Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Reverend Mr. President

Is there anything biblically wrong with the title above? To hear much of evangelical Christianity today, you wouldn't think so. In fact, you'd think that was the greatest good that could happen to our country today. While I don't think it would be bad for our country, necessarily, to have a pastor as a President [in fact, unless I'm mistaken several past Presidents were also ministers], I do believe that to view the President as a Pastor is bad for both the Church and the country.

Church and State are two entirely different institutions. Both have been ordained by God, but for very different purposes. The job of the State is to protect the lives and liberties of the people, and to punish wrongdoers. It can be called God's arm of vengeance on earth. Speaking of the "powers that be," the Bible says,
"he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil." (Romans 13:4)
God has a completely different agenda for the Church:
"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." (Matthew 28: 19 - 20)
Jesus also calls us the Salt and Light of the world, exhorting us to let our light shine, for the glory of the Father. He referred to Himself as the One who fulfilled the prophecy, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord." (Luke 4: 18 - 19) He did these, "leaving us an example, that [we] should follow his steps." (1 Peter 2:21) The Church can be called God's arm of mercy on earth.

The Church is not authorized-indeed it is forbidden-to usurp the authority of the State.
"Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12: 19 - 21)
The State demands justice; the Church offers mercy. The State is required to exact vengeance; we are commanded to forgive. The State "bears not the sword in vain;" we are commanded to "put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword." (Matthew 26: 52) The State is part of the "kingdoms of this world;" we are of the "kingdom of heaven."

Most evangelicals agree that (at least in some cases) it would be bad for the State to interfere in the Church, and history provides us with ample support of that view. At the same time, they demand the right for the Church to dictate to the State. Perhaps nowhere is that more obvious than in the "religious Right's" criteria for presidential candidates. Anyone hoping to receive their votes must meet the strictest standards for beliefs in certain areas-or at least they must profess to. This is a very unreasonable, not to mention unconstitutional, requirement, as Cal Thomas points out in his December 13 column, "The Faith Factor."1
"This election should be more about competence and less about ideology, or even faith. It shouldn’t matter where — or if — a candidate goes to church, but whether he (or she) can run the country well."
He points out that those "who require statements of faith from presidential candidates risk disappointment," as history repeatedly bears out. In addition, by attempting to use political power to enforce their beliefs, "They exchanged real power and its ability to transform lives for temporal power, which changes little of lasting importance."

As Chuck Baldwin bluntly states, "The federal government cannot do the church's job."2 In his article, titled "Government Cannot Do Church's Job," he bemoans the fact that the Church is woefully neglecting its duty, then expecting the State to take up the slack.
"Therefore, instead of doing the hard work of teaching and disciplining our children, we look to Uncle Sam to straighten out our rebellious kids. Instead of preaching the hard messages of truth from our pulpits, churches expect Uncle Sam to straighten out (through the power of law) all those "bad" people out there. Instead of taking personal responsibility for our own health and livelihood, we expect Uncle Sam to be our provider and protector."


Let's tell it like it is: America is fast losing its moral compass because our families and churches are not doing their respective jobs. And the problem is, when families and churches fail, there is no Plan B. That is, not without the loss of freedom and independence."
"because everything [the federal government] does is at the expense of something else. The only wealth it has is what it confiscates from someone else. The only power it has is what it steals from someone else. The only 'services' it provides are at the expense of someone else. This is why our country's founding documents state that the federal government's role was to be very limited and narrowly defined."
When we as a church neglect our duties and fail to carry out our commission, our responsibilities, we cannot look to political figures to do our jobs for us, no matter what their statement of faith may be. By asking the State to help us in our responsibilities, we not only neglect our own duties, we ask the State to overstep its God-ordained bounds. But the two institutions cannot be combined with good results. "Pastor President" is an unholy alliance that is not good for either the church, or for politics. Only the Church can do the Church's job. Brothers and Sisters, we have a job to do. Let's get busy!

1. Cal Thomas, "The Faith Factor", 12-13-2007,

2. Chuck Baldwin, "Government Cannot Do Church's Job", 12-11-2007,

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