Rev. William Cook
It is difficult to overstate the importance of the pulpit and political preaching to our nation’s Founding and the preservation of Liberty since. It was the “Pulpit of the Revolution” that supplied the ideological basis and motivation for the American War for Independence. In the Preface to his book by the same title, historian John Wingate Thornton affirms the historical record about the central role of the pulpit in America’s Founding:
The true alliance between Politics and Religion is the lesson inculcated in this volume of Sermons, and apparent in its title, “The Pulpit of the Revolution.” It is the voice of the Fathers of the Republic, enforced by their example. They invoked God in their civil assemblies, called upon their chosen teachers of religion for counsel from the Bible, and recognized its precepts as the law of their public conduct. The Fathers did not divorce politics and religion, but they denounced the separation as ungodly.
They prepared for the struggle, and went into battle, not as soldiers of fortune, but, like Cromwell and the soldiers of the Commonwealth, with the Word of God in their hearts, and trusting in him. This was the secret of that moral energy which sustained the Republic in its material weakness against superior numbers, and discipline, and all the power of England. To these Sermons—the responses from the Pulpit— the State affixed its imprimatur, and thus they were handed down to future generations with a twofold claim to respect.
It is fair to say that America would never have become a great nation had the political disposition of her pulpits matched that of her pulpits today. Nor will the Liberty taken for granted by the Church today survive if America’s pulpits continue to abandon the voting booth and the government it produces to the “sons of disobedience.” (Ephesians 2:2)
For the past four weeks, I have been working on behalf of Ryan McAdams, a pastor and the leader of the Virginia Prayer Caucus, who has been called of God to run for Congress in Virginia’s Fourth Congressional District. My focus has been on encouraging fellow pastors to show the brief video, “What Difference Does [One Vote] Make?” (video below) to their congregations in one or more Sunday services remaining in September, display a PowerPoint slide containing a “text-to-register” number, and distribute a brochure on the moral duty of Christians’ to vote. The video is compelling, scrupulously non-partisan, and at 1 minute and 40 seconds, hardly an imposition on a Sunday agenda. We are simply asking them to show the video, distribute the brochures, and facilitate Christians registering and turning out to vote on November 6. The only part of the process that might be considered “partisan” is the legally required acknowledgment in tiny print at the bottom of the brochure, “Paid for by Ryan McAdams for Congress.” The responses from some of the pastors I’ve approached might suggest that I had asked them to renounce the Faith, teach false doctrine, or God forbid, spearhead a political campaign rally. In an age when popular church growth theory treats “political” speech as a pariah that threatens unity, fruitful ministry, and the evangelical mission of the Church, it is ironic that political sermons were standard fare in America for more than 300 years. Natural rights, the social compact, and election sermons stressing the moral duty of Christians to vote, in a manner that promotes Liberty and sustains the civil society were mainstream sermon topics. Moreover, notwithstanding the dampening effect of Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (a.k.a. The 1954 Johnson Amendment), coupled with the specious notion that Separation was meant as a prohibition on political preaching and Church involvement in civil government, political sermons are occasionally still preached, albeit rarely, in some churches today. I have in my library a list compiled by the American Antiquarian Society, of more than five hundred New England election sermons preached between 1634 and 1885. Titles include:
Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience.Ephesians 2:2
|An Election Sermon||1715||Joseph Moss|
|Good Rulers A Choice Blessing||1725||Azariah Mather|
|The Origin and Ends of Civil Government||1795||Andrew Lee|
|The Political Advantages of Godliness||1797||Isaac Lewis|
|On the Evils of Weak Government||1800||John Smalley|