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Question of the day

Thursday, Apr 27, 2006

Mary Mitchell writes this morning:

Should pastors serve as elected officials? […]

Frankly, the days of the preacher/politician are numbered. They should be.

It is the preacher’s job to preach the gospel and bring unbelievers into the church. Unfortunately, sometimes the actions of the politician/preacher make the preacher/ politician’s job that much harder.

Read her column and tell me what you think about this topic.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


26 Comments
  1. - wndycty - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 6:41 am:

    There are nothing wrong with pastors serving as elected officials, however I belief that when they become an elected official they should take a leave of absence from their church. If I were a member of church where the pastor were an elected official I would be concerned about how the congregation might suffer when his or her duties as an elected official conflicted whith his or her duties as a member of the clergy.


  2. - Jim Mowen - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 6:55 am:

    Why on earth would a pastor be any different from any other citizen. Talk about discrimination! When we expect all people to take a leave of absence from their jobs to serve, then we need to ask pastors as well.

    Goodness, wouldn’t it just be terible to have people serving our State and Country that have (1) morals, (2) ethics, and (3) a servants heart. Assuming that a specific pastor has these qualities - bring them forward!


  3. - Anonymous - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 7:13 am:

    for you youngins out there, African American churches and their pastors were at the forefront of the civil rights movement due to the influence
    and access they provided to Dr. King. The local parish in Black neighborhoods is a source of empowerment spiritual, social, and economic. In case you haven’t noticed, it aint easy accessing the powerful and influential if you are a minority. I say Rev/Sen Meeks is doing the good work, UNLESS he is personally profitting (read:lining his pockets)with the proceeds from his massive congregation, or mixing up the coffers…


  4. - diane - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 7:24 am:

    At the beginnings of the American republic, this point of view was common and there was much debate over whether or not clergy should even be allowed to vote, so Miller has some historic precedent behind her opinion.

    Around the time of Jefferson’s presidency the church/state issue became heated between the republicans who demanded separation and the federalists who supported a union of church and state. Abraham Bishop wrote, “The clerical politician is an useless preacher; the political Christian is a dangerous statesman.”


  5. - CanI Getanamen - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 7:41 am:

    Ever been to one of these prayer breakfasts? Where all the ministers and holy men gather? The parking lot looks like a Lexus and Mercedes dealership. provided by their adoring flocks.

    What would Jesus drive?


  6. - Jim Mowen - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 8:14 am:

    CanIGetanamen, I expect that you do not hang around too many pastors/ clergy…nice cars at prayer breakfasts likely are driven by the businesspeople that attend. I know countless clergy and none that drive expensive cars - while at the same time a number of them are more capable of running a successful business than most successful businessmen. All-in-all (although there are a few charlitans, as in any profession) these people are truely sacraficing to do what they do.


  7. - Backyard Conservative - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 8:46 am:

    I don’t see a problem with it. What about the idea of a citizen legislator? Democrats are trying to drive religion and the founder values out of the public sqare. What surprises me about Rev/Sen. Meeks is that he does not advocate more faith-based solutions to some of these problems. And sadly, so far he has not shown real leadership on education:

    http://backyardconservative.blogspot.com/
    2006/04/meeks-leverage.html


  8. - Bill Baar - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 8:56 am:

    Nothing wrong from the public perspective. It’s their right as citizens.

    I don’t think they do their Churches any favors though… in the long run… Rush’s seems to do fine with him in Congress… but it’s not good for a Church. John Paul was right to tell Father Drinan to quit.


  9. - Levois - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 9:06 am:

    I’m not comfortable with it. I suppose though that the only reason they seek an elected office because no one else is able or willing to step up to the plate. That or whoever was already in office isn’t doing their job.


  10. - Daniel Darling - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 9:36 am:

    Pastors should not be kept from holiding public office and I think this has firm foundation in both religious and political thought.

    A pastor is someone who is generally a trusted member of the community who has hundreds of people who look to him for spiritual guidance. So why shouldn’t a pastor weigh in on the important issues of the day and why shouldn’t a pastor be someone, who fills the call of civic leadership if duty requires it?

    We always complain about the lack of good people in politics (a over-generalized and unfair perspective), so why not have some of the most trusted leaders in the community, step up and lead?

    Furthermore, pastors have real-world management and leadership experience. Pastors always scrutinized by boards and by their congregation. They are used the pressure of public office. They also have to get things done, have to managed budgets and multiple personalities. They are often gifted at public speaking and have to be organized in thought and quick on their feet.

