Why are churches and pastors hesitant to dive into politics and social issues from the pulpit?

I use the word “hesitant” vs. afraid which was my first choice in titling this article. I changed it after having quite a few conversations with pastors to get their views on social issues facing us today, politics, the election and the church.

I was drawn to this issue for multiple reasons. For one, as a man of faith who is very active in church life, this issue is of importance to me. Secondly, as a man who is “graduate seminary” trained and one who’s active in political circles, one can see how this type of issue intersects with many of my activities. I personally have some strong views and convictions on many social and political issues facing our nation today. I had to remove my logical and rational self from these discussions. This was done to prevent my analysis from a biblical, social and political perspective in clouding my judgement, in what I deem to be right and wrong behavior by those I interviewed.

I share what I uncovered in my discussions with liberal, moderate and conservative white, brown and black pastors, men and women without judgment. As all have their own realties and circles they are accountable too.

The pastors I spoke with, for the most part , are in full-time ministry or various ministry work provided most of their compensation. Although, some have secular jobs that provide some additional income.

Here are some questions I asked and summary of responses.

Question: What issues happening in society today concern you the most? Some of these items were a major concern. There are in no particular order.

Freedom of religion
Religious liberty being restricted
National debt
Cancel Culture targeting those that disagree
Civil Unrest
Legacy=What do I leave my children (country in a bad state)
Hyper partisanship
Low trust in institutions (government, media)

Question: Are you a single issue voter?
Most said they were a single issue voter. As an example, a candidate that supports abortion may not get their vote. But if a candidate supports many policies that affect the masses and abortion is the only major drawback for that candidate, some said they would vote for them.

Question: Are you afraid, fearful and hesitant to share your views on social issues and politics from the pulpit.
Most responded they had some concerns of sharing their views on political parties, candidates, BLM, ANTIFA etc. One of the main concerns was offending members or visitors who may not agree. Their views may have the collateral affect of people leaving these churches and would affect giving and potentially their livelihoods. Another concern was they would be targeted by the “cancel culture” crowd. The church would be the target, themselves or their families could be targeted. Jobs could be lost or people can be harmed.

Although, the pastors shared with me in confidence that they have views on many issues facing the US today, they are hesitant to share them, directly. Some do take a different route and use scripture and a teaching approach on hot button issues. As an example, they will go around the periphery of an issue. Like this: How would Jesus deal with people that disagree with him and get angry and act out? Pastors would tie that into BLM protestors that damage property and take away the livelihoods of people. Not a direct condemnation, but connecting the dots type of approach. Hoping members make the connection.

Question: Do you think the church is still respected and has any authority in these difficult times?
God has been removed from the public square. But God is still in control. Although, the Trump administration has made great strides via policy initiatives to protect the interest of churches and our Christian values, many people are not connected to God and the church as one would expect. Therefore, the respect for the church is diminishing. We are becoming more of a secular nation and it’s a daily battle. There is no “one source” of accountability in the church or the nation, many members and pastors are doing their own thing. This behavior may not align with biblical values. The moral foundation of the country is under attack, from traditional marriage to acknowledging multiple genders and allowing infanticide, are on trial in the public square. One pastor shared that instead of highlighting darkness from the pulpit on these social issues, he tries to shine the light of Christ in the midst of the darkness.

The general sentiment I was given by those that I interviewed is they are concerned the path we are going down as a country. The tribalization of people is spreading and opposing views on any issue is seen as an opportunity for an attack The lack of a moral a compass that aligns with biblical values is concerning, as is a lack of accountability on multiple fronts. This is true for liberals, moderates and conservatives, as they will disagree what constitutes the compass for the measurement of right and wrong. Many would like to speak up more on hot button topics, but feel restricted due to inside and outside pressures. This applies to both liberals, moderates and conservatives. They have relegated themselves to touch on these issues lightly, when able to do so and on the periphery. Praying that God and the Holy Spirit provides understanding and enlightenment to those listening so they may act according to scripture, as they may see it.

Here’s another good resource I found that was helpful and had similar findings.

Thanks to all who participated. Your trust and confidence in sharing your heart during this process was rewarding, refreshing and insightful. I’m grateful.

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