Churches shouldn’t avoid politics, but they shouldn’t talk about it like this

"As a pastor, Lucas’ job is not to stand up for his country, but to stand up for his faith and his congregation. If they were so concerned that they left church on Sunday, then Lucas’ personal opinions are overwhelming his professional, and spiritual, responsibilities." - Washington Examiner

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G. N. Barkman's picture

Ernie Lucas is a personal friend of mine, and a good man with solid theology.  It is my opinion that he tends to conflate Biblical Christianity and American Patriotism, and I'm afraid this tendency has harmed his ministry.  Still, the man has a solid record spanning many decades, and my prayers are with him.  He's out-spoken, but riveting.  You will never go to sleep when Ernie's preaching! 

G. N. Barkman

GregH's picture

I sort of wish I went to that church so I would have had a chance to walk out that Sunday too. Pure idiocy...

TylerR's picture

Editor

Agreed. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Larry's picture

Moderator

I would also walk out, but would you walk out if he said the opposite? I would. 

GregH's picture

Larry wrote:

I would also walk out, but would you walk out if he said the opposite? I would. 

Yes Larry, I would. I would hate it just as much actually. I am not sure how you have decided for me that I am a liberal. I despise the far left as much as this lunacy on the right.

Jay's picture

"I've tried to be honest," Lucas said. "I've tried to do what's right. But I believe in my country. I love my country. And I don't mind standing up for the country." 

Lucas’ misunderstanding is that the "love it or leave it" sign isn’t about standing up for his country. It’s about dragging his congregation into a national political debate, taking one side without expressing sympathy for the other...

As a pastor, Lucas’ job is not to stand up for his country, but to stand up for his faith and his congregation. If they were so concerned that they left church on Sunday, then Lucas’ personal opinions are overwhelming his professional, and spiritual, responsibilities.

Exactly right.  When love for your country gets in the way of tending the sheep God has given you, something is off-center in your life and ministry.

I hope the church is able to heal and recover  from this division.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

G. N. Barkman's picture

I only wish all SI readers knew Ernie the way I do.  He's a character, one of a kind who won't be around much longer.  He's in his eighties, and his wife, whom he affectionately calls "Granny," is not well.  He retired from the church which he founded, but the pastor they called, with Ernie's encouragement, did not last, and the church asked Ernie to become interim pastor until they could find a new man.

Ernie is old school.  He's from the WW II veterans generation. He's from a BBF Springfield background, but is more solid doctrinally than most in that category.  He's a flag waver, and doesn't understand Americans who are not proud of their country.  He'll survive this episode, and I predict his church will probably end up bigger than it was before the brew ha ha started.  We'll see.  (No, I don't share all Ernie's views, and no, I do not endorse the offending church sign and Ernie's subsequent remarks, but I understand them.  And you would understand them better and be more kindly if you knew Ernie the way I do.)

G. N. Barkman

TylerR's picture

Editor

I've always hated the Christian-America nationalism that's long characterised some corners of evangelicalism. My distaste has grown in the Trump era. I deliberately never celebrate secular nationalist holidays at church. I never even thanked veterans on Veterans Day. No patriotic hymns on July 4.

I think our nation is under God's judgment. The other elder and I pray for the nation and it's local and national leaders in pastoral prayers once per month. That's it. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

GregH's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:

He'll survive this episode, and I predict his church will probably end up bigger than it was before the brew ha ha started.  We'll see. 

I suspect you are right. Which is a sad reflection of the state of evangelicalism where many people seem to have wrapped their religion in an American flag.

JBL's picture

Several things don't add up in this story:

  1. It seems very, very unlikely that this is the first time Pastor Lucas has used the church or pulpit to push conservative American political stances.  In other words, the congregation of the church surely was already very familiar with this rhetoric and stance coming from him.                                   
  2. If the congregation already expected his rhetoric, why the outrage now?                                            
  3. Article seems to indicate that ALL the church walked out.  Was it really everyone? - or just some?    
  4. An act of everyone leaving, especially if it occurred simultaneously, would have required some amount of coordination - even among church staff, pastoral assistants, and deacons.  If that is the case, apparently no one chose to forewarn the pastor regarding the advance coordination.  The pastor would then have seriously lost the trust and support of his staff.

That there's more to this story than reported seems likely.

John B. Lee

Jay's picture

I didn't get the sense that everyone walked out but it was definitely a significant group.

As for coordination - it may have been a smaller group but then become "contagious" once people realized that they weren't the only ones with quiet reservations or doubts.  I find it hard to believe that everyone was in on this walkout from the very beginning.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

GregH's picture

I think it is obvious that the people in that church have heard and put up with a lot of patriotic rhetoric from the pulpit. But perhaps this was the tipping point. We can only hope that Christians are finally waking up and reaching the tipping point where they decide not to continue in the mind-numbing embrace of Trump. Remember, this was not about patriotism; it was about a so-called spiritual leader endorsing the hateful rhetoric of Trump who had said the same thing a few days earlier.

G. N. Barkman's picture

"We had a good crowd today--ten out of town folk--first time visitors and two locals, plus some that came back.  For all this, my heart melted, God be praised.  I could not believe my eyes at seeing all the visitors this morning.  We are hoping and praying for more visitors next Lord's Day."

