One of the problems with many so-called “mainline” churches is that they’re indistinguishable from left-leaning political clubs. A case in point is an IRS investigation of an Episcopal church, All Saints, in Pasadena, California. One of the priests gave an overtly anti-Bush sermon last year, using his moral authority as an agent of God to push his agenda.
The mixed emotions of the title result from the plain fact that the IRS is already insanely overstaffed and overpowerful. The government should leave us all alone. Especially churches. On the other hand, if all of us taxpayers are going to subsidize all churches (and synagogues and mosques and God knows what all else), then those entities must not enter the secular sphere of politics.
Put it another way: if what one hears from the pulpit of a Sunday morn is indistinguishable from a political party’s line, then it does not meet the criteria for tax exemption. This should be just as true for churches on the right as it is for those on the left.
This particular branch of the Democratic Party, Episcopal Church USA Branch, has come under IRS scrutiny, and, again, there are valid arguments on both sides. Some details from an article today in the Washington Post:
The investigation was triggered by a sermon delivered Oct. 31, 2004, by Rector Emeritus George Regas that speculated about what Jesus would say to President Bush and the Democratic candidate, Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) on subjects including poverty, violence and war.
In his introduction, Regas said he did not intend to tell people how to vote, but at one point, Regas imagined words Jesus would have for Bush: “Mr. President, your doctrine of a preemptive war is a failed doctrine. Forcibly changing the regime of an enemy that posed no imminent threat has led to disaster.”
Regardless of one’s position on the war, church is no place to hear sermons on political and foreign policy issues. It is a place to hear the Gospel of salvation, not to be instructed by an invocation of the intellectually lazy “what would Jesus do” rubric.
This is difficult, and all churches walk a fine line, since the Gospel very much includes “doing for the least of these.” It’s sort of like the Supreme Court and pornography: can’t define it, but we’ll know it when we see it. This particular priest crossed the line when he ventured opinions that may be correct (I don’t believe they are), but have no place coming from the pulpit.
| technorati tag | Christianity|