Pay Up or Shut Up

Pulpit Free Sunday

Yeesh.  This just strikes me as silly.  We Christians hold up our martyr forebears because they underwent fire and sword and gladiatorial arenas to proclaim the truth, but these ninnies are scared to death of paying their taxes:

“ADF is not trying to get politics into the pulpit.  Churches can decide for themselves that they either do or don’t want their pastors to speak about electoral candidates.  The point of the Pulpit Initiative is very simple:  the IRS should not be the one making the decision by threatening to revoke a church’s tax-exempt status.  We need to get the government out of the pulpit,” said Stanley.

Perhaps I’m just getting tired of these sorts of things (I’m counting down the days until December 13, when the Supreme Court declares who the new president is), but I wish these preachers, if they really mean it, would just register as lobbyists and pay their taxes.  Political campaigns pay taxes.  Advertisers for political campaigns pay taxes.  If they believe that such things are what Church is about, let them pay up.  Then they can say whatever they want to whomever they want to say it, and they can do so alongside the tax-paying organizations they’re supplementing.  I hope the federal courts will make these children eat their vegetables.  After six years of Republican control of White House and Senate and the power of appointing federal judges that goes through those two halls, I don’t know what the odds of that are, but I still hope it’s the case.

And for what it’s worth, I also wish that more Iraq war protesters had been arrested, mainly because I think any real resistance to the powers-that-be should cost something.  I think that televised protests are silly business, about as real politically as reality television is in general.  But in an easy-divorce, abortion-on-demand world, nothing costs the privileged anything, and that’s the way they prefer to keep it.  I realize that, having come up in the suburbs of Indianapolis, I am one of those privileged, and I’m not claiming not to be of that world.  I am saying that trading the slow and frustrating realities of making a change one classroom and one soul at a time for the shiny “reality” of television time and immediate “fame” are an easy way out, and they do next to nothing to advance the real human goods that take lifetimes to develop, risking all along the way that Fortune might destroy it all.  I am one of those privileged children, and my hope is that I can always devote my life to serving those who aren’t as lucky as I am, in quiet and fame-less places, using the natural ability and the cultural circumstances I’ve been given for a good beyond my own immediate pleasures and forsaking the silliness of televised protest.  I don’t think that I’m ever going to face a sword as a martyr, but I do plan on bearing slow witness to a reality beyond what television cameras can see.

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6 Comments

Filed under Political Entertainment

6 responses to “Pay Up or Shut Up

  1. “[G]et the government out of the pulpit”?! Did he really utter that without irony?

    It’s this sort of junk that makes organized religion so unappealing; as soon as you get a group of people together, all subtlety goes away.

  2. I’ll agree with you that often it does, but I’ll also maintain that Christianity in particular (I would guess Islam as well, but I think in our categories, not theirs, so I’ll defer that claim) has inherent resources to critique and to counter such moves.

  3. Sure, they have the resources . . . they just don’t use them. And until they do, I will continue to disparage them (cause my opinion, you know, like, matters).

    Doesn’t that tie in with your last post?

  4. Well, just remember that I are they.

    And yes, my response to your comment ties in with my last post, and I think that’s one of the services that Christian colleges and folks who come from Christian colleges do for congregations, even if we often find ourselves drinking (purely metaphorical) hemlock for it. Nonetheless, I do think it’s a genuine service.

  5. Mr Bones

    I don’t have a problem with the pulpit engaging issues, but politics is far more than single issues. The resources of a religious text may provide a critique of an issue, but when a preacher invokes single issues, or even a multitude of issues to endorse anything political (a candidate or a measure), they have overstepped their domain of expertise and authority. The political treatment of issues is, by necessity, far more than single issues. Take for example Gay marriage, one issue that many preachers used as a rally cry to get out and vote in 2004. By endorsing this one issue, those preachers, whether intentionally or unintentionally, endorsed the complex and intertwined political system that Gay marriage is only a part of. Many, if not most of these other intertwined parts are not within the domain of expertise of theology. In the political sphere gay marriage is not simply a theological issue. A theological critique of gay marriage is fair game. A political endorsement by a preacher of a candidate or bill that supports gay marriage is overreaching one’s theological authority.

  6. First of all, thank you for reading and commenting, Mr. Bones.

    Second, I disagree with your assumption that civics lies outside the realm of theology. Certainly national politics is not the same as exegesis of Lamentations (just to give the first example that comes to mind). That said, a congregation’s teachers by necessity must venture outside of the specialized “departments” that characterize universities’ intellectual lives. To abstain from any “department” because of a lack of specialization already concedes the atomization of knowledge that a university assumes, and as someone who was doing “interdisciplinary” things before actually learning that word, I think that Christians and the Church should at the very least provide an interesting alternative to hyper-specialization.

    Now I agree with you that preachers should be cognizant of the complexity of any given candidate’s platform, and ultimately I (think I implicitly) agree with you that preachers who endorse, ex cathedra, a political candidate, should pay taxes just as other organizations who endorse candidates qua organizations. But I don’t get to that conclusion by conceding that one must be a political scientist to say what the City of God might look like.

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