destroyed by both sides in the Syrian civil war and is illegal under Syrian law (though seldom enforced before).

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        alyosha apple says:

        Father Morris:

        In the 2008 “Vote the Bible” series, it’s the content of Pastor Hagee’s message that is the crux of what I am addressing. I should be hearing Biblical fervent preaching from the pulpit on Sundays in the tradition of the Orthodox Faith addressing crucial moral political issues, yet I don’t. When 45% of the Orthodox faithful believe that abortion is all right, along with gay marriage, there is a problem. When a website like AOI has to be created in order to wake up “the best kept secret” because it is not informing its people to take a stand on righteousness in the public square, then there is a problem.

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    cynthiacurran says:

    Well Hagee has as much right as Rev Wright to tell people on what to vote for.

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    cynthiacurran says:

    I agree with Michael its complex, the Palestines have a lot of support from Islam and the far left. A Palestinian by itself could be be another Egypt.

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