This morning I woke up to a fascinating news report describing out the ADF is seeking churches to make political statements so that the IRS can penalize the churches, giving the ADF a vehicle to challenge the tax exemption requirement that such entities refrain from making political statements.
This is the sort of ‘fighting fire with fire’ approach that we need today. The ACLU and the FFRF have been going bonkers trying to create court cases that further their cause. It is high time Christians and religious people did the same.
One of the reasons why I have not made my own ministry tax exempt is precisely for the reasons described in this article. I did not want to be muzzled on political affairs. Moreover, one of the underlying themes of my apologetics ministry is that beliefs and actions are intertwined. One’s politics are not in a separate box that never touch the ‘religion’ box. A person who says he has no such box certainly does. He might just call it something a little different, like an ‘inferred metaphysical statement.’ So, we all have this box, whatever we call it.
Despite the close connection between beliefs and actions in reality, we like to pretend that connection isn’t so clear. It must be confessed, too, that in today’s day and age it is much easier to believe one thing and act another way. With the all out assault on the idea that there is an objective truth and reality out there, many people have their beliefs but are timid about expressing them in action. But this isn’t really a case where beliefs don’t lead to actions, it is really the exact opposite. The timidity itself arise from a belief, expressed in a question like this: “Who am I to say what is true?”
Throughout history there have been instances that show very clearly how certain beliefs lead inexorably to certain conclusions, if only the person is willing follow through on the implications of their beliefs.
The muzzling of churches on political affairs is something that I believe has contributed greatly to this idea that one’s beliefs do not have rational outgrowths, manifested in actions, political and otherwise. The idea that ‘religion is a private matter’ is accentuated by this muzzling. Many secular humanists would like us to believe that we are not permitted to have non-secularized reasons and rationales for our political deeds.
For example, you might be pro-life because you think that God creates life, but since you are not allowed to insert even religious reasons into secular society, you must vote pro-choice- or come up with a secularized reason for your pro-life position. Yes, there are people who believe this.
I don’t want every sermon on Sunday to be about politics. Nor am I interested in having politics the overarching theme in congregations. However, churches should be able to explain how their beliefs are rationally manifested and should be able to point to examples of individual politicians who are consistent with those beliefs or inconsistent with those beliefs.
Perhaps most importantly, the church shouldn’t be in a position where the government decides what the church is all about. The article says,
“This is an extraordinarily reckless scheme that they are promoting,” Conn said. “The federal tax law is clear. Churches are charitable institutions that exist to do charitable things. That does not include politics. Political groups do politics.”
Now, this may be true in one sense: how the government views churches within the tax code. I think churches should ask themselves whether or not they should have the purpose and mission of the church defined by the government, quite apart from this question of tax exemption.
As far as I’m concerned, the tax exemption requirement is like a drug that the government legalized just for the purpose of immunizing them from attacks on principle. The Church is high on this drug and is so used to it that it is afraid to go off of it. If John the Baptist was willing to risk his head to challenge the moral behavior of King Herod, I think the Church can risk its tax exemption status.
The government’s purpose in creating tax exempt organizations and its inclusion of churches as ‘charities’ is its business and I’m staying out of it. “What business of mine is it to judge the world?” For the Church, however, I say that we should define ourselves, and if we don’t fit into the government’s purpose and tax categories: so be it.
But then, I’m in the camp that says most Churches should sell their buildings and use the money for the poor and needy, so I guess you have to take what I say with a grain of salt.