Pastors as props

By Dave Welch

I became aware the day before the event that President Obama was inviting pastors to his speech about immigration reform at American University on July 1. There was no surprise there, for clergy have been used and abused by politicians as props as long as there have been politics.

For example, well-known in the political world – shared and confirmed by Chuck Colson – is how Richard Nixon would “wine and dine” key pastors, give them the red-carpet treatment and send them home to be good mouthpieces.

Much of what the president said in his speech in assessing the crisis will bring little disagreement – as always, the devil is in the details of the solution. 

The rest of the speech, such as stating that he and the Democrats are ready for action if only the Republicans would just set aside “partisanship” to come outside and play, was typical Obama-speak.

My greatest disappointment was that Pastor Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Church in Illinois took the stand to introduce the president and thereby gave Obama the cover he was looking for. Hybels is the driving force behind the “seeker-friendly” phenomena that essentially neutralized the evangelical church as a moral force over the last 30 years.

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I have met Pastor Hybels; I know many pastors who know him much better and believe him to be a decent man who loves God and is sincere. However, his admittance of the failure of the “Willow Creek Model” did not undo the massive damage “Christianity light” has done to the church and, as a result of the paralysis of godly influence, to the nation.

His willingness to use failed leaders like Jimmy Carter in his annual “Leadership Summit” as a model of such also reveals either no discernment or lack of consistent biblical standards in that widely viewed conference. My point?

When highly influential pastors like Hybels and Joel Osteen (e.g., his giving thanks to God for “raising up” activist lesbian mayor of Houston, Annise Parker) give cover to reprobate politicians, they yield not only their own moral high ground and influence, but that of pastors all over the nation whom they are perceived to represent.

The other concern is that pastors bitten with the market-driven, seeker-friendly, church-growth bug spread by Hybels and his progeny have established large churches, big budgets and big visibility but are so far removed from political decision-making they are a joke when they step to the microphone in this manner.

Do you not think that Obama and his Chicago squad know very well that Hybels is never likely to risk any disfavor by exerting confrontational leadership on what we would define to be conservative issues and values?

Politicians like Obama use the same strategy employed by tyrants and regimes who routinely parade puppets representing the “opposition” to prove how benevolent and inclusive they are. That, of course, occurs after they have imprisoned, intimidated and/or killed those who are any threat.

Obama’s anti-Christian, anti-life, anti-marriage, anti-constitutional and anti-American policies, in my opinion, prove he has no legitimate interest in hearing from pastors like Hybels. He in fact would use the church in the same way as a previous leader on a different continent. 

As Erwin Lutzer illustrates magnificently in his must-read book, “Hitler’s Cross,” the theologically shallow and nationalistic nature of the German clergy proved easy pickings for Hitler. Lutzer states:

The swastika was, in effect, adopted as the new cross in the very cathedral where Luther had preached the cross of Christ four hundred years before!

The legitimate and proper role of the pulpits in relation to our governing leaders is as the prophetic voice of God’s absolute truth upon which their authority rests. As we celebrate the 234th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence this weekend, we should heed the words uttered by the “Father of the American Revolution,” Samuel Adams:

We have this day restored the Sovereign, to Whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in heaven and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His kingdom come.

Lest any be confused about to which Sovereign Adams was referring, read his statement to the state legislature as governor of Massachusetts:

I conceive we cannot better express ourselves than by humbly supplicating the Supreme Ruler of the world … that the confusions that are and have been among the nations may be overruled by the promoting and speedily bringing in the holy and happy period when the kingdoms of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ may be everywhere established, and the people bow to the scepter of Him who is the Prince of Peace.

I believe it right, appropriate and vital that the voice of pastors be heard on all issues of our day, serving as godly influences first to our congregants/citizens, then to public servants. However, the words of Solomon must be heeded to avoid snares:

When you sit down to dine with a ruler, consider carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are a man of great appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, 
for it is deceptive food (Proverbs 23:1-3, NASB).

We need patriot pastors holding elected officials accountable to God’s standards, not serving as pawns by enemies of our faith and our country.