It is my personal belief that Pastors should remain publicly non-partisan in political matters. First of all, our job as Pastors is to take the gospel “to every creature”-which means, to everyone and to everywhere-in blue states and red states.
We live in a very polarized country. If as a Pastor, we take a partisan position on a particular political candidate or a political party, it compromises our ability to reach people on the other side of the political equation.
And-our job is to do what is right, and that means pointing out the inevitable times when both political parties do things that need to be called out-and not to compromise our integrity by remaining silent when something is wrong just because the person doing the wrong is someone we support.
Conversely, it is just as wrong to demonize the people on the opposite side and claiming that it is somehow impossible to be a Christian and be a member of Political Party X or to support Candidate X. It is hard enough to get people to accept the truth as it comes from the Word of God without unnecessary offense by giving the impression that we believe that a particular party has a monopoly on God and that the other political party has a monopoly on the lake of fire. There are doors that we can forever close by taking that approach.
That does not mean that I do not believe that Pastors should encourage their members to vote (they should) or that I do not have opinions (I do-I am a former Political Science major).
I have two issues to address in this space today:
The first issue is a moral one-right vs. wrong. It is simply wrong to make continued accusations of cheating and election fraud without proof. It is wrong and illogical to say that the votes that I received and the votes of the candidates that I support and who supported me were counted correctly but the votes of everyone else were fraudulent. It is wrong and illogical to say that the states that I won by a close margin were fairly won by me but the states that my opponent won by a close margin were the result of fraud.
In this country, we have had elections that were far closer than this one-in 1960, in 1968, in 1976, in 2000, in 2004, and in 2016-where ironically, the same people who were then celebrating an election that was closer than this one are now claiming that they were cheated when they lost.
In every case except for this one, those who lost, graciously congratulated the winner and wished them well. In fact, democracy itself is based on power being transferred peacefully and gracefully. Not this time.
What’s even worse, is the radio silence and moral laryngitis of virtually an entire political party, who either joined in spreading unfounded accusations, made excuses for those who did or whose silence was acquiescence. It is just plain wrong.
The apparent loser of a close election has every right to say “Let’s have a recount of the votes to make sure we got this right.” But the loser of a close election has no right to accuse-without offering any real proof—anything that would even come close to standing up in a court of law-no one has the right to make the thus far evidence-free accusation that those counting the votes of cheating are a part of some vast international conspiracy and de-legitimizing the process that chooses the leaders of the most powerful nation in the world.
I once had the privilege of being invited to be one of the guest speakers at a conference constituency meeting in another country. The previous Conference President had not been re-elected. Instead of accepting the will of the people, he decided to form his own conference. The conference was still dealing with the damage from that.
I would take issue with anyone who thinks that there will be no lasting damage to this country from what has happened these past three weeks.
But there are two larger issues for me. The larger of the two is this:
As Seventh-day Adventist, we already know how this story ends. This country will-according to Revelation Chapter 13, turn its back on another essential element of our democracy-religious freedom. Anyone doubting that will happen one day, isn’t paying attention to what is happening now. There are people who in order to maintain power, will do anything, say anything and allow anything-even if those things are the exact opposite of what they have done, said and allowed in the past.
That is what is happening now. The Bible lets us know that it will happen again.
And then while it may seem easy to kind of point our fingers at the hypocrisy and inconsistency of various political leaders, it may not be a bad idea to step back and take a look in the mirror.
First of all, the leaders that we have are the leaders that we have chosen. What has happened does not just reflect poorly on them (though it certainly does) but it also reflects on us.
Whichever side you were on in this past election, these two candidates received the highest two vote totals than any candidate for President of the United States in our history. You might not like President Trump but he received more votes than any candidate had ever received for President of the United States up until 2020-including President Obama. You might not like President Trump; but a lot of people seem to like him-including some people who previously voted for President Obama. In fact, I am not sure that I have ever seen a candidate with a more loyal set of followers than President Trump. It would be a good idea for the people who are not fans of the President to try to figure out what the President has that attracts such loyalty. He has something-and to pretend otherwise is self-deception.
And to the loyal fans of the current President: Your candidate got the highest vote total in history before 2020 and he still lost by 6 million votes. There are reasons for that-and it wasn’t because of voter fraud. The President and his legal team had filed 35 or so lawsuits and haven’t proven a single thing except they have good imaginations. Virtually every lawsuit they have filed has been denied or thrown out of court-sometimes with withering remarks by the judge. You can say whatever you want in a press conference; in a court of law, you have to have proof. They have shown none.
The point is, in order to get anything done in any organization, you have to be willing to listen to people who don’t think like you. That is true in the church, too.
Almost all of us-if not all of us have been tempted at one time or another to do the same thing that is happening in American politics today-have the blind, unquestioning, unreasoning loyalty to someone we like or who thinks the way we do. The “my boy has not done anything wrong-because he’s my boy”syndrome can be part of the way things sometimes are done in the church-as well as the world. Most of us have seen it-but here’s the thing: If we are honest with ourselves-if we look in the mirror-most of us have at least been tempted to do the same thing. To look the other way when our friend does wrong because-they’re our friend.
But we are really not helping our friends when we turn the other way and when we refuse to hold them accountable. One of the things that I have learned in my 42 years as an Adventist Pastor is that if you really want to destroy someone-don’t hold them accountable. Look the other way when they do something bad or wrong or silly. Tell them they are right when you know-or should know-that they are wrong. Sooner or later, they will fall. Everybody has to have somebody who will hold them accountable. Who will tell them “I love you-but you are wrong”. Who will tell them “No”.
Here is something else that I have learned in these past 42 years: There are leaders who will adamantly resist that kind of accountability. But here is the final lesson that I have learned that I would like to share: I have learned that the people who resist being held accountable the most, need being held accountable the most. You can take that one to the bank.
And often, if friends don’t provide accountability and guardrails for leaders, no one will do it. Your enemies won’t do it-at least, they won’t do it for the right reasons. Your enemies are more likely to want you to fail. So-it’s up to you to hold your friends accountable and to let them hold you accountable. Because if friends don’t do that for friends-it is likely that no one will.
It’s easy to see the failure of others to hold the people they are close to accountable. It’s not so easy to see it when that failure is coming from you and me. That’s why right now is a good time for all of us to look in the mirror and to make sure that the sins that are so easy found in our political leaders right now are not also found in us and in our friends.