The religious conservatives were of course delighted Donald Trump’s pledge to the national prayer breakfast for the repeal of the Johnson amendment, which prohibits the pastors and other religious leaders to endorse candidates from the pulpit. And the most recent news of his “religious freedom” of the executive order to relax the tax rules on churches no doubt rejoice politically engaged evangelicals.
However, this order may have an unexpected effect: helping to elect progressive office holders. What if progressive congregations and leaders from the embrace of this strange political moment to amplify their voices?
Trump signs in order to give religious groups greater political freedom
The empowerment of pastors to endorse candidates is not only for the religious right – the progressives can do the same. It is time for the churches, which generally remain relatively silent on the social issues, and more specifically the candidates to stop hiding behind the veil provided so conveniently by the Johnson amendment.
Trump plans this decree are certainly not intended to emancipate the leaders who preside left-leaning, progressive, or mainline churches of the separation of church and state concerns.
It offers a remarkable nod to the conservative religious leaders like Jerry Falwell, Franklin Graham and Robert Jeffress, Trump “religious advisers” who condemn same-sex marriage or women who have control over their body. It is the thought of the prosperity gospel preachers such as Paula White and Wayne Jackson (also Trumpet fans), whose voice resonates through the airwaves to reach almost every part of the globe.
Where are the progressive Christian voices who understand the possibility that this decree world could give? They are sitting on the sidelines, never ceases to give up ownership of morality in the public life of the Religious Right.
To the progressives to make moral claims on the basis of reason, quite simply, often to the exclusion of a religious ethic that could have secular implications. Progressive candidates can cultivate champions for the issues they support within the congregation of the halls of churches across the country.
The issues championed by Jesus Christ, included feeding and housing the poor, clothing the naked, and helping the needy, and what are saliently represented by candidates during elections.
Trump prayer breakfast promise to repeal the Johnson amendment drew the backlash of more than 90 religious groups. But if this reaction can be followed clearly naming and then approving the candidates who correspond to their points of view? And if we could organize their millions of devotees to the lawyer for a candidate? What if the Presbyterian Church in America that ordains LGBT ministers entitled to these same ministers to denounce the candidates who seek to limit these rights?
In 2016 Pew Research study, only 22% of white mainline said they had been invited to vote in the primary schools. In this same study, only 4% of white evangelicals, and 2% of white mainline Protestants said they have been encouraged to support a candidate.
The Dangers of the repeal of the Johnson amendment, and the signing of this decree does not abound. Repealing it is not a disaster for the, for a long time, the concept of separation of church and state. Churches and other not-for-profit groups are not necessarily resilient enough to cope with the impacts of the tithe and donations that could go with the members who are in disagreement with a member of the clergy of the decision to approve a candidate.
The parishioners and the taxpayers will be justifiably worried about whether tax-deductible donations may be to subsidize the activities of political candidates.But in this climate, with all that is at stake for this country, mainline and progressive churches must at least understand if this decree and the potential of the repeal of the Johnson amendment spells a potential benefit to the right as the left.
The reactions are too focused on Trump’s perverse political incentives to give the religious right a victory. Instead, it is time for progressive religious leaders to recognize the potential of the cancellation of the Johnson amendment and the signing of that decree as an opportunity to express themselves more clearly on this that has more diverse moral and ethics can mean for the country.