Preachers aren’t supposed to engage in partisan politicking, but I must confess that I’ve endorsed a presidential candidate. While I haven’t done any politicking from the pulpit or in front of the church sign, or used any church letterhead either, some might think that I’ve crossed the line. I thought long and hard about it, but then I decided to take advantage of a medium that is both public and personal—my own blog, “Ponderings on a Faith Journey.”
I’ve never made such a public confession of my political views before, but then I’ve never had a blog before either. That said, my interest in politics runs deep and traces all the way back to my childhood, so maybe it’s not so surprising that I would do this. In the 1960s, when I was growing up, both of my parents played very active roles in the political process. Their involvement led to my own, so at age 14 I went door to door campaigning for Nixon’s re-election. I’ve never been as involved as I was that year, but my interest in politics has always been strong. Indeed, I rarely pass up an opportunity to engage in a political debate—as long as it doesn’t interfere with my ministry.
As a pastor, I understand that there are significant boundaries we dare not cross, although exactly where the line is drawn isn’t always clear. Perhaps the most important consideration is the community I’m called to lead. Like most congregations, it’s politically diverse, and I know quite well that not everyone shares my political inclinations. Whatever our political differences, however, I’m called to love, care for, and share in ministry even with those who don’t share my political views. So, to become overly political is to risk my effectiveness as a pastor.
The other fence is a legal one. Tax law prohibits direct partisan politicking—that is, if you wish to continue receiving certain tax benefits that are granted religious institutions (provided they stay out of partisan politics). While these laws aren’t regularly or equally enforced, they’re designed to keep church and state from becoming overly entangled in each other’s business. Of course it’s a tradeoff, but not one I’m ready to abandon. So, as a pastor, I address important issues, but I don’t endorse candidates. Yes, there are times when I’d like to be more assertive in pressing my views, but I know the rules, and I agree with them.
While I know and affirm the rules of the game—both written and unwritten—I have chosen to skirt them just a bit and enter the fray. I did consider taking a much more active role in my candidate’s campaign, perhaps as a precinct captain or by making phone calls, but I ended up doing neither of those things. In part this was due to time limitations, an impending move, and just plain laziness. I’ve given some money—not a lot—but mostly I’ve used my blog to support my candidate.
This blog was set up before I decided to make the endorsement, and it has a broader focus than just politics. Through this venue I comment on social, cultural, and political issues. I pontificate about matters theological, social, cultural, and political, review books, and on occasion talk some baseball. Politics are part of the equation, but not the whole thing.
Originally I had linked my blog to the church Web site, but after I decided to wade more deeply into things political I took the first step of de-linking my blog from the church’s site. I then posted a disclaimer on the blog, making it clear that the views displayed there are mine and don’t represent in any official way my congregation, my denomination, or even my family. This became increasingly important as I entered the search and call process of my denomination (I expected that interested congregations would check me out online—and they did—but I still got the call).
In the course of my political adventure, I’ve tried to be fair and discreet with my comments. I’ve kept in mind that I am a pastor and that how I carry myself is a witness to my faith. That doesn’t mean that I’ve not raised questions about the views and positions of various candidates. It doesn’t mean that I’ve not offered criticism where I’ve thought it was warranted. I am a committed supporter, after all. But I understand my role.
Perhaps because I don’t have a congregation full of active Web surfers, I’ve really had no complaints from the membership. Those who know what I’ve written understand that these are my personal views. The only real criticism has come from fellow bloggers—interestingly enough, from bloggers who largely agree with me. They simply believe that a pastor should not enter into partisan politics, even in the manner I’ve chosen. They could be right, but I made the decision to do so and I feel good about it. Now if only my candidate wins the election!