“Congress is full of crooks because the pulpits are full of cowards.”
So read a sign in a Montana town on September 3, 2013, as reported by Peter Brown of WesternJournalism.com. The language is harsh but the message is clear: religious leaders need to speak up about morality in government and obedience to constitutional law. As keepers of the nation’s moral lighthouse, they can spotlight the rocky shoals of disobedience to divinely established civil principles. Their collective voice is needed, wanted and missed. While their role to foster moral strength is widely understood, their opportunity to teach civic strength is all but forgotten.
It was not always so. During the Revolutionary War, pastors led the fight for freedom and lent their pulpits to liberty’s song. Patriotic ministers knew religious freedom hinged on political freedom. Without God’s help, they had little chance for either. They preached independence from the pulpit and repentance as a war strategy. The colonists contributed their Widow’s Mite and God answered with miracles such as the fortifications of Dorchester Hill in the Battle of Boston, the miraculous fogs of the battle for Long Island, and the successful surprise attack on Trenton.
Some colonial ministers joined the war effort and took their followers into battle. One, Peter Muhlenberg of Virginia preached his last Sunday sermon, cast off his clerical robes to reveal his colonel’s uniform beneath, and thundered: “Now is the time to fight!” The three hundred men who followed him became the famed 8th Virginia Regiment. Muhlenberg became a brigadier general and ultimately led Washington’s light infantry brigade.
Just as colonial ministers plied their craft for freedom, we need such ministers today. We have the modern example of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr, who led from the pulpit to win equality for African Americans in America. Current religious leaders, fearful of losing their tax-exempt status, have been hushed. The fury of special interest groups, bent on success through bullying, has pounded silence into those who occupy modern pulpits. Fear of a government that holds religious protections in contempt has further stolen their voices. Political correctness also mutes the preacher’s sermon—it’s difficult to teach right and wrong if one cannot risk offending the transgressors. As one sage described it, “In today’s world, to sin is not a sin, and not to sin is a sin.”
Some churches have embraced the secular humanism of social justice as their doctrine, with its emphasis on rights-for-me, rather than the Christian focus on responsibilities. Morality, or virtue, and its freedom cannot be found through “selfies”. Christianity’s hymn is peace and prosperity for all through civic and religious responsibility, not through the demand for rights.
Many have bought into the myth of separation of church and state. That concept is not in the Constitution; rather, its opposite is. Our charter says, ”Congress shall make no law respecting…religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” The Founders’ intent was to prevent one state sponsored church, and to keep government out of religion, not religion out of government. By law, the federal government must stand aside in religious matters. Government intervention in religious rights succeeds because we have allowed it; because we have buckled before the bullies.
The attorneys of www.projectfairplay.org, say the IRS code, which controls tax-exempt status, prohibits a church from endorsing candidates, but does not prohibit endorsing issues. Religious leaders can and should discuss civic issues that address right and wrong, as they have done historically. Mat Staver of Liberty Council, former pastor, current constitutional attorney and law school dean, offers help for pastors of all denominations at 1-800-671-1776 or www.LC.org.
We need our religious leaders to speak up about the blessings, responsibilities, and endangered status of our liberties. Freedom and morality are inseparable and intertwined; “twin sisters”, as Founding Father James Wilson called them. Without freedom, we cannot choose virtue; without virtue, we reject the standards of right and wrong and disqualify ourselves for self-rule.
Discuss this with your congregation’s religious leaders. Give them your support and ask what you can do to help. Respect their necessary limitations and encourage them to teach constitutional freedom and patriotic responsibility as much as possible within those boundaries. Right now, America needs all the help she can get.