Thursday, May 22, 2008

Why Pastors are Bad for Politics


First it was the Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy. Now comes more flak over yet another preacher, the Rev. Rod Parsley, well-known TV evangelist and senior pastor of the World Harvest Church of Columbus, Ohio. Wright was the fiery and controversial pastor of Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama. Parsley, however, did not seem to be the prior pastor of Republican presidential contender Sen. John McCain. Instead, it would appear that McCain specifically sought his endorsement in order to court the Evangelical vote. Nevertheless, he is just as fiery as Wright, except with a good old fashioned Pentecostal flavor, as opposed to Wright's UCC old fashioned liberalism.

Theology aside (and I could write much on that subject alone), I would have thought that McCain would have learned from the Wright issue that pastors are bad for politics. Of course Wright and Parsley are political lightening rods, to be sure. Still, pastors, by and large, speak a language different than politics, and the attempted translation of one tongue to the other is bound to result in misunderstanding. Take the subject of Islam. Just this past Sunday, on the great festival of the Holy Trinity, I quoted the Koran (or Qu'ran) in contrast to the orthodox teaching of the true Godhead. I have highlighted the teaching of Islam on other occasions, as well. Now if some high level politician were associated with me (an extreme stretch to be sure, but hang with me on this....), it is certainly possible that they would use such excerpts from my sermons as evidence that I am anti-Isalm and a "hate monger," as I believe the word is now being used of Parseley. Yet my points are purely theological, not geo-political, and in no way intend to reflect how we should deal with individual proponents of Islam, or Islamic nations, aside from my Christian commitment to evangelize, which in itself is another liability, politically speaking.

I am not sure how I would advise a candidate for high office, if I were so asked. However, I do think I would have steered McCain away from Parsley, even if he is desperate for the Evangelical vote. Each person is entitled to pastoral counsel, and McCain certainly needs it. But to seek a political endorsement was just plain misguided. And for the record - Parsley should never have given one.

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