Pastors Don’t Have to Become Politicians to Influence a Nation’s Direction; They Already Hold Public Office

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A friend is encouraging pastors to run for political office. Like everyone, he’s worried about America’s future, and he’d like to see more experienced Christian leaders in public office. It’s a good ol’ American tradition that goes back to the Founding, and it will bear fruit and frustration, generate success and cynicism, in roughly equal measure.

However effective his campaign is, it’s a strategic error and perhaps reflects a theological mistake. The premise seems to be that pastors must become politicians to influence the nation’s direction, and that in turn suggests that the power of civil institutions is the greater than all others. The plan to push pastors toward politics seems to arise from the secular mentality that my friend so ardently opposes.

As pastors, pastors command unfathomable spiritual resources, the only resources with potential to transform the world. What Samuel Wells has said about the Church applies to pastors in particular: God gives “boundless gifts,” supplies “everything they need.” Love, joy, peace, and hope become flesh “through the practices of the Church: witness, catechesis, baptism, prayer, friendship, hospitality, admonition, penance, confession, praise, reading scripture, preaching, sharing peace, sharing food, washing feet. These are boundless gifts of God.” The pastor’s problem is not scarcity but excess: “God’s inexhaustible creation, limitless grace, relentless mercy, enduring purpose, fathomless love: it is just too much to contemplate, assimilate, understand.”

Pastors look for alternatives when they lose confidence in the tools of their trade. How many pastors believe they are stewards of the mysteries of God? Do we act as if our preaching participates by the Spirit in the creating and re-creating eternal Word? Do we believe that the Word is a weapon of the Spirit, as Hebrews says it is? Are we persuaded that the water we pour does wonders, or that a little ritual meal forms the social body of the incarnate Son of God, the assembly of God among the nations? Do we believe that the God with ears to hear is judge of the nations?

Do we play it safe by limiting the effectiveness of word and sacrament to a “spiritual” realm? How many pastors have forgotten that they already hold public office?

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SOURCE: First Things
Peter J. Leithart

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