Thursday, May 11, 2017

Not So Sweet Hour of Prayer in Washington

photo by Chuck Coker / flickr

Once in a while I just have too stand up and scream: "No...No...No." This is one of those days. At the National Prayer Breakfast last week President Trump signed a new executive order with a flourish. Under the banner of freedom for religion (Christianity, of course) and protection of free speech in the pulpit--he tried to dismantle the Johnson Amendment of 1954 saying we should give preachers and all non-profits the freedom to support any political candidate without the IRS breathing down our necks.

He has added to his list of terrible executive orders. Why? I thought you were supposed to pray at the Prayer Breakfast. Oh, I know every President has used religion from one time or another for their own purposes. But this action is terribly divisive.

No Preacher should stand in the pulpit and tell people how to vote. I can just hear it now: "God has led me to tell you who you should vote for..." Or: "Surely it is God's will  for (fill in the blank) to be elected President. " What if God's candidate loses? Is God dead or did he/she just make a wrong choice.

In every church I ever served I looked out on a collection of Democrats and Republicans. Of late--I have looked out at more Republicans than Democrats out there. Somebody asked a preacher if her church was Democrat or Republican.  She replied: "Depends on which side of the altar you're talking about." Yep. But to stand behind the sacred desk and tell your people who to vote for is flat out heresy. Your people have brains. And if somebody out there is not on "God's side"--he or she is liable to run you out of town on a rail--and should.

Old time Baptists from the beginning knew church and state should be separate. After living
photo by Kathy Drasky / flickr
under the domination of a king that was head of God's church and only rubber stamp those he approved to preach-what they should preach--and how their services should be ordered--Non-conformists and many Baptists shook their heads. And they fled England and Holland for a new land. Hoping to be free from the strictures of a governmental-run church. But when they got here the Established Church has got here first and was doing the same thing the Baptists and others had fled from. They thought. But there were a multitude here that believed monarchy was the only way to go. So many of the preachers were locked up in jails. Many were hounded out of town. Roger Williams founded the free state of Rhode Island to escape this wedding of church and state. They wanted to make George Washington king but he was wise enough to know this would be foolish. Maybe the President should read his history.

The State has no bid-ness telling the church what it should do. And the church should be free to address the state on any issue--but  when it comes to elections--we are not to be the Republican or Democratic Party at prayer. God is not on either side. The very first amendment to the Constitution stated it clearly: "Congress should make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."

The church ought to be free to speak truth to power. This cannot happen when church and state get into bed together. You might want to read Jeremy Peters' take on Mr. Trump's efforts to abandon this church and state amendment He wrote this for the "failing"New York Times.  

photo by Craig T / flickr

--Roger Lovette /

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