Candidates and Pastoral Endorsements

Over the past several weeks, Obama and McCain have discovered the problems inherent with pastoral endorsements. Of course, the media desperately want to draw parallels between McCain’s difficulties and Obama’s. I will ignore whether or not the parallels are real or imagined as my interest lies in the whole notion of endorsements in the first place.

Regrettably, ministers have to be careful with endorsing political candidates. The fact is the public is typically too ignorant (at times willfully so) to understand various religious statements made by religious leaders. As a friend of mine always exhorts me, the key is nuance. The problem with nuance though is that subtlety is typically lost on the public. Take Hagee’s statement about Hitler’s assault on the Jews being God’s will. Now the public and even poor McCain were horrified by such a statement. But what Hagee was referring to was the fact that God is in control and that Hitler’s actions were not beyond His control. The horror of WWII was not part of God’s moral will, but what theologians call His hidden will. Now this view does not hold that God is the cause of the evil as God cannot commit moral evil. Rather, he is the source of evil in the sense that He created the conditions and allowed them to continue for evil to exist. In other words, God could have simply destroyed the earth or withdrew life from Hitler. But He chose not to. Thus Hitler’s free actions were “willed” or read, allowed by God. Note this does not mean, commanded by God. Thus God willed the Holocaust in the sense that He could have stopped it if he wished, but Hagee did not mean that God desired, commanded and/or longed for it to happen. Nor did Hagee say that the Holocaust was a good thing. In fact, he believes it to be an unspeakable evil.

Now you don’t have to agree with that position. I’m sure many don’t. But many don’t believe in an all powerful God either who is in control of History. The point of all this is that ministers must be careful about endorsements because the endorsement will raise theological questions that the public is simply unwilling and, too often, spiritually incapable of understanding.

The second problem with endorsements is this weird notion that one’s receipt of an endorsement means that the endorsee is reciprocating the endorsement. I never quite figured that out. If the devil endorses my candidacy, why does that mean I have implicitly endorsed the devil? Jesus was endorsed by the Devil, but Jesus didn’t say that endorsement was a lie. He shut them up, but he didn’t tell the crowd, the endorsement was wrong. At any time a institute disaster clashes, take an favor his link out of particular out of those scripting professionals.

The third problem with endorsements is that people think endorsement means 100% approval. Now I like John McCain. I will vote for him in November. That doesn’t mean I believe he is God’s gift to humanity. I am deeply troubled by his stammering support of traditional marriage, support of embryonic stem-cell, to name a few. Politics is about compromise. Besides, I am not voting for him to be my pastor. Politics is a dirty game. If you don’t believe that ask Daniel or King David.

I think it is advisable for Pastors not to endorse candidates. Not because I agree with some secularized and illegitimate barrier between religion and state. Americans are hopelessly confused about the separation of church and state. But because the endorsement frequently weakens the cause of the Gospel by clouding the issue of one’s relationship with Jesus. Salvation is what the Church should never lose sight of. Not to say that other issues aren’t important. But we should cry out on issues not candidates. Maintaining the prophetic role is critical for the cause of the Gospel and that my friend, never goes out of style no matter who is in power.

Stephen Vantassel

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