Should Pastors Be IN Politics – a Pan-African Perspective
As the saying goes, “religion and politics are two topics you should never discuss at the dinner table.” But what about when it comes to the pulpit? In recent years, there has been an increasing trend of pastors speaking out about political issues from the pulpit. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? In this blog post, we’ll explore the pros and cons of pastors getting involved in politics.
A Pan-African Perspective
European colonialism transformed Africa in innumerable ways. Driven by the desire to gain resources, save the “savages,” ultimately brought about misery and death. The consequences of colonialism – everything from genocide to resource exploitation, to suppression of cultural identity (bla-bla-bla) – all of which are still felt today, yet many of the lessons of colonialism seem to remain unlearned. Several political scientists practising in the African context attribute the cause of many “State Failures” in Africa to colonialism.
(Listen🔊) While Western imperialism is undoubtedly a constituent of many state failures inside the “dark continent” there remains another significant basis why Africa seems to grapple with progress. Africa’s inability to develop in comparison with other developed continents of the world, despite its human capital and natural resource banks, has evoked lively scholarly discussions.
(🥺) However, it is a critical historical fact that we realise corrupt practices existed in pre-colonial Africa. Many (not all) traditional African leaders were and are still corrupt, independent of colonial influence.
The aim of this article is not the deconstruction of corruption or to trace the elusive source of this African phenomenon. The aim is to demonstrate how our theology orientation remains critical in the social context. To provoke pastors, guide Church leaders and members in principle how together we may address the political leadership catastrophe, corrupt agendas, the antecedent of state failure.
They contest that “corruption is a violation of the rights of what others are morally and legally entitled to in order to enrich oneself”. Corruptiō the Latin etymological derivative, means ‘moral decay, wicked behaviour, putridity or rottenness.’ Sociologist, De Swardt classifies the most significant “victims of corruption are women, children and minority groups – who often suffer corruption’s harshest consequences’.
HAS THE CHURCH LOST ITS EVANGELICAL THRUST?
(❗) Our nation is in trouble, is it plausible for pastors to remain politically passive? A gospel-centred solely around “church growth” ceases to be appropriately evangelical. Much less than a gospel that centres almost singly on prosperity.
True, we must never stray far from the Cross and the blessings in our preaching. However, if we are to give the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), welded-in our message of soul-winning, church growth and “your best life now” theology, we require to show how a thousand other philosophical, and ethical issues are connected to Christ and Him crucified.
It is also a conviction such as it is with numerous socially politically relevant pastors, a minister must recognise and teach his flock the distinction between spiritual and temporal. Moreover, he must ardently also teach how to translate Biblical truth into arguments appropriate to temporal powers and social predicaments.
Teaching good citizenship is a Christian value. Hence the first duty of the parent and Church, not state, remains to teach their children.
(DID YOU KNOW⁉️) On 8 January 1912, hundreds packed into the Waaihoek Wesleyan Church in Bloemfontein, where the ANC began — sounding the anthem “God Bless Africa” and stomping feet before ANC Chaplain General Vukile Mehana began an hour-long service. It was before God in a Church where the founding father’s galvanised a unified political movement that would challenge the exclusion of blacks in South Africa. Among them where Saul Msane, Josiah Gumede, John Dube (a minister of the Gospel) and Sol Plaatje. These distinguished leaders and those who followed were devoted Christians and missionaries, who perceived the Christian philosophy as the only tool to forge freedom, bolster education and embrace civilisation.
BIGGER THAN A CHURCH BUILDING
(REALLY📛) Enormous church facilities, larger growing followings have become the essence of what modern Christianity is besotted with. Perhaps this sentiment is what provoked Thomas Jefferson (the primary author of the Declaration of Independence) in his attempt to bar all clergy from holding public office calling them “intolerant, tyrannical, and ambitious.” Not a far cry from the contemporary reality of the evangelical and mainstream ecclesiastical community, many would argue.