With kindest regards in Christ,

E. W. L. and "Granny"       E. W. Lucas:  Retired

For your information, "America, Love it or Leave it" is an old slogan I used to hear decades ago.  Pastor Lucas didn't originate it, he simply quoted it.  It never had any racial connotation.  It was a challenge to those who dislike the American Constitution, founding principles, and way of life to find another country they like better if they are unhappy here.  It doesn't sound strange to those of my generation.  I think it is entirely appropriate to say to a Somali immigrant that has been granted many generous benefits in America and loudly condemns her charitable host country.

G. N. Barkman

GregH's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:

"We had a good crowd today--ten out of town folk--first time visitors and two locals, plus some that came back.  For all this, my heart melted, God be praised.  I could not believe my eyes at seeing all the visitors this morning.  We are hoping and praying for more visitors next Lord's Day."

With kindest regards in Christ,

E. W. L. and "Granny"       E. W. Lucas:  Retired

For your information, "America, Love it or Leave it" is an old slogan I used to hear decades ago.  Pastor Lucas didn't originate it, he simply quoted it.  It never had any racial connotation.  It was a challenge to those who dislike the American Constitution, founding principles, and way of life to find another country they like better if they are unhappy here.  It doesn't sound strange to those of my generation.  I think it is entirely appropriate to say to a Somali immigrant that has been granted many generous benefits in America and loudly condemns her charitable host country.

I am not sure why you posted this email. Are we supposed to think this vindicates him? That his hopping on the Trump train is a big success? That seems pretty pragmatic to me.

Truthfully, I am not the least bit surprised that he is getting a lot of visitors. There are a lot of evangelicals that have confused Trump with Jesus and the cross with the American flag. You could pack out many a church with those people. But that does not make it OK.

You are correct that the saying has been around a long time. But it is not coincidence that this guy used it two days after Trump used it. He was endorsing the worst of Trump. And whether you agree with the political views of the Somali immigrant or not, bashing her like that is inexcusable in a church. 

G. N. Barkman's picture

Because this SI thread has raised significant interest in Ernie Lucas, and I think some SI readers will appreciate hearing directly from Ernie and getting an update on this past Sunday after the nationally publicized walk-out the Sunday before.  No, GregH, I wouldn't expect you to approve, but you are not the only person reading this thread.  

G. N. Barkman

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

G. N. Barkman wrote:

For your information, "America, Love it or Leave it" is an old slogan I used to hear decades ago.  Pastor Lucas didn't originate it, he simply quoted it.  It never had any racial connotation.  It was a challenge to those who dislike the American Constitution, founding principles, and way of life to find another country they like better if they are unhappy here.  It doesn't sound strange to those of my generation.  I think it is entirely appropriate to say to a Somali immigrant that has been granted many generous benefits in America and loudly condemns her charitable host country.

I'm sure there will be some disagreement with that particular sentiment, but I think for most of us, it's not that sentiment that's really the point.  It's more about whether such sentiment should be expressed by a church, or especially from the pulpit.

When I was a kid, it was pretty common in the fundamental churches I was familiar with to strongly conflate patriotism with Christianity, and to many of us, it felt pretty normal, and it did for me too for many years, so I'd imagine that I'd have been comfortable at a church like E.W.L.'s for a long time.  However, over time, I've become less and less comfortable with having "being American" and being a patriot be part of what the church is declaring.  I don't think it's at all against Christianity to be proud of one's nation and to express it, but having that be part of our worship of God feels vaguely "idolatrous" to me, if it isn't outright.  I'm actually happy that that's less and less of a thing among solid churches any more.

Lest you think I'm in Omar's camp, hardly.  In many ways I'm almost "Murican" in my thinking.  For example, after a couple of the latest controversies in the press, my house now sports both a Betsy Ross flag and a Gadsden flag, and I also got a Betsy Ross flag T-shirt.  I grew up in a military family with a father who served two tours of duty in Vietnam.  I enjoy patriotic and military displays (like everything that happened at the Capitol this past July 4th), visits to military bases and museums, etc.  I respect the office of the president (whether it is held by an Obama or a Trump), and I firmly believe in American institutions as established by the Declaration and the Constitution. I'm also a gun owner with strong views of the 2nd amendment, and I commonly wear another t-shirt that says "Black rifles matter."  In short, I'm like many Americans I know, and I strongly love my country in spite of its flaws.  Still, as much as I firmly disagree with those who seemingly hate America by what they are saying, I believe that it's not the job of our churches to uphold the ideals of America, even if it's only "in addition to" preaching the word and glorifying God.

I do realize that many men like E.W.L. mean well, but I believe too many people were seduced by the idea of America being a "Christian nation," which really leads to equating patriotism with Christianity.  I hold to both, but only one can take precedence.  Churches should realize that they serve God and him alone, and that there are plenty of Christians who can serve God without being American in any way.

Dave Barnhart

G. N. Barkman's picture

Dave, I agree with you 100%!

I'm only posting the above for information.  Whether one agrees with Ernie Lucas or not (and I do not), I believe he needs to be better understood and properly represented.  I also believe that many SI readers have a legitimate interest in what is happening at his church subsequent to the national media exposure.

G. N. Barkman

Larry's picture

Moderator

I am not sure how you have decided for me that I am a liberal. 

I didn't decide that that I know of. It does seem, based on my recollection of some of your posts, that you are much more tolerant of the left than the right. I don't think that makes you a liberal.