For over two decades, American churches have become far too political, and as a result, church participation and congregational enrollment are at an all-time low. A March 2021 Gallup Poll measured Americans’ membership in houses of worship declined sharply last year (2020), dropping below 50% for the first time in Gallup’s eight-decade trend. In 2020, 47% of Americans said they belonged to a church, synagogue, or mosque, down from 50% in 2018 and 70% in 1999.
While many religious scholars and other institutions have attempted to counter the decline in church participation with many excuses, the proof is quite clear; as churches have become political, the result is empty pews.
On March 8, 2021, Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP); a coalition of 30 church communions, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), The Episcopal Church, United Church of Christ, and The United Methodist Church, to name a few, sent a joint letter to President Biden, urging his administration to reverse President Donald Trump foreign policies.
Some particular policies and initiatives advocated by the CMEP included the U.S. reentering in nuclear talks with Iran, ending President Donald Trump’s ban on outside financial transactions with Syria, but most troubling, labeling the State of Israel and God’s “Chosen People” as aggressors, and publicly labeling Israeli settlements as “illegitimate.”
While some in support of liberal-led church policies would argue that these pleas come in the form of humanitarian aid and support for desperate countries such as Syria, churchgoers across America have grown tired of political pandering from the pulpits of their churches.
Across all walks of faith, churches maintain tax-exemption status from the United States Internal Revenue Service. In fact, since 1913, the federal government exempted churches and other religious organizations from federal taxation in the current federal tax code. Now, as American becomes more political and suffers increased polarization on social issues, calls have been made to end the exemption status of those churches who politically philander and pander policy.
As a lifelong member of the Lutheran faith, I have witnessed the undivine divide that Democratic-led initiatives have caused within congregations. But now, churches and their national leadership and political motivations must be called into question. Today’s houses of worship maintain their tax-exemption status solely on the premise that they do not violate said terms and do not engage or operate in a manner that is outside of their principle calling. However, allowing churches to politicize and polarize in an attempt to push and call-to-action agendas is an utter violation of their formal founding and function.
On their state and local bodies, today’s churches have joined forces with such organizations as the CMEP and now call for action items that hide behind humanity but violate their duties to both God and country. For some in church leadership, they may pander to the notion of human rights, but in doing so, turn their backs on the teachings of Christ, particularly as it relates to the rules of God’s law concerning sex and the unborn.
The time for action is now. No, it isn’t time for more political liberal philanthropy by passing the offering plate a second time down the pew line. Instead, the time is now for those believers of both the Old and the New Testament to come together and stop the bleeding of funneled cash that goes against the teachings of Christ and into the pockets of politicians that are hell-bent on distorting the truths and dismantling our founding principles of faith and freedom.
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