Clayton Christensen on Religious Freedom
The Houston Area Pastor Council was founded in 2003 by a group of thirteen pastors as a trans-denominational, inter-racial coalition of senior pastors who came together to bring a united, Biblical voice to the city, state and even nation. It has grown to over 200 senior pastors in the greater Houston area as well as assisted in developing Pastor Councils in Austin, Beaumont, Sacramento, Virginia Beach and other cities around the country, birthing the identity of U.S. Pastor Council and Texas Pastor Council to connect those teams of pastors.
It achieved national prominence when Houston’s Mayor Parker, in defense of the “Equal Rights Ordinance” tried to subpoena the sermons and personal communications with church members of those pastors who had participated in getting signatures to permit voting on the ordinance by Houston voters. As it turned out, because of the Houston Area Pastor Council, this group was ready to defend their rights. An interesting question would be, what would have happened, had they not been working together for some years before this blatant attack on their religious liberties? Where would any of us be?
The “separation of Church and State” is not a statement, nor a concept, that is in the Constitution. The First Amendment exists to make it clear that the Government cannot interfere in the Church, not that the Church should not be involved in government. However, like so many other things, this idea of an “impenetrable wall” between Church and State is the common understanding of the media, and a large portion of the people in America.
We often hear it said this way, “The Church should not be involved in politics.” However, politics in a democracy is about making public policy. Very few would want to say that the Church has no place in making public policy, much less that Christians have no place in making public policy! As citizens of this country, it is our civic duty to be involved in making public policy, and what is behind all public policy is morality. And morality is absolutely the business of the Church! As Daniel Webster said at the bicentennial celebration of the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, “Our ancestors established their system of government on morality and religious sentiment. Moral habits, they believed, cannot safely be trusted on any other foundation than religious principle, nor any government be secure which is not supported by moral habits. Whatever makes men good Christians makes them good citizens.” Besides, as Edmund Burke pointed out, “The fate of good men who refuse to become involved in politics, is to be ruled by evil men.”
But how can we be involved in politics without bringing great disagreement into the Church?
First, I would recommend a language change for us all (particularly me). The question of Christians and the Church being involved in politics ignites a debate almost every time. But the question of Christians and the Church being involved in the making of public policy evokes a more thoughtful response. Why wouldn’t we want Christians, and even the institutional Church, to be involved in making public policy? Certainly, we all have to live with public policy, and again, in a democracy, we all have the opportunity to be involved in the making of public policy.
Still, how do we go about doing that when most of us have had no experience? I would like to recommend to Windwood the “AMERICA plan” that has been adopted by the U.S. Pastor Council.
Articulate Biblical positions on important moral issues from the pulpit and to the community.
Motivate Congregants to be godly responsible citizens.
Educate congregants on Scriptural, historical and legal foundations for responsible Christian citizenship.
Register every eligible citizen in each participating church to vote.
Inform congregants on a regular basis in regard to important local, state and national issues of concern.
Coordinate with Pastors and churches of like mind throughout the community to pray, stand and speak together.
Activate members to effective prayer, service and civic involvement in the community to promote Biblical righteousness and justice.
For those interested, email Rachel Bragg at firstname.lastname@example.org to be put on the email list. We have had our initial meeting and will notify you of our next meeting.