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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

God in the Booth

Every time an election rolls around—federal or otherwise—I get a few questions and comments from people at the church regarding our stance on politics or, perhaps more accurately, our non-stance.

There are some that really want us to be the kind of leaders that stand up and stick-it-to-the-man. They want us to address the issues, speak out against abortion, talk about candidates we support, etc.

A little while back, I walked out into the parking lot to catch a breath of fresh air after a song set at Westwinds and noticed every car in the parking lot was plastered with fliers with a picture of an aborted fetus and an urge to vote pro-life. I spent 20 minutes running through the parking lot with a couple of others to gather them up for the recycling bin. Not because I'm not pro-life but because the fliers were extremely tacky and no one asked permission. Didn't want anyone thinking we actually arranged for the parking lot littering.

Last weekend, I walked out of the auditorium to find stacks of “non-partisan” voter guides. Of course, they were from the Michigan Family Forum, which is doing some honorable things, but the guide is certainly not non-partisan. Recycling bin.

I had a quick conversation with a woman in the lobby who saw me gathering the guides. She asked, “don’t you want to encourage people to vote?”

Yes, we want to encourage everyone to vote. We encourage our staff to do so. We will encourage our congregation to do so.

There are many reasons why Westwinds does not get its politic on. Quite frankly, I am not interested in the lengthy conversations and smack talk that we would be opening ourselves up to. But, most every time I share what I just said with the political go-getters at church it never appeases them. And then comes the smack talk.

If you are looking for language to use in order to explain to your people why you aren’t donning an elephant or a donkey or a moose or a hawk or a sunflower or Lady Liberty or a spider or a marijuana leaf, start here . . .

Here are a couple of things everyone at Westwinds should know (and your church as well).

  • It’s not our role. Taking a political stance for any candidate or policy that good Christian men and women line up on both sides of is not our job as pastors. Some will want to make a case for praying that God will “go into the voting booth with every person” so they make the “right choice” for president (an actual quote I heard this week). But, that is preposterous. We would be hard-pressed to articulate a biblical politic that can be stamped on the USA and I’m sure if we did the results would surprise many (I don’t know if you knew this but the USA isn’t God’s number one priority). Pastors can certainly speak to issues of the value of life, sexuality, the poor, and many of the issues that are talked about in the political arena but we believe endorsing a candidate is an abuse of our power.
  • Though there have been very few cataclysmic instances where this was enforced, it is against the law for any church or 501 (c)(3) organization to endorse or oppose specific candidates. Therefore, voting guides and pamphlets that even hint at a partisan endorsement are a violation and put that church at risk for investigation. To read more about Charities, Churches, and Politics go to

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