Such is the drama and dark comedy of this election season. Candidates have always gotten election-year religion, and this year is no different. However, the spectacle of this year’s US presidential election is unique because the candidates in question are not particularly careful with whom they rub shoulders in the religious community. They are also not that spiritual themselves, and the two-way relationship of endorsements is shaky at best.
Much can be said about the candidates, but less has been said about the pastors who court them. Yes, I said “court”. I do believe that a Christian has the right to voice his or her support for a particular candidate, but when a pastor or major Christian leader makes official endorsements they are stepping outside of their biblical authority. There are many pitfalls:
- By courting favor we lose the ability to speak objective truth as the prophets of old.
- A pastoral endorsement actually says, “As a Christian leader I am saying that this is the man/woman who is best suited for the job based on biblical standards.” This is slippery even when the pastor and the leader are friends.
- One would be a fool to think that there is no temptation for a Christian leader to want to be in the inner circle of the president.
- Pastors are usually not experts as to who would be best at foreign, domestic and economic policy.
- A Christian leader can vouch for the integrity of someone – a personal friend - running for office as well as their stand on specific issues that are important to Christians. Again, the leader needs to know what he is talking about and whom he is talking about.
- A Christian leader can use his God-given authority to speak objective biblical truth into every issue.
- A Christian leader can advise a candidate on matters where the leader is an expert: moral truths, family issues, societal problems, human rights, etc.
- A Christian leader can be called upon by a sitting president for advice. A leader’s stature in the Christian community will make way for him before rulers. This is post-election, and the leader still needs to make it clear Whom he is really representing.
- A Christian leader can call on a public official to simply repent.
When you sit down to dine with a ruler, consider carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are a man of great appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, for it is deceptive food. Pr 23:1-2
Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin. 1 Tim 5:22
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. Eph 4:11-13