April 11, 2016

Gallup Poll Shows Christians Desire Political and Ethical Teaching

As we approach the 2016 US presidential elections, there is a lot of mudslinging and ethical illiteracy on display by all the political candidates. Political positions on torture, fetal harvesting, unprovoked war, the loss of basic rights and corporate lobbyist corruption are as astounding as they are disappointing. This ethical illiteracy is representative of the entire country, including many Christians and leaders in the Church. In any event, it's understandable why Christians would welcome some teaching and dialogue on critical ethical and political subjects these days. But based on a recent Gallup poll, they aren't getting enough of this from their churches and pastors. Six political subjects are highlighted in the “God's People Want to Know” poll summary, archived at Wall Builders. Reasons why pastors resist political subjects are described later in this post:

A majority of the survey respondents said it is “extremely important” for their pastor to preach or teach the congregation about the following issues:
Issues of Interest to Conservative Voters
 Abortion 71%
 Religious persecution 61%
 Sexual identity 56%
 Israel 54%
 Poverty 54%
 Cultural restoration 53%  

While it's important to dialogue and understand the strong ethical and biblical positions on these subjects, there's also a need to pray for humility and to seek a non-judgmental approach by the power of the Spirit, to retain the compassion of Christ in all that we say and do. Phil Zuckerman, a sociology professor, has claimed that political campaigning against same-sex marriage “is turning off so many people from Christianity.” People can be turned off from Christianity based on the message or based on the messenger. Some divisive secularists like to highlight the Westboro Baptist Church picketers as some type of example of Christian politics in actions, when in reality most Christians do not in any way support the messages they present and the “God hates gays” signs do not have a valid biblical basis.

Christians Should Learn the Logical Strength of Their Ethical Positions

Secular moral relativism has numerous fatal flaws that Christians should be aware of. And of all people, Christians today have an opportunity to understand the logical strength of Christian ethical positions. But there simply isn't very much teaching on these subjects in churches, if at all. Because of the rich apologetic heritage and examples being developed by scholars such as William Lane Craig, there are tools and opportunities allowing Christians today to dialogue and debate with people on the basis of interesting philosophical concepts, such as ethical justification. People who would never enter a church could very well be interested in discussing a valid philosophical basis of ethics, for example.

Many Pastors Resist Politics for Tax Reasons
Many US pastors remain silent on politics and ethics due to a  fear of losing their non-profit status and potentially losing a lot of donations to their church. This is an apparent 501c.3 dilemma. This IRS incorporation code technically prohibits pastors from taking any political position and brings a fear of even mentioning politics and ethics in the pulpit. For this reason some churches have not applied for- or have revoked their status quo 501c.3 tax status. Consult with your attorney first of course, but consider the possibility that your perception of constitutional church law is not properly grounded. If you are a pastor and you feel restricted from commenting on ethical and cultural issues in your own church and from your own pulpit, then in what manner do you retain "the free exercise" of your religion? You have in a sense become blackmailed into political silence if you fear speaking out on important cultural subjects.
The First Amendment to the US Constitution states:

“Congress shall make NO law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
"Every organization exempt from federal income tax under Internal Revenue Code section 501(a) must file an annual information return except:
  1. A church, an interchurch organization of local units of a church, a convention or association of churches,”

    “In addition, because churches and certain other religious organizations are not required to file an annual return or notice with the IRS, they are not subject to automatic revocation of exemption for failure to file.
Newton Stein offers that it is possible to start a church legally in the US without 501c.3 status.

"Whether or not a church or church ministry applies for and receives a “501c3 tax-exempt recognition letter” from the IRS, any contributions made to a church are “automatically qualified” as a tax write-off to the contributor, pursuant to IRS Publication 526, and IRS Code § 170(c)(2)(B). A church does not have to be a "nonprofit charitable organization" to be tax deductible, nor does it need IRS authorization to be tax deductible. According to the IRS, churches have that status “automatically.”

Posted by Rick Warden

Tags: ethical illiteracy in the US presidential candidates, politics and religion, apologetics and politics, church silent on politics and ethics, 501c.3 blackmail, churches and taxes, US pastors blackmailed by 
501c3 tax-exempt incorporation 

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