by Bob Dasal
Is 2004 a pivotal year in the history of the United States? The country is deeply divided on a number of issues, but there is universal agreement on the answer to this question. Yes, 2004 is pivotal! The impact of the 2004 fall elections will reverberate for generations to come.
In my fifty-seven years I have never doubted the importance of the separation of church and state. For generations we understood it to mean a free church in a free state. But in today's world what does it mean? How should Christians relate to the world around them? What involvement should they have in the political process?
As a pastor, I believed it was important never to endorse a candidate. I held the view the pastor's role was to encourage people to be good citizens and vote, but he should not tell them how to vote. I believed pastors should take a strong stand on moral issues, but should be careful not to divide the congregation on political issues.
However, the cultural and social changes of the past decade are seismic. If you measured these changes like you would an earthquake it would be over 8.0 on the Richter scale. These changes have caused me to rethink my view of the pastor's role in the political system. Failure to actively participate in the 2004 election process could be cataclysmic for America. Here are two reasons why:
If the attempt to redefine marriage as a legal commitment between consenting adults, regardless of gender, is successful it will indicate how far the moral climate of the country has declined. If the effort to pass a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a monogamous relationship between a man and woman is successful, it affirms, as a whole, that our country holds to the historical core value system about the family, based on Judeo-Christian beliefs.
A great deal of the social change we've seen in this country in the last generation has come about through the court system. The next president will probably nominate two, and maybe three, Supreme Court justices. The Senate will confirm them. It's vital we have a president and congress that will provide the nation with justices who will make decisions based on what the framers of the Constitution intended.
These are examples of the many issues that will be crucial in the election. How should pastors be involved in the process? I used to think we should limit our involvement to just getting out the vote and speaking out strongly on moral issues. In 2004 we cannot afford to limit our participation to just this! In addition to encouraging people to vote and speak up on moral issues, pastors need to motivate their congregations to be fully informed on the candidates' lives and character as well as the issues-to support candidates who will stand firm on moral principles and the core values on which this country was founded and built.
Finally, after saying all that, don't forget the real power of the church is not political. Our true power is found in the preaching of the gospel of Christ.
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