Still, what about matters -such as good and bad Government? Life issues – such as abortion, education, morality, racism, crime, unemployment, femicide, violence against woman, children, poverty, state capture, and corruption. Compared to magnanimity, temperance, justice, prudence, fortitude, and peace we find in good governance?
Are there Biblical policies about pastoral responses for good and bad governances?
PASTORS AND POLITICS
(BRAVO👏🏽) The clergy has played a crucial role in social justice. One of the ultimate examples from American history -the ultimatum which came in 1854, “either abolish slavery or accept it as God’s will” was the exhortation of the brave clergy in the North and South before the civil war. The question of slavery was decided upon because pastors stood on biblical grounds.
(🇺🇸) A century later, some clergy walked side-by-side with Reverend. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his march on Washington in 1963 a civil rights movement changed the political arena of the United States forever. Racial inequality legislatively was permanently crushed because Pastors stood biblical grounds. (Later the clergy was active in the discussion and demonstration on abortion, Vietnam war and other issues).
During the 70’s the “Bully Pulpit” a seminal work by several political clergy, was considered one of the definitive social scientific works on pastoral politics. In this model, the authors use several words to explain their conception.
🚩Theology is “the relationship between the Divine and humanity’s relationship with God.
🚩Social theology relates to “biblical ethics in relationship to public affairs.”
From these, we can arrive at a conceptual model of political goals and activities. A pastor’s theological orientation is critical in the social context. Nothing affects more how a pastor views politics, or their political activities more than his theology. His worldview and conviction about social injustice is all shaped by his theology.
🏳️🌈 For instance, “liberal” theologists, may accept whatever law the state passes, even a contradiction of Divine Law. Abortion or same-sex marriage is unbiblical, but the modernist believes “the state is appointed by God, my duty is to pray…”
💒On the contrary “conservative” theologists, believe the Hand of God places governments into seats of authority, and likewise removes them.
Furthermore, their governmental function is to serve the Will of God to the people. These two theological views predispose pastors to their political persuasions or agendas.
(⁉️) A pastor can have a megachurch of many thousands, a vision for social relevance and still hold no actual authority at the local, provincial or national level. His specific theological orientation predisposes him to a certain social, theological role for the Church in society.
It is also critical to understand being theologically political is not wrong for a pastor. The error is in partisanship. When a pastor endorses a single candidate or political party from the pulpit this is an extreme error. The Church is not a political force, but a Spiritual force that influences politics. If a pastor invites one political party to speak in his pulpit, similarly he must invite all other interested parties who accept.
Pastors can exist in a political trinity. As a citizen, as a religious professional or as a leader of an important institution (Guth et al. Bully Pulpit, 19.) This political trinity decides his involvement and congregants should understand and support him, particularly if there is a call of God to be vocal and, or involved politically.
A constitutional scholar identified four misconceptions about what a pastor can and can not do concerning politics and elections, and explained exactly what pastors can do:
1️⃣ Pastors can talk about any political issue, such as abortion, immigration, or freedom of speech.
2️⃣ Pastors can educate their people, encourage them to register and vote, and pass out non-partisan voter guides.
3️⃣Pastors can have candidates speak in their Church, so long as they extend the invitation to all
4️⃣Pastors can individually participate in the campaign of someone who is running for office.
No one has ever successfully prevented a pastor from doing any of the above four things.
A CALL TO ACTION
👤Do you agree with a social theological approach to South Africa’s political incoherence?
👤Do you serve or know a pastor or spiritual leader who may be interested in a Pastor 4 Justice movement?
👤Do you believe it is time for the Church to hold its public servants accountable?
👤Do you believe it is time for the regeneration of our debased moral fibre as a nation?
👤Do you believe it is time to move South Africa forward?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, please be proactive. “Like” and “Share” this article with as many people as possible. It is also essential to tag any clerical personal (ministers of the Gospel).
Who knows what God will do❓
God Bless Africa!
Pastor Shan Thumbran