Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela, addressed a crowd of people at the Mount Olivet Baptist Church in Harlem today, as he announced his country would give discounted home heating oil to qualified low-income families.
Here is my question? Should the President of Venezuela, or any politician for that matter, be allowed to speak from the pulpit of a church?
My answer to that is absolutely not! Under no circumstances would I turn over the pulpit of the church I serve to a politician: foreign or domestic, socialist or capitalist, Democrat or Republican; and I would not care one wit if he or she were giving away heating oil or Cracker Jacks!
Why would I not do this? It has nothing to do with the notion of the separation of the church and state, which is an idea that ultimately domesticates the church making it irrelevant for society. It is also not because the church should stay away from politics. I want the church in politics; it is difficult to read the New Testament without seeing the intrincially political nature of the gospel.
The reason politicians should not be given a pulpit from which to speak is that the politics of God's Kingdom transcends and is more profound than the earthly politics of the nation-state. Pastors who allow their pulpits to be used for the stump speeches of people hoping to be elected and/or to push their own narrow political agendas, allow their pulpits to be demeaned because such "sermons" cheapen the politics of the Kingdom.
Any politician is welcome on any given Sunday to visit our church and worship with us; but under no circumstances will she or he be permitted to step into the pulpit, which is only reserved for the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that puts all nations and all leaders on notice that they are on borrowed time. Jesus is Lord because he has been raised from the dead. It is God and not the nations who rules the world.
As the Psalmist says, "Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men who cannot save. When their spirits depart, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God" (146:3-5).
The Emperor Constantine died many centuries ago; unfortunately his ghost is still with us.
Am I wrong? Please weigh in.