A Pastoral Plea for the Separation of Church and State

This past Sunday, GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich spoke at a church near the town where I pastor.  The service was simulcast on C-SPAN and there were news clips afterwards of previously undecided voters leaving the church building with their minds made up and their arms filled up with signs supporting Newt.  I noticed a few more of those signs around town today.

At the other end of the political spectrum, our president, Barak Obama is calling on churches to rise up in support of him by selecting what he calls “congregation captains.”

The churches that support these two men are quite different, I’m sure.  But one thing is evident and that is that the source of their hope and the object of their worship is government.  For the mostly white and conservative congregation, Newt is the man to turn things around.  Here’s a sign.  Put it in your yard and be sure to come back next week.  For the mostly black and more politically progressive congregation, the President needs another chance.  Just give him some more time and we’ll finally realize the hope and change we’ve heard so much about.

But there’s something that both churches fail to realize.  Even if their candidate of choice is in office next year and things finally go their way, nothing has been done to address the real problem.  Whether you want smaller government or more of it, neither man will address the condition of a heart that is alienated from God.  We shouldn’t expect them to.

And that’s the really sad part.

It’s sad that a church, the one body that should be pointing out the real source of hope, would rather run to a political candidate to find the cheap substitute.  It’s sad that people whose hearts have been shot through with sin and abuse are offered another sinner and the party platform as their remedy.  Sure, these churches may like to slap some Jesus talk and Christian lingo onto their political rhetoric but the essence is still the same – dying men being told to rely on another dying man and his dying system.  How could the result be anything other than death?

If this Sunday the man that I am voting for happened to find his way into the church that I pastor, I hope that he would be made to feel welcomed like any other guest (James 2:1-13) as he quietly sits and hears about the only Man that can help us, the Man Jesus Christ.

The church that prostitutes itself by acting as an extension of a political party or a platform for a political candidate, no matter how noble that party or candidate may be, has ceased to become a church and has instead devolved into just another bureaucracy.

Jesus didn’t die for a bureaucracy.

He died for his church.