Rendering the Pulpit unto Caesar

“The White House is not their target. The altar and the pulpit are.” So warns Pastor Delwyn Campbell in his recent talk at 1517’s annual Here We Still Stand conference. In speaking about what it means to be a messenger of freedom, Rev. Campbell masterfully exposed the dangers of leftist thinking and critical theory as they seek to reshape the way in which our nation views reality. He suggests that this sort of thinking from the left offers an alternative gospel. He goes on, “The results of the November election will not affect these proclaimers of an alternative gospel to that of Christ’s. They are on a mission.” To them, it does not matter if Biden or Trump gets elected. Though Biden would offer a more accommodating atmosphere to those on the left, a Trump victory only further plays to their narrative and pours more fuel to their fire. In neither instance are such thinkers and activists deterred from their mission of rewiring the way we view reality. Their alternative gospel will be preached!

Now, this is a terrifying reality. I know that many in the church are quite concerned about it. Here in California, the government’s actions towards “places of worship” has raised quite a few red flags. Lest we pull the persecution card too quickly, however, no one has said a thing with any sort of weight behind it about what can and cannot be said from the pulpits. With Rev. Campbell, I don’t think such actions are too far down the road, but they aren’t here yet. So, what is to be done? What will we do to protect our pulpits and fight for our freedom of religion and freedom of speech?

I have seen some churches respond to these machinations of the left by using their pulpits to preach a message about what it means to have freedom of religion and freedom of speech in America. I recently watched a preacher use his Sunday morning pulpit (well, his metaphorical pulpit…there wasn’t one on the stage) to teach a history lesson about the role of Christianity in America. He misused one bible verse from Hosea saying that America needed to get back to her Christian roots, or we were in for judgment! This “sermon” was used to combat and belittle the left while promoting a Christian-friendly, conservative view of how America should be viewed. It offered a conservative, positive view of America. 

Oh, and only mentioned Christ Jesus once. Parenthetically. In passing. By misusing a text.

This troubled me a great deal. Here was pastor using the pulpit to preach a conservative worldview. Now, it just may be that I agree with much of what he had to say. In fact, there was much I did agree with, though, there was much I found suspect. But, neither the historical accuracy nor the validity of his political arguments were not my concern. My concern was the fact that this preacher, in an effort to stand up to the left, turned Christ’s pulpit into a platform for the right! He did not preach Christ. He preached a conservative, Christian America. And a conservative Christian America can save no one. 

This is something that I have grown more worried about in this highly charged, political climate. Where the left may be championing a cancel culture to replace the preaching of the gospel with a liberal worldview, many conservative churches seems to willingly hand over their pulpits to the right and replace the preaching of the gospel with a conservative worldview. The church is fleeing to Babylon to protect her from Assyria. But whether by the left or the right, the pulpit is being taken away from Christ!

What we preachers need to be reminded of is that we have never had “freedom of speech.” We are bound to a message by our Lord. The pulpit is an embassy of Heaven set up in a foreign land and is not there to reflect the values of this land. Preachers are ambassadors of the crucified Lord, not representatives of an American worldview. We are on orders to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified, to preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins. This does not mean that we are to ignore societal sins such as systemic racism or legalized abortion. But, it does mean that we are to deal with them in terms of Law and Gospel, a language foreign to our nations current discourse. 

In Matthew 22:21, Jesus tells us to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s. The pulpit is God’s. So, why in the world have we handed it over to Caesar? 

How will anyone hear that Good News if church hands its pulpits over to those purporting either a liberal or conservative worldview? I believe Rev. Campbell is correct about the results of the election having no impact on the socialist mission of some. But, I pray that the same would be true for the church. That is, regardless of who is elected, we would still be preaching repentance and forgiveness to all sinners, both conservative and liberal. God calls both liberals and conservatives to repent and believe upon the risen Lord. And, God will call us to do that whether our nation gives us the freedom to or not.