Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tax Free Status of the Church

Now, anyone might think that politics and God are two important ideas in my life. One of those ideas is definitely important--the other is just part of our life. Guess which is which...

I read things that interest me, and I found something good today that I want to share with those I know who read this mess--er, blog. It doesn't really mean that what I read is accurate exactly, but it amused me to think that there is a term that describes some of my political tendencies.

The following is from an e-mail that I get called Leadership Today from

Where I grew up in the South, the three big holidays on the church calendar were Christmas, Easter, and Fourth of July Sunday. Now I live near Chicago, where many churches let Independence Day slip by without a word from the pulpit. There are, no doubt, historical and theological reasons why Christians in one part of the country (or in one denomination or another) are more inclined to link the church to the state in its worship. But in my experience, people simply don't give the issue a lot of thought; they just do what they've always done.

That's why I'm excited to introduce the Church and Politics Quiz, a tool designed to help you uncover your assumptions and blind spots regarding the role of the church in politics. How should the church relate to the state—as chaplain or prophet? Is it appropriate to display flags in the sanctuary? In the spirit of the Hermeneutics Quiz from earlier this year, there are no right or wrong answers. Rather, we hope this tool will help you think critically about the church's role and responsibility in this historic election year.

I took the quiz embedded in this e-mail and found that I am a "Thumpin' Theocrat." I am still laughing at myself.

But lest anyone feel shortchanged by the title of this blog post today, I will just say this: If churches plan to be a political arm of the nation, they need to be prepared to give up the tax-free status. We are responsible to God as individuals. When like-minded people associate, that association can be called a church. But the minute these individuals start building mega structures and set out to influence the social conscience and political leanings of a people, they are no longer congregating for the purpose of being an example to those around them. They are actively trying to change others or impose their beliefs on others.

While I am on the topic, let's just say that it is obvious that a building is not a church. Having a minister does not make a congregation. Having beliefs does not make one religious. And Christ was NOT a Christian--He is God. He showed us HOW to behave, how to treat others, how to influence others by serving them. When I see those criteria in place, I will know that I have seen followers of Christ.

Meanwhile, I will pay my taxes as necessary.

1 comment:

Lance said...

Says I am a quiet critic. Almost in middle of the whole thing...whatever that accomplishes.
I dislike being boxed up in neat tidey labels. Oh well, it gives the psychologists a job. Everyone has to feed their family somehow I guess.