To media-anointed religious spokespersons from a concerned evangelical Christian

I won’t mention you by name and you certainly don’t know mine. But since you’ve taken it upon yourselves to speak for me, I feel entitled to talk to you. Here’s what I want you to hear.

Now that you’ve had your 15 minutes of Campaign 2016 fame, stand down. Please.

Okay, so there’s nothing new with big-wigs from the world of religion taking to the stage during a U.S. presidential campaign in support of one political party or the other. But when you present yourselves as speaking on behalf of all Christians, I am troubled, even angry.

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Clergy and other religious leaders, as private citizens, are entitled to strong political opinions. And it’s fine for you to prefer one candidate over the other. But, I’m not okay that you baptize your partisanship and then dunk the rest of us along with it.

Which is why my ears perked up when I heard Retired Army General and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey express unease about retired officers* with a political agenda. While granting his colleagues freedom to speak to and about those seeking elected office – similar to that which I’m willing to grant religious leaders — Dempsey encourages military folk to “speak privately, where it will not be interpreted that they are speaking for us all.”

WHERE SELDOM SHOULD BE HEARD, A POLITICAL WORD

As the following paraphrased paragraphs illustrate, swap out a word here and there, and Dempsey’s warning about politicizing the military is a timely word about the danger of politicized faith. (You can read his entire piece here.)

More than an individual reputation, clergy and other religious leaders enjoy a collective reputation earned by having been part of a profession. It is therefore nearly impossible for them to speak exclusively for themselves when speaking publicly. If that were even possible, few would want to hear from them. Their opinion is valued chiefly because it is assumed they speak with the authority imbued with faith.

The image of pastors, priests, and other faith leaders that is held in esteem by the American people is the image of loyal, determined, selfless professionalism keeping watch for threats to our spiritual well-being. It’s not the image of angry speeches in front of partisan audiences intended to influence politics at home.

In the competition for public office, politicians will always seek to surround themselves with as many credible allies as possible. But religious leaders should not heed their request. This is not something that needs to be fixed with law, policy, or administrative rule. All you have to do is say no.

In other words, stand down. Contrary to what your public pronouncements suggest, there are evangelical Christians who don’t approve your message.

*Political advocacy is off-limits for active duty military.

Comments

  1. Good one!

  2. As a Canadian with many evangelical friends in the US, I get tired of their attempts to sway us to their way of thinking. We do care about what goes on down there, but abhor the extreme partyism that seems to choose “going with the party” whatever the individual says. Time to think and pray.

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