A New York Times article draws attention to recent legislation introduced by house Republicans to make it easier for churches to support political candidates. This is, of course, a red-hot political issue. It already has raised the ire of Democrats and other groups:
Although its chances of enactment are uncertain, Democrats and other critics of the proposal argue that its timing suggests that Republicans are trying to bend the tax rules in time to help the president’s re-election campaign.
Last week, an effort by the campaign to enlist members of “friendly congregations” in distributing campaign information at their places of worship came to light in the form of a message e-mailed to some members of the clergy and other people in Pennsylvania, and legal experts warned that any implicit endorsement of one candidate over another could jeopardize a religious group’s tax-exempt status.
The left-wing Americans United for Separation of Church and State has also raised concerns, which I find ironic. Why would a group that ostensibly fights for the separation of church and state be supportive of goverment (a.k.a. the state) suppressing the speech of churches?
I think that churches should not be hampered by the government in their speech, be it political or whatever. If Christians are to filter all of life through a biblical worldview, politics must come under scrutiny as well.
That said, I do not think that churches should endorse particular candidates–especially candidates who are not members of the particular church. When a church attaches its name to a particular individual, there is always the very likely danger that this individual will fail, thereby tarnishing the image of the church.
Churches should instead endorse ideas and policies that are compatible with a Christian worldview. This way, if the politician fails, the church can still stand behind the ideas. Besides, endorsement of Christian churches should fall upon only one individual: its cornerstone, Jesus Christ. He alone should be offered to the outside world as hope for a fallen world, and he alone is worthy of such endorsement.