    I don’t understand why every interest group and segment of American society is allowed to have a voice and yet Christians should be silenced, simply because of their faith. Our faith is the very fuel that drives us to speak out on issues of importance.

    Does that mean pastors should make Sunday just another Republican or Democratic rally? No, but that’s not for the state to decide. That’s for people of faith to decide. The church should be a lighthouse in the community, a beacon of hope.

    But it should also be a force for good.


  11. - Cynthia - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 10:16 am:

    No! I think this is part of the problem in the Black community. You have people for the most part, may know something about the bible, but are ill equip to go up against many people who have studied politics and/or law or other fields. Most will not agree to this but those who study and preach the bible are all to often one dimensional in their thoughts and are easily manipulated.


  12. - Anon - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 10:18 am:

    There should be nothing that legislates pastors from serving in elective or appointed office.

    Churches are already prohibited from endorsing candidates and ballot measures if they want to keep their tax exempt status. Congregations should take great care in selecting pastors lest they choose a pastor who endorses from the pulpit and suffer dire financial consequences.

    All government officials should be mindful of personal, professional, vocational and avocational conflicts. Why should pastors be singled out? Maybe we need MORE pastors in office.

    Great comments all around. thank you.


  13. - Wumpus - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 11:01 am:

    Cynthia, while I am not for a 100% clergy/legislature. As I said before, most pastors hold other jobs. People who have studied law know how to evade it and manipulate it. People who have studied politics, know how to make the system work for them. How can anyone be more naimupllated than our current politicians who will do anything for a donation. Many of them are lawyers who are one dimensional and discuss things like budgets, education, healthcare, etc. I am sure there are a few black pastors who are smart enough to speak on more than the bible. There may even be some lawyers who are also preachers…gasp!


  14. - VanillaMan - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 11:44 am:

    For forty years we have been seeing politicians and preachers using church pulpits for political power. I remember well when in 1976, both Carter and Ford campaigned their born-again Christian beliefs after Watergate. These presidents were not attacked because of this. Jimmy Carter taught a Bible class while president, and has written books about his religious beliefs. Bill Clinton held his Bible close to his chest in every Sunday photo shoot, while president. As a Democratic candidate, you saw Clinton singing in choir robes on TV when he was running in Arkansas. The Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton ran for president. Jackson was strongly considered for a VP slot with Michael Dukakis in 1988. How many times will we see Blagojevich behind a pulpit, using tax money to rebuild churches, promoting his political agenda?

    Why are we hearing complaints about this now?

    The reason is politics. The Democratic party used churches when it benefitted them. Now that the Republicans have learned the game and are the majority party, the Democrats are denouncing it.

    Mary Mitchell’s column confirms this. She uses the Rush scandal, then discusses how Meeks troubled her once he started courting Republicans. If Meeks was OK until then, why does it bother her when he reaches out to the GOP? Because she has a double standard.

    The blathering against church leaders serving as elected representatives is a facade. These questioners are actually bothered that churches are no longer in their hip pocket politically. The only exception being black churches. Meeks is an independant leader willing to consider ideas outside the Democratic party. Thats why Mary Mitchell is so troubled.


  15. - phocion - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 12:09 pm:

    Typical hypocricy of Mary Mitchell. She’s so far up Blago’s anal cavity that she needs a flashlight. Too bad for her she can never find batteries for her dim bulb that she calls a brain.

    How much is Blago paying her to write this type of tripe?

    Meeks is exercising his rights as a citizen. Period. That Blago is an untrustworthy, negative, divisive, slick politician that has broken every promise is well known. Meeks offers another way for his constituency.

    Mitchell can walk off the cliff with Blago all she wants. Just don’t make up reasons why others shouldn’t be able to challenge the incumbent.

    Time to use Mitchell’s column to clean up in the bathroom - where it belongs.


  16. - The original Bill - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 12:27 pm:

    “… that the Republicans have learned the game and are the majority party…”
    Not in this state, dude!


  17. - Six Degrees of Separation - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 12:50 pm:

    This topic begets a question of mine. We hear the term “reality based” being used to distinguish a group of people, often left-leaning or progressive, from the conservatives or so called “neo-cons”, who often wear their faith on their sleeve or try to use it to advance their agenda. Is a member of the “reality based” community necessarily atheist or agnostic, or can one be “reality based” and a peson of religious faith at the same time?


  18. - Jon Musgrave - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 1:11 pm:

    I’m not taking a position on a possible Meeks candidacy here, but the debate whether preachers should be politicians is as old as the state itself.

