The pastors of our Founders were men of courage and commitment. They were committed to obeying the Word of God, no matter what the cost. In 1954, then-Senator Lyndon Johnson attached an amendment to an IRS bill that did not allow any 501 (c) 3 to endorse or oppose any political party or candidate. This was the first time in American history that the church could not be involved in the political arena. One of the most popular sermons for well over 150 years was What A Christian Should Know About The Presidential Election. These sermons would endorse a candidate or Party or it would oppose a candidate or Party. When this bill was passed, no pastors stood their ground and a piece of our freedom was taken away.
For the last few years, the Liberty Council has sponsored what they call Pulpit Initiative Sunday. It is usually the third Sunday in September of an election year and they have a pastor endorse a candidate from the pulpit, record the endorsement and send it to the IRS. I never gave that bill any credence. I always stated from the pulpit whom I believed was the better candidate and I always stated why, giving biblical reasons. I did that all twelve years I was a senior pastor. Last year, I believe that over 300 churches participated in Pulpit Initiative Sunday. This was done to challenge the threat of our First Amendment right to practice our faith by informing the people on the godly and ungodly candidate and to push the IRS into enforcing their threat to take a church’s tax exempt status away. The IRS has stated that they don’t really have that right. So all these years of threats were nothing but that, threats; something to keep the church under the thumb of the government.
How many churches know about this revelation is unknown. The IRS sure isn’t going to advertise it and mainstream media isn’t about to report on it. But with so many pastors not wanting to be involved in the political arena will we really see an insurgence of politics in the pulpit? Probably not because pastors don’t want to alienate the people in the pews. The way I looked at it was when you preach the truth, somebody is going to get offended. But the truth is the truth and that is what a preacher is supposed to preach.
We have allowed the government to encroach on our God-given rights for way too long. The pastors of the Founders did not sit still for it. The attempted removal of the people elected governments in Virginia, New Hampshire and Georgia were all resisted by the ministers that helped establish those governments.
This opposition to the encroachment of Britain on the liberties of the colonies was so intense from American pastors that when the Stamp Act was enacted the front-runners in the opposition were all pastors: Reverend Samuel Cooper, Reverend Andrew Eliot, Reverend Jonathan Mayhew, Reverend Charles Chauncey and Reverend George Whitefield.1 Reverend Whitefield even accompanied Benjamin Franklin to England for a meeting with Parliament in protest of the Act.2 When it is studied in detail you will find that the opposition from the ministers was the reason that the colonies resisted the Act. It was written that “clergy fanned the fire of resistance to the Stamp Act into a strong flame.”3
The ministers continued on their stand for the liberties that they believed were given by the Hand of God to mankind. As Britain pressured the Colonies more and more attempting to bring them into submission it was the ministers that began to call for the separation from England. Early historical records show that there was great respect for the clergy of the late 1600’s and early 1700’s. Historian Benson Lossing summarized his study of these early pastors:
[T]he Puritan preachers also promulgated the doctrine of civil liberty – that the sovereign was amenable to the tribunal of public opinion and ought to conform in practice to the expressed will of the majority of the people. By degrees their pulpits became the tribunes of the common people; and . . . on all occasions, the Puritan ministers were the bold asserters of that freedom which the American Revolution established.4
The pastors of the Founding era didn’t just preach freedom and liberty, they practiced it. In the first battle of the Revolutionary War the leader of the American patriots was Reverend Jonas Clark who had also trained them to fight.
When Paul Revere set out on his famous midnight ride on the 18th of April 1775 he headed for the home of Reverend Jonas Clark in Lexington as this is where John Hancock and Samuel Adams were. When it was revealed that the British were on their way for the main purpose to capture Adams and Hancock the two patriots asked Reverend Clark if his men were ready to fight. Reverend Clark did not hesitate in his answer and replied that he had “trained them for this very hour; they would fight, and, if need be, die too, under the shadow of the house of God.”5
There are few pastors today that will fight for the rights our founders bought and paid for with their blood. Note that Reverend Jonas Clark declared that he had “trained them for this very hour; they would fight, and, if need be, die too, under the shadow of the house of God.” The preachers also trained the militia! Most pastors today seem to be pacifists. They won’t do anything confrontational, love everybody no matter what. If the pastors of our Founders had done that we’d still be under British rule!
Pastors lead in every manner necessary to fight for freedom and liberty. If we had pastors in the pulpits today with this kind of fire in their belly, we could take back all of what government has taken from us in less than a year.6 Very few preachers today have the fortitude of the pastors during the Founding era. I know a few who will stand for the rights our Founders gave us. Most won’t even oppose a gay marriage bill for fear of ‘offending’ someone. How about offending God and His laws?
- Alice M. Baldwin, The New England Clergy and the American Revolution (New York:
Frederick Ungar, 1958), p. 90; Stephen Mansfield, Forgotten Founding Father: The
Heroic Legacy of George Whitefield (Cumberland House, 2001), p. 112.
- Stephen Mansfield, Forgotten Founding Father: The Heroic Legacy of George
Whitefield (Cumberland House, 2001), p. 112.
- Alice M. Baldwin, The Clergy of Connecticut in Revolutionary Days (Yale University
Press, 1936), p. 30.
- Benjamin Lossing, Pictorial Fieldbook of the Revolution (New York: Harper & Brothers,
1851), Vol. I, p. 440.
- Franklin Cole, They Preached Liberty (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1941), p. 34. Only
source we can locate is Cole’s.
- Pastor Roger Anghis, Defining America’s Exceptionalism, (WestBow Press 2012), p.
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