The New York Times is reporting that President Trump has said that he wants to overturn the Johnson Amendment, enacted during the 1960s, that disallows churches from being active directly in the electoral process at the risk of their tax exemptions.
If this actually happens, I hope to God that church bodies would still remain outside of partisan politics.
In fact, the only thing the amendment actually does is to keep churches from endorsing or opposing, including working directly for or against, specific candidates — that’s all, and any other interpretation is simply inaccurate.
Many Christians believe that the law keeps them from speaking out on social or moral issues. They haven’t been to my church because that’s happened occasionally there, and most other evangelical churches do. In fact, much of the social action that has taken place over the past 40 years has come from churches, and few complain about that. Further, occasionally pastors have endorsed candidates from the pulpit (this is seen mostly in African-American churches, which often lean Democratic).
The real danger here is when churches and Christian leaders start saying “God endorses (or opposes) _________” when in fact He’s much bigger than that. On top of that, they often give the wrong impression that, to be a Christian, you have to believe X politically, never mind one’s personal relationship with God. Such groups tend to cherry-pick Bible verses to use as prooftexts for their respective positions.
Even worse, if a church does become politically involved to that extent doing so threatens its true mission — to bear witness to an unseen world. It should seek to live by alternative Kingdom values in a world that not only doesn’t agree with but even opposes them, and to think that such Kingdom values would ever be accepted, let alone become dominant, in a fallen world makes absolutely no theological sense — in such a scenario the Christian faith by necessity becomes watered-down.
Yes, that’s right. Liberal.
The scuttling of the Johnson Amendment is seen as a sop to the “religious right,” which has always sought religious privilege. But if it wins this battle it cannot win the war — for the souls of men. And women.