    Back in the 1820s the slave-holding political class (yes, it did exist in Illinois) didn’t take too kindly to preachers such as James Lemen and John Mason Peck who rose in prominence as anti-slavery advocates during the push for a new constitutional convention designed to allow the full legalization of slavery in the state.

    The state’s first constitution prohibited religious tests for public officials. A politician’s religious beliefs and public lifestyle are an important part of a character profile that voters should consider.

    Hypocrites beware though. Pastors face a high hurdle anyway in their public actions. Pastors who are also politicians face an even higher one.


  19. - Stan the man - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 1:12 pm:

    No, especially when they’re putting their own vanity (meeks) before the God they profess to speak for.


  20. - Moses - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 1:31 pm:

    I AM THE LORD THY GOD, THOU SHALT NOT HAVE strange gods BEFORE ME.


  21. - Team Sleep - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 2:35 pm:

    Holy crap! A citizen legislature? Bonus points.

    Vanilla Man is correct. When Bush was campaigning in 2004, the press ripped him a new one and said that he should not bring his beliefs into the public forum. At the same time, John Kerry was going around to black churches, using the bully pulpit to tear into Bush and the Republicans. It was complete hypocrisy on the part of the press. White conservative evangelicals deserve the right to use the bully pulpit for their advantage. Do I always agree with it? No, but they should not be held to a different standard.

    Pastors are professionals just like lawyers, doctors and car salesman. They have ideas and goals and if the electorate wants to put a minister into office so be it. My brother is studying to be a minister, and he has a nose for public service. I happen to think he would make a good public servant, but if pastors were unable to run I would be upset that some of the most honest and ethical people in our society were disallowed entry into the democratic process. Why aren’t lawyers in question? Or insurance agents? If I work for State Farm and run for office, couldn’t I give prospective clients a break in hopes for votes? It’s a never-ending web of ridiculousness.

    As for CanIGetA, any profession can be that way. Pastors can drive nice cars because if that’s what they want to spend their money on so be it. My old family doctor drove a beat up VW. A friend of mine who makes less than I do (which isn’t much) drives a brand new Mazda M6. He must be stealing from work! I know that’s cynical, but if church members continue to give and give and never ask for oversight you can’t just point a finger at the minister.


  22. - Joseph Grigoletti - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 3:31 pm:

    Pastors are guarenteed the same rights as everybody else. They have the legal right to run, as long as you are not arguing for a law I can tollerate your oppinion. What about Rabbi’s also? What about Priests? Why did you single out Christianity?


  23. - Peter - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 4:18 pm:

    Two points:

    First, I think this an issue where African-Americans and whites differ, i.e., the role of politics in the church. I am white and frankly cringe when I hear too much political bias coming from the pulpit. Whereas when I was down at Rev. Meeks’ church he had a candidate for office speak that Sunday.

    Second, I like the idea suggested above regarding a leave of absence if a pastor runs for office. As a proud Bible-thumper myself, I think the gospel message is constantly undermined by political bias, particularly this supposed tie between evangelical Christians and the GOP. I attend a large megachurch in the northwest ‘burbs and our senior pastor was part of this group that Karl Rove was reaching out to and inviting to the White House. And then we had to hear the Bush party line every Sunday and chatter about the tone at the White House immediately before the ‘04 election.


  24. - Southern Illinoisian - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 4:40 pm:

    If you read the article, she really doesn’t say that pastors shouldn’t run, they just need to be careful. I’d agree with that.

    But, the best quote was:

    “politics and religion are such opposites”

    ROFL. Stop, it hurts.

    Politics IS a religion. It’s all about free money (taxes are to politics as tithes are to religions). That’s why many church leaders are successful politicians, they are skilled at getting people to give them money for no good reason.


  25. - Anonymous - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 8:53 pm:

    Diane,

    Can you please cite a reference for the claim that in the founding days of the Republic there was an argument concerning whether pastors would be allowed to vote?

    Thank you.


  26. - diane - Friday, Apr 28, 06 @ 7:07 am:

    Anonymous 8:53, The book, Separation of Church and State by Philip Hamburger has an interesting chapter detailing much of the early 19th century debate over what rights clergy should or should not have in American political society. In the forefront of the belief that clergy should stay totally out of the politcal realm was Abraham Bishop, a Republican polemicist who argued that although “the partisanship of ministers was ’strictly legal’ it was not a right they could appropriately exercise.” Chapter 5


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