The exchange was rather disgusting, even nauseating. The emotion was heated, bordering on explosive. The words were repulsive, even contemptible. I wanted so much to tear myself away, but like watching a train wreck, I stayed until the end.
I’m not talking about the presidential debates.
I’m talking about a pastor’s Facebook page.
Here are just a few of the things he wrote over a couple of months about the political party he doesn’t support:
- “__________ [presidential candidate] has sold his soul to the devil.”
- “__________ [party leader] is senile.”
- [responding to a reply which disagreed with him] “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” There is a difference between being ignorant and being stupid. You can’t fix stupid.
- [replying to someone who questioned the appropriateness of the prior response] “You can fix ignorance, but the devil has blinded some good people.”
- [getting back to the first respondent] “Open your eyes up. Your education is horrible if you believe this lie out of hell that they told. Hang them. This is a sign of the last days.”
- “Politics as usual for __________ [party leader] in times of uncertainty. There is a special place in hell for him.”
- “This guy is an idiot!! Words have consequences. Did you hear him? ‘Good CHRISTIANS!’ WHAT A joke!”
Here are some of the pastor’s missteps:
First, he initiated the discussions. The original posts were all the pastor’s. His only defense was, “Aren’t I entitled to my opinion?” Yes, but . . . keep going.
Second, he posted on a public page. Anyone could read it. At one point, there was an indicator the comments were hidden from the public, which rightfully brings up the question, “If he shares this kind of content publicly, what might he be saying in private?
Third, he totally ignored his own faith tradition which promotes the separation of church and state. Though the Johnson Amendment hardly seems to have a leg to stand on these days, reasonable church members understand a local church has people all over the political spectrum. Church fellowship and unity are hampered by this type of presentation from a pastor—or any church leader (or member). Pastors need to pastor all their people.
Maybe most disturbing is that a pastor of a church judges the hearts of others and sentences them to hell. I think Jesus made it pretty clear what He thought about that.
Finally, I suspect the pastor could make his case without the vulgarity he exhibited. Instead, he baited others to join not just the debate but the tone he set for the debate. I’ve recently heard folks (talking about race issues) say, “I’m not part of the problem. But I’m not part of the solution, either. And THAT’S the problem.” In this case, the pastor would be part of the original problem.
I read about a church that prohibited its employees from having personal Facebook pages. The restriction came after some members reconnected with old high school sweethearts and ended up ruining their marriages. I don’t know if that’s legal. And I hate to think a church would need to, or try to, restrict what employees say on personal social media sites (but a church BETTER have policies about what’s on the church’s media!). Ministers of a church must know they ALWAYS represent the church.
So, pastor, you better police yourself. Posts like these will break the trust of your people. They’ll demonstrate your lack of wisdom. They’ll interfere with present employment and hinder future employment. They’ll sully the reputation of your church, the cause of Kingdom work, and the name of our Lord Jesus.
The church member who sought help with this pastor was disappointed I had no power to discipline him. Instead, I encouraged the church member to follow Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 18—but I know the member never did. Instead, along with the member’s extended family and other church members, they simply left the church.
The relationship between church and politics is coming up a lot lately as we near Election Day. Don’t miss Greg Tomlin’s 4-week course, Christianity and Politics. It explores the historical, theological, and philosophical roots of various Christian views of government and civic engagement. See you on Tuesday nights, October 6-27, 2020. Registration open the entire month of October.